Heated debate over future of Robert Baden-Powell statue

11 June 2020, 21:23 | Updated: 12 June 2020, 07:08

By Fiona Jones

Iain Dale mediated this heated debate over the future of statue of Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell amid ongoing clashes about historical figures in Britain.

A statue of Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell has been given 24/7 security after locals rallied against it being removed amid the ongoing debate about historical figures in Britain.

Former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, who maintained the statue must stay, took on Unite Against Fascism member Weyman Bennett who felt the statue should be removed.

Mr Bennett said both the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement "have the case for its removal.

"In Baden-Powell's book he clearly says...I read all day, reading Mein Kampf. He was almost on the board to go and meet Adolf Hitler and I think we should be clear about that."

"He was obviously involved in the murder of black people in South Africa in terms of shooting people...that had surrendered," he said, "We should put statues up to genuine people that made progress for humanity."

Iain countered that the Scout movement was progress: "You can't just write someone off and say he did bad things, and maybe he did do bad things, but can't you recognise the good he did as well?"

Mr Bennett said you have to balance up the good and the bad and decide what you want to teach future generations and Baden-Powell "doesn't deserve" to be on Poole Harbour.

The statue of Robert Baden-Powell has been earmarked for temporary storage
The statue of Robert Baden-Powell has been earmarked for temporary storage. Picture: PA

Mr Mackinlay refuted this accusation against Baden-Powell: "There's not a scintilla of evidence that Baden-Powell had any sympathies for Nazis and fascism, in fact quite the reverse because both Hitler and Mussolini suppressed the Scouting movement in their country."

"This is an organisation which embraces people of all creeds and race, 55 million today, it's interesting that it's one of the few organisations where Palestinian Scouts and Israeli Scouts can join."

Iain countered that Mr Bennett was quoting Baden-Powell's book, and alongside prominent coverage in the media, Mr Mackinlay surely could not be suggesting Mr Bennett was lying.

"The bigger the fib the more that people believe it initially," the former Labour MP said, quoting Baden-Powell, "A scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout no matter what country, class or creed the other may belong to."

Mr Bennett countered that he was not against the Scout movement having been one himself but against the erection of a statue for a man who was "not an angel."

Iain said that not many icons from previous centuries had positive racial views, including national hero Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi who has a statue in Parliament Square; Mr Bennett said "Nazi sympathiser" Tommy Robinson will be among those to defend Winston Churchill's statue this weekend.

Mr Mackinlay repeated his defence for the Scout founder and said he is proud the Scout movement is still worldwide.