Sadiq Khan forms diversity commission to review London landmarks

9 June 2020, 06:35

The stature of Churchill was damaged over the weekend
The stature of Churchill was damaged over the weekend. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Landmarks and statues across the capital will be reviewed to ensure they reflect London's diversity, Mayor Sadiq Khan's office has said.

The move comes after protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol over the weekend amid Black Lives Matter protests.

Over the weekend graffiti was scrawled on the Sir Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square with concerns raised over the former Prime Minister's views.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned legal repercussions must follow, and called for people to "work peacefully, lawfully, to defeat racism".

Mayor Sadiq Khan's office said London is "one of the most diverse cities in the world", but recent anti-racism demonstrations have highlighted that the city's statues, plaques and street names largely reflect Victorian Britain.

Statues, murals, street art and street names will all be reviewed by the new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm who will also consider what should be celebrated before making recommendations.

But London Assembly Tories have hit out at the Mayor's plans, accusing him of declaring war on the capital's monuments.

Assembly Member Susan Hall said: "Sadiq Khan has declared war on the capital's monuments.

"Instead of virtue signalling and starting a divisive debate, he should focus on his job.

"He can start by fixing the mess he made of TfL's finances and getting our city moving safely again."

A statue of Churchill in Parliament Square was damaged at the weekend
A statue of Churchill in Parliament Square was damaged at the weekend. Picture: PA

The Mayor of London said: "It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored.

"This cannot continue."

Mr Khan said we must ensure that we "celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city, and that we commemorate those who have made London what it is - that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated."

He added that recent protests had brought the matter to public attention, but said it was "important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape."

The commission - which will be co-chaired by Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, and deputy mayor for culture and creative industries Justine Simons - will include historians as well as arts, council and community leaders.

It comes ahead of planned anti-racism demonstrations in London as George Floyd is laid to rest in the US, after a killing which Boris Johnson said had awakened an "incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice" worldwide.

Mr Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis restrained him by holding a knee on his neck, will be buried in his home town of Houston in Texas on Tuesday.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted an image of the Daily Mail front page, showing the toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol and graffiti on the Churchill monument in Parliament Square.

She wrote: "These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery. Justice will follow."