Tag Archives: Edward Colston statue

Liberal Democrats must speak out for jury trials

When anyone attacks the jury system, Liberal Democrats should be vocal and prominent in defending it.

Just a few days into 2022 we saw, after the acquittal of the Colston 4, a sustained attack from Conservative voices. Their target was not just the verdict but on the jury system generally.
Juries are a precious safeguard of freedom. Our party has said so many times in our policy papers. The fight to establish juries as the fundamental deciders of whether a defendant is guilty or not was hard won. It was a struggle over centuries. It is a story entwined with the anti-establishment roots of the Liberal Democrats.

Last week’s mudslinging at the “the lamp by which liberty shines” (as Lord Bridge once called juries) is not the first bout of Tory anti-juryism. But it is particularly disquieting, albeit foreseeable, to hear it from buddies of the present government. The words of Conservative journalists and backbenchers are often used to scout positions and for ministers to stoop down to later.

Tory ministers have a record of trying to upend constitutional safeguards for partisan interest. Attempting to prorogue parliament to prevent votes on Brexit in Autumn 2019 was perhaps the worst example. The astonishing, repeated coincidences of donations with honours or policy outcomes is another. It is easy to imagine that this dangerous government might seek to interfere with the jury system.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

On statues being pulled down and our response

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What should we do with people who tear down public statues? Apply restorative justice techniques.

As Liberal Democrats, I hope we all agree that the statue of Edward Colston should have been removed from its location a long time ago: it represented a very public promotion of someone whose wealth was built from vile acts.

In the back of our minds should be another question – what if a different statue had been pulled down? One where we didn’t quite agree whether it should still be there or not? Where the rights and wrongs of the person’s life weren’t as clear cut? Or where we didn’t feel there was a clear consensus?

More plainly: should we support those committing these acts being prosecuted or not?

We either take the punitive approach – a crime is a crime; or we allow it to pass, with the risk that mob rule ensues on any viewpoint that can get enough people together.

I don’t think we should take either view: we should apply a restorative justice approach to these acts.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 31 Comments

My heart leapt for joy when I saw that statue chucked into Bristol harbour

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Sunday’s event in Bristol was exceptional.

I am not going to be mealy-mouthed about it.

My heart leapt for joy when I saw that damned statue unceremoniously chucked into the harbour.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 69 Comments

“Indefensible for statue to be standing in Bristol in 2020” – Lib Dems speak out on Colston

Leading Liberal Democrats have been speaking out on the controversy surrounding Sunday’s public removal of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

Wera Hobhouse, who is MP for neighbouring Bath, wrote on her website:

…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.

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The Bristol Liberal Democrats’ view on the Colston statue toppling

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On their website, Bristol Lib Dems have published an article titled “Calling time on Colston statue”. With their permission, we reproduce it here in full below:

Lib Dem candidate and equal rights activist Tara Murray said:

I want people to see beyond this statue being taken down by protesters. This statue was a symbol of how Bristol as a city still venerated a slave merchant that ruined tens of thousands of African lives and made his money off the backs of these slaves to step up the financial and aristocratic ladder of his time. The actions during his lifetime should’ve been rebuked and for a city with such vigour, multiculturalism and diversity it made no sense for us to still have him at the heart of our city. The people felt they needed to do something as there was a lot of uncertainty around this topic. The history will not be lost with him being removed, what happened is ingrained in the history of the slave trade and of the city but the removal of the statue signifies us as a community ending the acceptance of these matters and growing forward as a community. This act has now added a new chapter on the history of Bristol and will hopefully educate all that don’t know and will help more people understand the comparisons from late 17th century racism and racism in today’s world.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

If tearing down the Colston statue is OK, then anything is OK as long as you can justify it to yourself

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None of us was born yesterday! We all know the wheels of history don’t turn with gentle persuasion alone, sometimes it takes people to step beyond what’s permitted by the law before things really change. And yet there was something frightening about Sunday’s protests in Bristol that culminated in the tearing down the statue of Edward Colston.

Some Conservative MPs have described it as mob rule. In a way it was: a group of demonstrators got it into their heads that this was legitimate, and egged on by mutual encouragement, they toppled a public artefact and dumped it in the river. The police decided discretion was the better part of valour and let it go for pragmatic reasons. As it was ‘only’ a statue, perhaps it’s a bit prissy to say it’s lawbreaking (even though it was), and it was a crime against an inanimate object rather than a person, so it pales compared with violence against a person. But I suspect many liberals will feel queasy about it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 63 Comments
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