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Would You Trust This Man?

Jan. 18, 2021

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said that the government is planning new legal protections for statues linked to colonialism and racism, that the UK should not try to 'edit' or 'censor' its history and decisions to take down heritage 'assets' in England will need both planning permission and a consultation with local communities to go ahead. Mr Jenrick said there had recently been attempts to “erase” pieces of "our national story”.

“This has been done at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a ‘cultural committee’ of town hall militants and woke worthies. We live in a country that believes in the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting our heritage, due process has been overridden. That can’t be right.” He uses the Colston statue in Bristol as his prime example, failing to mention the decades of community protests and democratic petitions to have it removed. What he also fails to ask is who actually decreed that such statues should be erected in the first place? Who had the power? Were "local communities" consulted? He paints a rosy picture about the choice of civic statues saying "Most were erected not by government diktat like in the Soviet Union – but by public subscription, by a borough, village or a parish, a college, a regiment or a local business. They reflected the people’s preferences at the time, not a single, official narrative." He fails to mention that all these "choices" were overseen by the prevailing white patriarchy and political power base, which consisted almost entirely of old white men who, time and time again, erected one of their own caste.

Jenrick's record does not inspire confidence, being questioned over his parliamentary expenses, his association with Richard Desmond's ( a Conservative Party donor ) £1 billion luxury housing development, saving Desmond estmated millions,  by-election expenses irregularities and his woeful handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster. All in all, hardly a paragon to be trusted with our cultural heritage.

This great new awareness of the power of the civic statue has obviously touched a nerve in the heart of that old patriarchal power base, but legislation will not turn back this tide. True consultation with communities may well produce choices that would not please Mr Jenrick and his old white band of brothers.