The Point of Statues

By Rob Burns

The argument, debate and point of statues will always divide nations, every revolution sees them tumble and every leader seems to put them up, however Britain’s class ridden statues do seem to have longevity.

Since the tumbling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol earlier this year a great debate and challenge has opened up about the ruling class statues of the great and good. Most of people these statues represent were neither great nor good, in fact most of those represented (mainly men) are mainly and powerful. People who have carried out or been responsible for evil actions such as enslavement, manslaughter, murder, rape.

Many talk for instance of these men as philanthropists, they will build local communities a library or a school with their ‘dirty ill-gotten gains’ – as long as their name is on it, such as Colston Hall. This is a way of trying to buy their way into heaven, salve their consciences, whilst their statues tower over us, signifying that we should look up to these morally bankrupt people and we are expected to admire them, with images of tipping our caps and bowing full of gratitude.

Britain has hundreds statues of royalty alone (29 of Queen Victoria), with 46 royalty statues  in London alone, including the psychopathic maniac Henry VIII renowned for chopping of his wives’ heads, above the entrance to St Bartholomew’s hospital, perhaps he was funding research into sewing heads back on. There are 11 statues of the ‘Great and Good’ in Parliament Square – all men. This is not to say that some of those represented are not worthy of the honour, but there are very, very, very few that merit our admiration.

The controversial statue currently being debated along with Cecil Rhodes (he even wangled getting a country named after him), is that of Winston Churchill. You may have noted our blog on him was quite damming, some many may say that ‘he won us the Second World War’, that ‘he defeated Hitler’, show respect. Well in fact he did not defeat Hitler or win WW II, he led a coalition government, I agree he was the figurehead the face of the people, but he was never one of us and never will be.

Edward Colston’s empty spot has been filled with a monument to Jen Reid pictured

The only ones to admire are the millions of working class people who fought on the ground from many countries, it was the spilled blood of the millions of these brave soldiers that won the day. However in reality without Russia which was instrumental in winning the war with a loss of 8.6 million Russian soldiers and with the intervention of the USA it is likely we would have lost.

Some believe he was a great strategist a sort of General in the government, again they would be wrong he had a bash at that in World War One as Britain’s powerful First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill masterminded (not sure I would use that word) the Gallipoli campaign and served as its chief public advocate. It was no surprise then that he ultimately took much of the blame for its failure. You will not find many Australian praising his leadership.

The Gallipoli Campaign cost the Allies 187,959 killed and wounded and the Turks 161,828. Gallipoli proved to be the Turks’ greatest victory of the war. In London, the campaign’s failure led to the demotion of Winston Churchill and contributed to the collapse of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith’s government.

Thoughtco World War I: Battle of Gallipoli

Monuments and statues have their place, but not when they are foist upon us by the very people who believe in their own right to immortality. The monuments to the wars commemorating those who paid the highest are mostly magnificent, not however the one commemorating the Black and Caribbean dead, that’s been placed with lack of care, thought or thanks and hopefully we can campaign to get one erected in a more befitting space, respectful of their sacrifice.

Statues of footballers, nurses etc; do fit well with the majority of people, these are folk heroes of their own class, and in the right place they bring wonderful memories and tributes. They generally reflect real achievement and genuine heroes.

Picture at the top: A patient commuter at Brixton Station by Kevin Atherton Photo Historic England

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