Steerpike Steerpike

Greek PM visit cancelled over Elgin Marbles row

Photo by Daniel Leal - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Talk about an undiplomatic row. Rishi Sunak has made much of his credentials on the world stage, most recently demonstrated at the Bletchley Park summit earlier this month. So it was some surprise then that Mr S read of an extraordinary row that has broken out between the British and Greek governments over, er, the future of the Parthenon Marbles.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due to meet Rishi Sunak in London today, but No. 10 cancelled the meeting yesterday at the last minute. The Greek premier told reporters he was ‘deeply disappointed by the abrupt cancellation’ of the meeting and rejected an alternative meeting with Oliver Dowden. Oh, the humiliation. The cancellation came a day after Mitsotakis told Laura Kuenssberg that the marbles should be returned, suggesting that the artefacts being split between London and the rest in Athens was like cutting the Mona Lisa in half.

A senior Conservative source told the BBC: ‘It became impossible for this meeting to go ahead following commentary regarding the Elgin Marbles prior to it. Our position is clear – the Elgin Marbles are part of the permanent collection of the British Museum and belong here. It is reckless for any British politician to suggest that this is subject to negotiation.’ In fairness to Mitsotakis, he wasn’t exactly saying anything new by restating the Greek government’s long-standing position, and was due to talk about Gaza, Ukraine and gas prices. 

So is this whole row all part of a high-culture war, to win back the Red Wall? Or has No.10 lost its marbles in a bid, er, to keep them? Talk about a Greek tragedy eh…

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles


Written by

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this article


Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in