Edward Colston: Tory councillor calls slave trader a 'hero' after Bristol statue toppling

9 June 2020, 19:44

Councillor Richard Eddy has described Edward Colston as a "hero"
Councillor Richard Eddy has described Edward Colston as a "hero". Picture: Bristol City Council
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A Conservative Party councillor has condemned the "criminal mob" that tore down the statue of Edward Colston who he described as a "hero" to the city of Bristol.

Councillor Richard Eddy, who represents the ward of Bishopsworth on Bristol City Council, said he was "horrified and appalled" by the toppling of the memorial amid protests in support of Black Lives Matter.

The bronze statue to the 17th-century slave trader, who donated money to the city, was brought down by demonstrators on Sunday before being rolled through the streets to the harbour and dumped in the water below.

It had stood in The Centre of Bristol since 1895 but its presence had angered residents in recent years, with petitions to have it removed amassing thousands of signatures before it was toppled.

However, in comments published by BristolLive on Tuesday, Cllr Eddy said: "I am horrified and appalled by the rank lawlessness which was exposed in Bristol on Sunday when the famous statue of Edward Colston was attacked and vandalised by a criminal mob."

He added: "Edward Colston to me, and generations of Bristolians, stands out as a hero whose wealth has continued to benefit the housing, education and healthcare of the citizens of this city."

The statue was tossed into the river by Black Lives Matter protesters
The statue was tossed into the river by Black Lives Matter protesters. Picture: PA

The councillor also claimed he had had been contacted by "outraged" constituents following the incident while also criticising the local police force and Bristol's mayor.

Cllr Eddy said: "Since this frenzied thug violence on Sunday, I have received a stream of outraged responses from constituents and others - more than I've even received in such a short time in my 28-year council service."

He added: "I am equally outraged by the feeble comments, effectively condoning violence, of Mayor Marvin Rees and the pathetic hand-wringing of senior Avon & Somerset police officers. Over the coming days and weeks, both need to be held to account by Bristolians."

In 2001, Cllr Eddy resigned as deputy leader of the council's conservative group after adopting a golliwog as a mascot and facing criticism from racial equality groups and his own party.

On Monday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC he thought it was "completely wrong" to tear the statue down "in that way" but that he did believe it should have been removed "a long, long time ago" and instead placed in a museum.

Asked about Cllr Eddy's praise of Edward Colston as a "hero", Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman said on Tuesday: "I haven't seen those comments, the PM won't have seen those comments."

Pressed if Mr Johnson regards Mr Colston as a hero, the spokesman said: "It's not a discussion I've had with him, you've got his words from last night and I have nothing more to add."

Following protests across the UK on the weekend, the prime minister acknowledged many of the activists' concerns were "founded on a cold reality."

He said leaders "simply can't ignore" concerns that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups face discrimination in education, employment and in law.

The prime minister added that those who harmed police or property would face "the full force of the law".

Chief constable Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset Police has defended his officers for not intervening to stop protesters pulling down the statue.

He said that had they intervened to arrest those responsible, there would have been a "very violent confrontation."

The force has launched a criminal damage investigation into what happened to the statue.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said he felt no "sense of loss" after the statue was pulled down.

Mr Rees said he could not condone the damage to the statue, but praised the police response.