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Keir Starmer: Edward Colston statue 'should have been taken down a long, long time ago'

8 June 2020, 10:25

Sir Keir Starmer said it was completely wrong to pull down the Colston statue in that way
Sir Keir Starmer said it was completely wrong to pull down the Colston statue in that way. Picture: LBC
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "completely wrong" for the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be torn down "in that way" adding it should have been "taken down a long, long time ago."

The leader of the opposition told LBC's Nick Ferrari he does not support the way the statue of Edward Colston was brought down in Bristol.

However, he added that such a memorial to Edward Colston should not exist in 21st century Britain.

"It shouldn't have been done in that way," he said.

"It's completely wrong to pull a statue down like that, but stepping back that statue should have been taken down a long, long time ago.

"You can't, in 21st century Britain, have a slaver on a statue."

Sir Keir said the statue "should have been brought down properly with consent" and suggested it would have been better to put it in a museum.

"This was a man who was responsible for 100,000 people being moved from Africa to the Caribbean as slaves, including women and children, who were branded on their chests with the name of the company that he ran.

"Of the 100,000 people, 20,000 died en route and they were chucked in the sea.

"He should not be in a statue in Bristol or anywhere else, he should be in a museum."

Commenting on footage showing police officers 'taking the knee' over the weekend, Sir Keir added that it should be an "individual decision" for each officer and condemned the violence shown towards the police this weekend.

When asked whether his Labour colleague Barry Gardiner should have attended a Black Lives Matter protest over the weekend despite social distancing measures still being in place, Sir Keir said: "No, he shouldn't have done it. He was wrong to do it."

"If you're a Member of Parliament you lead by example and that means we maintain social distancing in accordance with the government guidance."

Earlier on Monday, policing minister Kit Malthouse said he wants the protesters who tore down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol to be prosecuted.

The Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service told LBC he will be speaking to the head of Avon and Somerset Police after officers did not intervene when the statue was pulled down by protesters.

The controversial monument was torn down by Black Lives Matter protesters and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Sunday's demonstrations.

LBC's Nick Ferrari asked Mr Malthouse why police did not act and he said he would be speaking to the Commissioner of the force.

He said: "They have difficult operational decisions to make and that's what they're doing.

"I have a call with him this morning. We'll be reviewing the situation.

"The way we do things in this country is not like that. What was pretty obvious is that a group showed up with a pre-meditated plan. They had ropes and tools to remove that particular statue and perpetrate an act that was criminal damage."

Policing minister Kit Malthouse wants those who toppled the Colston statue to be prosecuted
Policing minister Kit Malthouse wants those who toppled the Colston statue to be prosecuted. Picture: PA

Mr Malthouse confirmed an investigation is under way and that all available footage will be reviewed, adding that he hoped prosecutions will follow.

"Whatever the merits or otherwise of that statue being where it was, the way to do these things in this country is by democratic discussion, argument and decision," he said.

"We cannot have mob rule."

The Grade-II listed bronze statue, which used to stand on Colston Avenue, was pulled down on Sunday by Black Lives Matter protesters.

There were cheers as the controversial monument was pulled down by a group, who had scaled it before attaching ropes to bring it crashing to the ground.

It was then rolled to the nearby harbour and pushed into the water as people cheered along the stretch of water.

The Edward Colston statue was thrown into a harbour in Bristol
The Edward Colston statue was thrown into a harbour in Bristol. Picture: PA

Bristol City Council said banners left around the base of where the statue stood until earlier today will be preserved for display in the city's M Shed museum.

Avon and Somerset Police later said the incident was "an act of criminal damage" and they were launching an investigation.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the toppling of the statue was "utterly disgraceful".

The merchant has long been associated with the city, but in recent years attempts have been made to remove his name from history, including the renaming of the Colston Hall venue, because of his past involvement in the slave trade.

He made his fortune through slave trading and became an official of the Royal African Company, which transported slaves to the US.

Thousands of people marched through the city centre to protest against the death of George Floyd.

A crowd of at least 5,000 people packed into the city's College Green area to hear from speakers and hold an eight-minute silence to represent the time Mr Floyd was filmed on the ground during an arrest in Minnesota with a policeman kneeling on his neck.

Many protesters wore masks and gloves, but the majority were unable to adhere to the two-metre social distancing guidance and were pressed against one another in the city's narrow streets.

The march, which ended at Castle Park, did not see any violence.

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