‘I can’t be held responsible for something that happened 300 or 400 years ago. They are using the old class thing and that is not what this election is about [in 2010], it’s not what I stand for, and I ignore it…I think it shows how desperate they are if all they can do is pick at bits of my family history,’ said Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.
Let’s unpick this statement.
I can’t be held responsible
You are absolutely correct Drax, you weren’t around 350 years ago when your forefathers ventured to the West Indies and set up sugar plantations worked by enslaved Africans to work on your sugar plantation in the West Indies.
But there is an issue here and that is that you benefited and still benefit today from what your forebears did. You inherited Drax Hall, Barbados and the plantation built with the wealth accrued from slave labour.
The eminent historian Professor Sir Hilary Beckles estimates that 30,000 enslaved Africans died on the Drax sugar plantations during the 200 years of working the plantation with slave labour – see Wikipedia and Caricom (link below). Drax, that may not include the numbers of Africans destined for your plantation that died or were murdered enroute from the shores of West Africa. You come from a long line of Draxes going back 100’s of years, inherited wealth, culture passed down through the ages. For the 1000’s of enslaved people that worked for your family – their names, their culture, friends, family were taken, all taken. Unlike you, their history, their lives were stolen.
Caricom, the Reparations Commission is calling on you Drax, to pay reparations to Barbados. That is a small price.
The Old Class Thing
Don’t get me wrong Drax, but my reading of the ‘class society’ is that 1. the rich, 2. the landowners, 3. the rulers determine the management of our economy, our political system and have an invested interest in influencing our democracy. The rest of us earn a wage, get a meagre income or survive on benefits. The ruling class and the proletariat. Simplisitc maybe, but money/wealth rules. Drax, you fit into all 3 categories for ruling. Class can’t be ignored.
In Who Owns England, after the National Trust you, Drax, are the largest land owner in Dorset with Charborough Estate. When we think of National Trust (NT) properties, they are the mansions and large tracts of land formerly owned by the aristocracy, the landed gentry. Class comes to mind. After WWI most of the landed gentry were no longer able to afford to keep such larges houses, they couldn’d afford the staff and many of the staff had died in WWI or from Spanish flu. The Drax estate was saved from ‘nationalisation’ – being handed over to the NT.
Charborough House owned by yourself Drax with a long line of your family ownership
The question is how? Was it the sugar plantation in Barbados? With the opaqueness of rich people’s wealth, offshore tax havens, crooked accountants, Trusts or family Trusts, it’s difficult to know how your family held on to Charborough House. You have a number of business interests in this country and and in your register of interests as an MP.
It’s Not What I Stand For
I beg to differ Drax. Slavery and exploitation is exactly what you stand for.
You are on the ‘List of Rogue Employers‘ Drax, as reported in the Bournemouth Echo, you underpaid 43 of your workers.
As an MP votes listed in They Work For You sees you voting against motions to promote human rights and voted against gay rights. Voted against the right to remain of EU nationals already living in Britain. Voted against raising welfare benefits unable to work due to illness of disability, against raising housing benefits, and against central Government help with paying council tax for those on low incomes.
Maybe a bit of self interest here Drax, you voted against raising income tax on those earning over £150,000 a year and against the mansion tax.
He’s the MP with the Downton Abbey lifestyle. But the shadow of slavery hangs over the gilded life of Richard Drax by Paul Lashmar and Jonathan Smith in Barbados Guardian on 12th December 2020
By Kate Thomas