Analysis comment

Starmer’s response on Colston statue put to shame by that of black MPs and Bristol’s black Labour mayor

Labour leader decries toppling of memorial to slaver, while Nadia Whittome, Dawn Butler, Marvin Rees and David Lammy honour it

Keir Starmer again appears to have sided with the oppressor over the oppressed. In an interview with radio station LBC, he told listeners that ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters were wrong to pull down a statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol, saying the monument “shouldn’t come down in that way” and condemning what he called “lawlessness”:

Starmer’s response is completely at odds with that of black Labour MP Nadia Whittome and black Labour mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees.

Whittome tweeted that she celebrated “these acts of resistance” and said that the toppling of the statue was a call to “tear down systemic racism and the slave owner statues that symbolise it” – and said that it highlighted the need for a government that would always side with those wanting to end oppression:

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who should know better than any politician what the statue meant in the city, called for understanding of the “affront to humanity” the statue represented and, like Whittome, called for the incident to be a catalyst for change:

Thank you to everyone who took part peacefully and respected the need to protect their communities as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

I know the removal of the Colston Statue will divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years.

However it’s important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity and make the legacy of today about the future of our city, tackling racism and inequality.

I call on everyone to challenge racism and inequality in every corner of our city and wherever we see it.”

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees

Rees also stated that the placards currently around the base of the statue will be preserved and put on display as part of a historic moment.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said that seeing the statue fall enabled her to ‘exhale’:

Even Starmer’s centrist ally David Lammy agreed publicly with the destruction of the statue this morning.

Colston’s ‘affront to humanity’ was heartrendingly demonstrated in a 2018 art installation that depicted a slave-ship deck in front of the statue, with people laid cramped together, and pointed out that slavery has not ended, even in the UK:

But even that artwork did not do justice to the horror of the kind of slave transport that made Colston rich, which is revealed by a contemporary drawing of a slave-ship layout:

Around 12.5 million people were carried off to slavery in such vessels, with almost two million of them dying during the voyage because of the conditions on the ships, their bodies dumped unceremoniously into the ocean.

Colston’s ships – he was deputy governor of the British empire’s main slaving company – were even worse. During his management, almost a quarter of the slaves shipped away from their homeland on the ‘Royal African Company’s vessels died on the way to slavery.

And slavery is not merely a shameful part of the history of this nation. Slavers still profit from ruined lives, in the UK and elsewhere.

Whittome, Rees and Lammy are right. Starmer is wrong. Labour must always stand with and for the oppressed and never the oppressor. Once again he has failed to oppose on behalf of those who need it and has been shown how to act by others in the movement who should be able to rely on him to lead.

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63 comments

  1. It is difficult for long standing Labour Party Members to leave what was until very recently a Party that advocated radical change. It’s a bit like leaving a family. But it has to be done to demonstrate how dreadful this new regime is. If things improve you can always rejoin. And every day increases hope of a new Party. The more that cancel their Subs right now will perhaps tease out old Socialists. We can’t continue to associate ourselves with Starmer’s reactionary responses to almost every issue. It’s shameful. Blair without a sign of charisma.

    1. I have just been having words with one or two folk on the Labour party fb page after they posted a short statement from the pathetic D Lammy supporting the Starmer stance.

      1. What on Earth makes you think these protesters are Starmer supporters or in the Labour Party? .

  2. This was absolutely the way the statue should’ve come down! The water was exactly where it should’ve ended up! Absolutely fitting.

    Is there an equivalent monstrosity in Liverpool or Glasgow that blights the cityscape? Off you go, chaps!

    1. Pol Pot says it’s wrong to attack police. Is it wrong for police to attack protesters I wonder? Peterloo style Cavalry charges down Whitehall should be stopped and every use of a baton across citizen’s heads should be recorded.

  3. The younguns in this party give us hope, watching the statue slide into the river and sink to the bottom made me smile
    What’s next

  4. I’m gonna play ‘devil’s’ here…

    Starmer’s right (for once) That’s vandalism, for the sake of vandalism. There are other ways & means to have got shut of that statue. Take for example the current (mixed race) mayor of Bristol…What’s he done to have the statue removed in a less dramatic, more civilised manner if it so offends him and the populace?

    He has ‘pull’ hasn’t he? I’m quite sure if it was that offensive to the people of Bristol, they’d have no objection to having it removed a while ago by democratic and safe means, rather than mob rule.

