"Every single statue should be brought down" - Tom Swarbrick's tense exchange with caller

8 June 2020, 13:56 | Updated: 8 June 2020, 14:45

By Seán Hickey

The toppling of statues by anti-racism protesters is justified according to this caller, and he argued that such monuments would be removed if white people were offended by them.

Ashley phoned in to make the case that the removal of apparently racist figures would help improve dialogue and heal the scars of racism in the UK. He told Tom Swarbrick that statues of Winston Churchill should be removed because of the institutional racism and cruelty he resided over. Tom argued that he didn't think "the climbing of the cenotaph and the attempted burning of the Union Jack will help" bring credibility to the debate.

Ashley maintained that "a lot of the companies that made Britain the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world were built off the backs of slaves" and controversially said that "every single statue should be brought down including Winston Churchill's."

He argued that Churchill "didn't defeat Hitler to help me, he defeated him to help you" highlighting his view that the UK has not addressed racial inequalities that existed as far back as war times.

Tom pointed out that Ashley benefits "from a country that is not run by a fascist dictator", to which the caller suggested Tom wasn't speaking from a place of experience. Ashley added that when the question of taking down a statue of Jimmy Saville came about "he got taken down instantly" but "it takes years" for action to be taken when black people are offended by a monument, which is then met with the reaction that "criminal damage is the problem."

The Churchill Monument in London was vandalised following protests on Sunday
The Churchill Monument in London was vandalised following protests on Sunday. Picture: PA

Tom suggested that a full recognition of the flaws of British historical figures could not bring about closure but rather more violence, suggesting that the past should remain forgotten. Ashley stated that "the refusal to accept that it was done, that it was bad" is the real issue, rather than the opposite.

Tom then tried to turn the conversation to what would be accepted if there were commemorations that were offensive to white people, where Ashley quickly stated "there's not a statue of that and that's what you've got to get." He said that it wasn't right that he has to "accept that that this is a part of history" and not question the cruelty and racism that his ancestors were subjected to, arguing this should not be the case.

The caller wondered "why can't we just say, well that's wrong, let's change it" rather than the debate around reform centring around full and total abolishment of certain British institutions if they have roots in slavery and systematic racism.

Ashley said that "if it happened the other way around" work would be made to acknowledge and repair the flaws of history, making the case that if white people had the experience of black people, there would be action taken to do what is right.