In a reversal of its previously decided-upon stance, the City of London has decided to “retain and explain” its statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass, two British politicians with deep ties to the slave trade. Previously, back in January, the City of London had voted to remove the statues, a decision that flew in the face of the UK government; the government has been drawing up new laws intended to protect the very kind of problematic statuary that people are now questioning the validity of. Now, the City of London’s updated strategy seems to very much align with the country’s governmental body.
Doug Barrow, the City of London Corporation Statues Working Group’s Chairman, explained the updated strategy thusly: the tactic, he said, “enables us to acknowledge and address the legacy of our past with openness and honesty, not to try and erase history but to place it in its proper context. We can’t be blind to the fact the history of the City is inextricably linked to slavery, which is a stain on our past and, shockingly, remains a feature of life today in many parts of the world.”
However, earlier in the year, the City of London’s stance was very different. “This decision is the culmination of months of valuable work by the Tackling Racism taskforce, which has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing injustice and inequality,” Catherine McGuinness, the City of London Corporation Policy Chair, said in January. “The view of members was that removing and re-siting statues linked to slavery is an important milestone in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse City.”
Ultimately, though, the new laws proposed by the UK government stipulate that individuals will need to have documented building consent or permission from the planning department before any statue can be removed.