    Does Whittome ‘celebrate’ flags on the cenotaph being lit on fire? Is arson her idea of ‘resistance’ , because it seems open vandalism is? Had someone been killed or seriously injured by bringing that statue down, would whittome still be ‘celebrating’ it?

    I wonder if she ‘celebrated’ the famous footage of the hussein statue being torn down in Iraq?

    I’ll bet a lot of you did – didn’t you? Be honest.

    But then again, you were all against the Iraq war, weren’t you?

    And here’s one for david ‘see me, see my colour’ lammy…When was the last time you mentioned anything about the injustices of 6 year old WHITE children being sent up chimneys, or working 18 hour days in cotton mills, being beaten and sexually abused? ‘Cos I’ve never once heard you mention it. When was the last time you spoke in parliament about child poverty affecting white families every bit as much as black families?

    Slavery was abolished a full thirty-five years before child labour was in the UK.

    Also, where’s the indignity at the tribal chiefs who sold their own people to the slave traders? Never see or hear about any of that.

    If I was an elected official, say mayor of my home city (Liverpool) should I be made to apologise for something that happened 200 years ago? Something I played no part in?

    ‘But that city was built on the slave trade’ they say. (So was Bristol, and many other cities)

    That’s quite correct. And black people have the same right to live in it as I do, all those years later. And over those 200 years or so, neither my ancestors nor I were, or are, any better off than any black people for it.

    Should I demand the mayor of Rome apologise to me for subjugating Britain for 350 years, from almost two millennia ago?

    And finally, where’s the outrage at the arabic slave trade which continues to this very day – slavery that includes white people as slaves, too.

    Starmer’s still a cnut though. And he’ll have people working for their dole every bit as much as the toerags will (again) soon enough. Didn’t see people tearing down statues or trying to set union jacks alight when that modern-day slavery was going on just a few years ago.

      1. He won’t ask and we know what the answer would be if he did. Parliament is a dead duck.

    1. All that people made to work for their dole needed was a statue to trash. But of whom? Fagin, perhaps?

      They should erect one to IDS, start the stopwatch and see what happens!

    2. One paragraph at a time-

      1- “Starmer’s right (for once)..” How so? There’ve been numerous attempts to have it removed, but the vote kept going against them, as presumably there’s quite a few Conservative (capital C or otherwise) Fogeys on the Council – people HAVE tried for YEARS
      He has ‘pull’ hasn’t he? I’m quite sure if it was that offensive to the people of Bristol, they’d have no objection to having it removed a while ago by democratic and safe means, rather than mob rule.

      2- “flags on the cenotaph being lit on fire?” When did this happen? What is the relevannce?
      “Had someone been killed or seriously injured by bringing that statue down..” I fully support protesters following Health and Safety and safe lifting guidelines – anyhow Straw Man Argument – they werent !

      “I wonder if she ‘celebrated’ the famous footage of the hussein statue being torn down in Iraq?”
      Well, I didnt, not so much, anyway – he was terrible, then Bush and Balir march in for the oil and promptly don the same Jackboots! Also in this case there was a COUNTER demonstration going on outside the shot of the cameras – rather than attempt to unite the Baathist and Sunni communities the Americans left the Baathists to starve, no jobs, no welfare, but plenty of Sadaams Military hardware – what could go wrong?

      “But then again, you were all against the Iraq war, weren’t you?”
      Darn right, and THAT’S why – it’s perfectly consistent to detests Crimes Against Humanity WHEREVER they occur

      “When was the last time you mentioned anything about the injustices of 6 year old WHITE children…”
      How is this relevant? sounds like one of those “I’m not a racist but..” Arguments to me. (I oft comment on how inhuman/e Victorian Society was, DESPITE its role in spreading technology – this is but one example) – THOSE kids were battling with the injustice of their OWN Culture that they were born into . No one is BORN into Slavery and Bondage, these are man-made restrictions, enforced by unjust Laws.

      Also those children, at least had the POSSIBILITY of making some money at something new and rising in societry being recognized full CITIZENS of that society. To abduct people and drip them INTO the Hell we made, with NO chance of becoming a Citizen is a FAR greater crime!

