Conservative Minister: Statues to Slave Traders Should Be Removed ‘Democratically’

Khan
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

“Any slave trader should not have a statue,” junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi has said, adding they should be removed “through a democratic process”.

While the left-wing has backed the destruction of monuments of British historical figures, Mr Zahawi appears to be one of the first from the notionally conservative Tory Party to support the progressive iconoclasm that is sweeping across the Western world.

“My opinion is any slaver should not have a statue, but I wouldn’t be breaking the law to take statues down. It should be done through a democratic process,” the Conservative junior minister told the Today programme on Wednesday, according to The Times.

“…if the majority of people decide that we want the statues down, then they should be taken down”, the government minister said, as far-left activists have called for hundreds of statues to be taken down across the country.

The Conservative then made the curious statement that removing monuments could constitute a policy platform, adding: “If we want to have a debate about statues, let’s have that debate and let’s elect politicians who stand on a platform saying we’ll take the statues down.”

It is not yet clear whether this will ultimately mean the UK Conservative party will in future campaign on a programme of statue removal, or if Zawhawi’s comments imply tacit support for the opposition Labour party, who are already pushing ahead with the policy in hundreds of local authorities.

Mr Zahawi made the remarks after Black Lives Matter activists tore down the statue of Edward Colston, the philanthropist and parliamentarian who founded schools, hospitals, and almshouses for the poor but who also made his wealth through his association with the slave trade. Vandals then dragged it through the streets of Bristol and threw it into the harbour.

Fellow Conservative MP Caroline Nokes also backed the removal of Colston’s statue — calling it “terribly symbolic” — but claimed to disagree with the way in which it was done.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, Ms Nokes said it should be done “carefully” with “discussion about what happens to them next”, suggesting, as Mr Zahawi did, that they go in museums to be examined, as artefacts from an extinct culture.

The fervour to eradicate Britain’s historical figures which started with attacks on those associated with the slave trade but has quickly extended more broadly to anyone with an association with the British Empire has resulted in an anti-Trump group that backs Black Lives Matter to draw up a hitlist of monuments to destroy, in plans reminiscent of Mao’s Cultural Revolution that sought to wipe out all vestiges of China’s non-Communist past.

Brexit Pary leader Nigel Farage compared Black Lives Matter extremists to the Taliban in their puritanical zeal to destroy monuments, warning: “Unless we get moral leadership quickly, our cities won’t be worth living in.”

While a mob tore down Colston in Bristol, the removal of statues has now become an authority-organised affair, with London’s Tower Hamlets Council facilitating the removal of a statue of Robert Milligan, who established the West India Docks.

London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, said of the removal: “Whilst it’s a sad truth that much of our city and nation’s wealth was derived from the slave trade – this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.”

Mayor Khan has also ordered the Orwellian-sounding ‘Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm’ to review the city’s statues, suggesting that if deemed offensive, they may be replaced with figures of sexual and ethnic minorities which — in his view — would better reflect multicultural London.

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