Ross Clark

Statue toppling is doing a disservice to Black Lives Matter

Statue toppling is doing a disservice to Black Lives Matter
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I don’t know how much of a organisational structure there is to Black Lives Matter in Britain but if I were part of it I’m sure I would be furious at the crowd who felled the stature of Edward Colston and deposited it in Bristol harbour. 

They have set off a tsunami of civil virtue-signalling which has drowned out all the other issues I am sure I would rather be talking about. The latest victim is a statue of Lord Baden-Powell which is set to be removed from Poole Harbour by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, which itself erected the statue only 12 years ago in order to commemorate his setting up of the scouting movement. No longer will he gaze over Brownsea Island, where the first scout camp was held in 1907. He has been felled, apparently, for being a racist and Nazi sympathiser.

Baden-Powell has always seemed a little dodgy to me, and my jaw did drop a little when I read his diary entry – from 1939 – marvelling at his bedtime reading, Mein Kampf. But if he was considered suitable for a monument in 2008 it is ridiculous to go back on that now. What an easy gesture it is for a council to make, to snap him off his plinth. For the cost of hiring a JCB for an hour you get your councillor and officials elevated onto virtual plinths of their own, made heroes among the woke vandals who might otherwise have come calling.

Wouldn’t Black Lives Matter really prefer that the country was discussing, for example, why only one of Bournemouth’s 76 councillors is BAME, and not one of them black? That is in spite of the BAME component of the population being 16 per cent in Bournemouth and eight per cent in Poole. Wouldn’t they rather we were talking about the widening gap in educational achievement between children from the wealthiest and less well-off homes in the borough?

Instead the whole country is talking mostly about pulling down statues. Living in 2020 is rather like waking up in the 17th century with plague sweeping the land and marauding puritans destroying icons. What a let-off for local authorities who preside over poor-quality housing, underperforming schools and local BAME populations who are more likely to be less well-off. Never mind any of that: let’s find a long-dead slave-trader or borderline racist scoutmaster to disgrace and all will be well.

By the way, if Bournemouth Council really thinks Baden-Powell was a Nazi sympathiser, and it can’t tolerate that element of his character, why doesn’t it forcibly dismantle local scout groups, who owe everything to the founder of the movement? It would be hypocritical not to. 

You can’t shame Baden-Powell but still have kids going around reciting oaths which he himself devised. Of course, Bournemouth Council hasn’t thought this through. It has just been caught up in a passing hysteria which will seem ridiculous as soon as it has passed.

Read Andy Shaw's handy guide to statue-toppling on Spectator Life.