      “When was the last time you spoke in parliament about child poverty…”
      To whom is this addressed – I’m no MP
      (Though I was done for a Grand by a LORD once)

      3 – Whataboutery – )certainly no defence in Law)

      4 – !Also, where’s the indignity at..” Sure I’m indignant – but rather then be mad at any “Kapo” Jews who may have collaborated with the Germans for an easy life, most of our rage should still be reserved for the Engine of Evil created to MAKE such betrayals possible
      “Never see or hear about any of that” – Well I’M aware of it, so it DOES seem to have gotten into the History Books

      5 – “If I was an elected official, say mayor of my home city (Liverpool) should I be made to apologise for something that happened 200 years ago? Something I played no part in?” – Maybe… If I became CEO of a company that made a terrible product that killed millions, I’d sure feel SOME responsibility, to change the brand name, prosecute and sack those responsible… And if they’re long-dead, certainly not COMMEMORATE the bastards!

      6 – “… black people have the same right to live in it as I do, all those years later. And over those 200 years or so, neither my ancestors nor I were, or are, any better off than any black people for it” – I dont follow your argument – how do you think JEWISH people would feel walking through Germany, to see fine statues of Himmler and Adolf looking down ? That’s one reason they DON’T have them – simple Humanity!

      7 – “And finally, where’s the outrage at the Arabic slave trade which continues to this very day – slavery that includes white people as slaves, too” – Well I sure have plenty – unfortunately when people sign on to become domestic servants or menial workers THERE they say goodbye to a LOT of their Human Rights – this may often TOTALLY qualify as Slavery, but our present day Govt’s don’t like to touch them for fear of destabilising the Oil Business

      8 – “Stanmer’s still a cunt though”
      Phew, we agree!

      ( Didn’t see people tearing down statues or trying to set union jacks alight when that modern-day slavery was going on” – well wait til they try and erect a Statue of IDS and you MAY get just that – one hopes!

      PS – Its STILL happening – ask DPAC )

  5. Colston is down: as an act to signify tackling oppression…not harming anyone BUT DAMAGING PROPERTY!! Just like the Saddam Hussein statue downed by those lawless Iraqis…not to mention the destruction of property that went on in East Berlin signifying change etc etc. Starmer is a man of property and ownereship and of proper tory and liberal values. Of course he spits in the face of anyone defying these values…
    I’m sure he is ashamed of his first name and wishes he could have a biblical one and a double barrelled surname..

  6. It is at least as important to end the economic pillaging of the African people that is still going on.
    See the work by the Tax Justice Network and read “Treasure Islands” by Nicholas Shaxson

  7. I’m delighted there is a statue in Shrewsbury although not directly connected to the slave trade Clive of India was a sociopath that should not be celebrated is now the subject of talks to have it taken down, we have many people who really should be celebrated instead

  8. Anyway, let it be a signal to those toerag rats that demand a thatcher statue on the 4th plinth – or anywhere else, for that matter…

    1. No No No fuck8ng No
      I want a Thatcher statue that I can visit at least once a year and pay my respects to

      1. Would your respects be wet and a bit yellowish?
        I’d pay mine twice a day.

  9. Radio News this morning Starmer clearly said that this statue “should have been taken down years ago”.
    Of course, in his position, he can’t support lawlessness.
    If you destroy people’s support for Labour you’re helping the Tories win the next election.

    1. Wanda Lozinska, Starmer is not Labour, he is the establishment’s version of what they want Labour to be i.e. a leftish version of the Tory Party.

    2. Did Starmer support the idea it should be removed? Why wasn’t it if that was such a reasonable request?

  10. If you destroy people’s support for Labour you’re helping the Tories win the next election.

    Oh aye? How’s that work when they’re near enough one and the same?

  11. Your in the wrong party, the National White Peoples party the party of the slave owners is over there, do us all a favour and go and join them

  12. Starmer is a typical establishment hypocrite, he says he abhors racism yet he supports Zionism which is racism in action in Palestine.

  13. Bristol is the city of my birth. growing up as a naive kid in the ’60s who wondered why streets were called Blackboy Hill & Whitladies Road & who the Colston Hall was named after. I did my own research, being prompted by a ‘folk singer’ called Bob Dylan. MSM was not interested in the Civil Rights Movement in USA & Bob Dylan was seldom played on the Radio. The Christian Brothers who taught me warned me against my ‘mission from God’ to find out more about slavery & who Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King were.

