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by Bethany Rielly
HOUSING SECRETARY Robert Jenrick faced ridicule today after vowing to bring in new protections for statues while his government presides over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.
The Tory minister wants to safeguard every statue and give himself powers to veto decisions made by councils to remove monuments.
Under law changes to be published on Monday, any decision to remove a statue, monument or other memorial will require planning permission and a consultation with the local community.
It comes after protesters toppled the statue of slave merchant Edward Colston in Bristol last year, sparking a wider discussion over the removal of statues celebrating British imperialism.
Writing about the proposed legislation in the Telegraph on Sunday, the minister wrote: “What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob.”
Many took to Twitter to criticise the plans, including historian David Olusoga, who suggested ministers have dredged up the subject to distract people from “their lethally failed response to the pandemic and the consequences of a disastrous Brexit.”
Teachers union NEU vice-president Daniel Kebede said that the move called into question the government’s priorities.
He posted: “The government DOESN’T protect a nation from a killer virus. 100,000 dead and rising. The government WILL protect the statues of slave traders and colonialists. Tells you everything you need to know about this [government’s] priorities.”
Mr Jenrick should be “ashamed” of “wasting time writing about statues,” when daily Covid-19 deaths continue to surpass 1,000 a day, Runneymede Trust director Helima Begum posted.
While tenants’ union Acorn highlighted the extreme levels of homelessness and rent arrears as well as failures to address the cladding scandal, saying: “Yet the man in charge of housing [Mr Jenrick] is writing articles about statues.”
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