‘Lord Vulture’ on monuments hit-list
Robert Clive statue among those facing scrutiny from Mayor of London’s ‘diversity commission’
12 June, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
A PROMINENT statue to a British imperialist known as “Lord Vulture” is on a hit-list of monuments under review in Westminster.
Robert Clive has been heralded as a military hero for laying the foundations for the British Raj as head of the East India Company.
But he is also criticised for amassing a personal fortune through various atrocities and cultivating crops that triggered a famine killing more than two million.
His statue is one of several in Westminster under the spotlight and due to be considered by the Mayor of London’s new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm.
Westminster Labour leader Cllr Adam Hug said: “In my view, the statue of Robert Clive on King Charles Street, which has been moved once before, belongs in a museum alongside an honest appraisal of his grim legacy in India – not on the streets of Westminster.”
He added: “Some historical figures should be allowed to fade into obscurity or slide into ignominy to make way for new public art and remembrance.”
The review follows the toppling of statues to slaver Edward Colston in Bristol and the uproar at Oxford university over its monument to imperialist Cecil Rhodes.
Debates are taking place around the country about whether a more progressive history should be remembered in the 21st century.
Matthew Woolsey, who noticed the Clive statue during the Black Lives Matter protest this weekend, said Colston and Clive’s “global corporate violence against people of colour makes them some of the most negative historical examples for our time”, adding: “They are not the sort who should be immortalised as heroes in places that communicate British values to the world.”
In 1947, at the end of the Raj, Indians removed all imperial statues to suburban parks where explanatory texts gave them proper historical context.
A petition to remove Clive’s statue in Shrewsbury described him as “nothing more than a figure of oppression and white supremacy”.
Other memorials, Westminster statues that will be subject to review, include Field Marshal Jan Smuts, the founding father of South Africa, and military leader Colin Campbell.
However, one man’s war criminal is another’s military hero.
There have been concerns about a knee-jerk reaction to the groundswell of outrage over the killing of George Floyd in the United States and the Black Lives Matter protests.
Conservative Greater London Assembly Member for Westminster, Tony Devenish, said the move was “clearly an attempt by Sadiq Khan to start a divisive debate to distract from his failures as mayor”, adding: “He is responsible for keeping Londoners safe and moving, not for reviewing London’s monuments.”
He said: “Instead of virtue signalling, Sadiq Khan should focus on his job. He can start by fixing the mess he made of Transport for London’s finances and getting our city’s transport network moving safely again.”
A Westminster Council spokesperson said: “We will always listen to those who have legitimate concerns and they should not be ignored.
“We would always support education programmes to promote better understanding and give a full picture of the life of these historical figures as a way of supporting the vital discussions that are taking place about the effect they have had on the country and are still having, to this day, on our society.”