Boris Says Churchill ‘Expressed Opinions Unacceptable to Us Today’

Churchill
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Boris Johnson insisted Winston Churchill’s statue should be a “permanent reminder” of his wartime achievements — even as it was hidden within a grey box — but added that the wartime leader did hold “unacceptable” opinions.

Prime Minister Johnson has been largely silent through the unlawful and frequently violent Black Lives Matter protests which have been taking place across the country in recent weeks, despite the coronavirus lockdown, but was forced to pipe up on Friday morning in response to growing disquiet over the vandalisation of historic monuments — particularly the Cenotaph and Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square.

“The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny,” he declared in a social media thread, neatly side-stepping the fact that its confinement in a coffin-like grey box has already effectively erased it from public view.

He then immediately went on to make concessions to protesters who have been denouncing the wartime leader as a racist, however, saying: “Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today” — but adding that he was nevertheless a “hero” who deserves commemoration.

“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations,” Johnson continued, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sadiq Khan has already established a Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm tasked with doing just that, with most of the councils responsible for local government across the country having followed his lead.

“[Those who erected the statues] had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come,” Johnson added, again not acknowledging the fact some have already been torn down or removed by the authorities, with more removals planned — and no resistance offered by his administration.

With respect to illegal protests in which statues and war memorials are being damaged, Johnson made further concessions to “the legitimate feelings of outrage at what happened in Minnesota” and “the legitimate desire to protest against discrimination”, and said “there is much more work to do” on racism — but said they had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence” and pleaded with people to “stay away”.

It is presently unclear whether part of the reason the Churchill statue and other memorials have been boarded up is over fears that members of the public who have lost patience with the state’s permissive attitude towards iconoclasm will turn out to protect them at the weekend, heightening the chances of serious disorder if police are unable or unwilling to keep the sides apart.

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