United Kingdom

Oliver Dowden issues statue warning to museums and galleries

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned publicly-funded museums and galleries not to remove statues at the demand of activists as he hinted they could have their funding cut. 

Mr Dowden said in a leaked letter that the 'Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects'. 

He said museums and galleries which receive taxpayer support 'should not be taking actions motivated by activism or politics' as he urged them to resist pressure. 

He urged institutions to 'continue to act impartially', something he described as 'especially important' as the Government conducts its Comprehensive Spending Review - an apparent threat that funding could be at risk. 

Mr Dowden's letter, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, comes after a summer of cultural clashes over Britain's colonial past. 

A leaked letter from Oliver Dowden to museums and galleries has warned them against removing statues

A summer of cultural clashes in the UK saw a statue of the 17th century slave trader Edward Colston toppled in Bristol and thrown into the city's harbour

The letter was reportedly sent to all institutions which receive public funding, including the British Museum and Tate galleries.         

Mr Dowden said in the letter sent last week: 'The Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects. 

'Historic England, as the Government's adviser on the historic environment, have said that removing difficult and contentious parts of it risks harming our understanding of our collective past.'

The letter continued: 'As publicly funded bodies, you should not be taking actions motivated by activism or politics. 

'The significant support that you receive from the taxpayer is an acknowledgement of the important cultural role you play for the entire country. 

'It is imperative that you continue to act impartially, in line with your publicly funded status, and not in a way that brings this into question.

'This is especially important as we enter a challenging Comprehensive Spending Review, in which all government spending will rightly be scrutinised.'

A row over Britain's colonial past erupted in June as protests saw a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston toppled in Bristol. 

The bronze statue of the 17th century figure was pulled down with ropes, dragged through the streets and thrown into the harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest.  

A statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Westminster, was also daubed with graffiti amid wider calls for controversial figures to have their statues taken down. 

Boris Johnson hit out at the demands to remove statues at the time as he said 'we cannot now try to edit or censor our past'. 

The Prime Minister said the UK 'cannot pretend to have a different history' and that the statues 'teach us about our past, with all its faults'.

Earlier this month the Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg blasted the National Trust for not realising 'how wonderful' Churchill was after it included his home on its 'woke' list of houses with historic links to slavery.  

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