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Unions representing museum staff fear government wants to ‘airbrush’ Britain’s colonialist and racist past

THE government is seeking to “airbrush” Britain’s racist and colonial past, unions representing museum staff warned today.

In a joint letter to museum bosses, Prospect, the FDA and PCS said that their members were “deeply worried” that the government was challenging the independence of heritage bodies to provoke an unnecessary “culture war” over the portrayal of historical figures.

The union’s intervention comes as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to warn some of the country’s biggest museums against focusing on Britain’s imperial history after telling the so-called Common Sense Group of Tory MPs that the country should not “run from [its] history.”

The unions are urging the National Museum Directors Council (NMDC), which represents major national and regional museums, to stand firm against government interference.

Their letter to the council, which has been seen by the Guardian, says: “Our members are deeply worried that government policy and a seeming desire to ride roughshod over the arm’s-length principle will lead heritage bodies to row back from some of the important work that has been carried out to develop an understanding of our cultural heritage.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the Morning Star: “It is disgraceful that government ministers are trying to airbrush out Britain's colonial past for political purposes.”

He accused ministers of trying to “weaponise history and threaten academic freedom.”

Mr Dowden is under pressure from some Tory MPs who see movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) as a threat to traditional interpretations of British history, which campaigners have called “whitewashed.”

Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel described the BLM protests which swept the country last summer as “dreadful” and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also accused London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan of overseeing “loony left-wing wheezes” after he promised to improve diversity in the capital’s public spaces.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been approached for comment.

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