Colston’s Legacy

Colston’s Legacy 800 450 Wera Hobhouse MP

There has been a divisive discussion about the Bristol slave trader Edward Colston, his statue and his legacy for years. The decision to remove the statue should have been made democratically a long time ago.

It’s very hard for an elected politician to condone criminal behaviour and vandalism.

However, it was indefensible for the statue to be standing in Bristol in 2020. Protestors literally took things into their own hands and toppled the statue. This was a symbolic act.

History is dynamic. It is not fixed. Yesterday was part of the history of race relations, not only here in the South West, but for our nation as a whole.

We must face up to, accept and learn from all aspects of our nation’s history. Not only the parts of our history that we are proud of, but the parts of our history that are corrupt and that we are ashamed of.

Colston was a figurehead of a corrupt system. He sought to alter his reputation by giving money. People and companies still do this; look at the fossil fuel industry.

We need to continue the discussion about corruption, corrupted money and vested interests and why we, as a society, are where we are today.

As a change maker and MP, I am very concerned by the increasing levels of alienation and division in our country. Civic discourse and dialogue are not working. Too many people feel that their lived experience is not being heard and validated.

The Black Lives Matter protests began in the US, sparked by the awful murder of George Floyd by the police. They have touched a deep nerve here in the UK.

People protest when they feel they have no other way to make themselves heard.

The protests come at a critical point when coronavirus has not been brought under control. Our BAME communities have been especially hard hit. The Government has sent mixed messages. I empathise with the Black Lives Matter movement. At the same time, I am worried about the impact on public health of having large gatherings.

As MP for Bath, I am conscious of our city’s history. I suggest that in Bristol the pedestal either remains empty with a new plaque, or that a new public piece of artwork is created and placed there to act as a focal point for inclusive conversations about race in this country.