Peter Trimming / Statue of Robert Clive, London / CC BY-SA 2.0
Peter Trimming / Statue of Robert Clive, London / CC BY-SA 2.0

Westminster Labour Group urges the City Council to work thoughtfully and constructively with the Mayor of London’s expert led Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and with all of our communities to understand the impact and legacy of those figures currently immortalised on the streets of our city.

According to the Mayor’s office ‘The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review the landmarks that currently makes up London’s public realm, further the discussion into what legacies should be celebrated, and make a series of recommendations aimed at establishing best practice and standards. It will be wide in scope and consider murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials. It will be co-chaired by Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement Debbie Weekes-Bernard and Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries Justine Simons OBE, and will comprise arts, community and council leaders across the capital, as well as historians.’

Westminster is home to many statues celebrating figures from our nation’s past, with a particular concentration near the centre of national Government in Whitehall and near Parliament. The ownership and management responsibilities for these statutes comprises a complicated mix of the local council, GLA, UK Government and various trusts or groups responsible for establishing the monuments many generations ago.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said:

“Both public understanding of our history and the nature of our public space evolves over time rather than staying preserved in aspic. Across the world statues have been erected, brought down or moved though out history as attitudes change.

For example in my view the statue of Robert Clive on King Charles Street, which has been moved once before, belongs in a museum alongside an honest appraisal of his grim legacy in India not on the streets of Westminster, while some historical figures should be allowed to fade into obscurity or slide into ignominy to make way for new public art and remembrance. While there should not be simply change for change’s sake, any decisions should be evidence led and shaped by both listening to what specific statues mean to different communities today and by the centrality of past offences to the reason they were memorialised in the first place. However having this important discussion about the historical legacy of injustice must not obscure the need for action against the inequalities we are living with today.

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