    I know the statue well & have always taken issue with the plaque underneath but not the statue itself. I learned to take statues @ face value, regarding it as a symbol of a class system in which not only African slaves were oppressed but the poor people of Bristol, who sometimes protested & rioted against the landowners & wealthy merchants whose social class profited from exploitation. Bristol University is a monument to Edward Colston as education was never intended to improve the life of ‘ordinary people’, only used by others of his own class………a tradition that still remains to this day…

    Most statues are symbolic of class oppression, a decadent monument to those who serve the system well. A reminder that the wealthy & affluent have always held power in our society & that may never change, especially if the people allow a mob to impose their own questionable morality on others, it seems that no justice, no peace will be never ending.

  14. ”I know the statue well & have always taken issue with the plaque underneath but not the statue itself. I learned to take statues @ face value, regarding it as a symbol of a class system in which not only African slaves were oppressed but the poor people of Bristol, who sometimes protested & rioted against the landowners & wealthy merchants whose social class profited from exploitation.

    Most statues are symbolic of class oppression, a decadent monument to those who serve the system well. A reminder that the wealthy & affluent have always held power in our society & that may never change, especially if the people allow a mob to impose their own questionable morality on others, it seems that no justice, no peace will be never ending.”

    Eloquently put, Steve. +1

    Liverpool is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Being a port city, the populace is made up of people from all over the planet. Our (Liverpool’s) culture is all the better for it.

    There is no community here that ‘lords it’ over any another; people of all races generally get on rather well as a rule. We know and appreciate that the majority of us are pissing in the same pot. Other cities should take note.

    And you’ve all seen what happens to the gobshite EDL or whoever when they turn up in the city. You’ve seen how united the people here are, you’ve all seen the turnouts for Corbyn and his policies. You’ve all seen us stand together in solidarity (often alone; to the detriment and shame of other cities rather than to any kudos on our part) against social injustices.

    A lot of people are under the misapprehension that the Toxteth riots were exclusively about race, although it was admittedly a factor (It was the stop & search of a black lad on a moped what kicked it all off) it wasn’t the sole one. White folks also rioted because they were sick of disgusting police treatment, coupled with high unemployment across the city.

    But you’re fucked if you think I’d allow people to scrawl graffiti over our beautiful, historical architecture and I don’t give a shite about the cause. If that makes me on the sides of the racists then so be it. But just bear in mind that I don’t shit on my own doorstep.

    Buildings and statues are not and should not be the target. The only way to beat oppression is to dismantle the class system and all the inequalities & injustices that go with it.

    1. If the Nazis hadn’t been defeated Europe would be full of statues of Hitler. England has never been defeated so the statues of Imperialists like Churchill and slave traders like Coulson litter our city centres. They should be torn down.

    2. I don’t always agree with everything you say, Toffee, but kudos to you – you’ve nailed it.

  15. I am reminded of one of my granny’s dismissive put downs. To Sir eriK’s illustrative response she’d probably just shrug her shoulders and say “Dogs bark and pigs oink”.

    Can we expect anything better from a leader who has the Trilateral Commission and Henry Jackson Society seals of approval?

  16. Change the language
    Do you support police violence against innocent citizens
    Why do you support the use of live ammunition against innocent men, women and children in Palestine
    Who would you replace the statue with, Labour party is working with the Labour mayor of Bristol to vote on another statue
    Boaty McStatue is in the lead

  17. I see. These statues are ‘litter’ , are they? What about the Georgian,Victorian and Edwardian ‘monstrosities’ built off the slave and opium trades?

    Do we demolish them too?

    Because they disagree with it (for whatever reason) would it be ok for racists to tear down the Wilberforce statue in Hull?

    Should people ‘tear down’ Nelson’s column and rename Trafalgar Square in case it offends the French and the Spanish?

    Should we ‘tear down’Wellington’s column in Liverpool because he was a warmongering elitist and called his own troops ‘The scum of the Earth?

    Should kopites (or any scouser) ‘tear down’ the statue of John & Cecil Moores because John owned Everton FC and they were originally from Salford?

    And talking of statues of Cecils, I remember a couple of years ago the furore over wanting to ‘tear down’ the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford…The black kid leading the demand for it to get ‘torn down’ was, in fact, a Rhodes Scholar.

    I mean, FFS…Where does it end?

    1. Toffee why do you find it objectionable that a ‘black kid’ leading the anti Rhodes statue was a Rhodes Scholar? He or she should have known better? They were abusing their hosts? Better to change the name of the scheme I’d say. The arch Imperialist and outright racist ought not be lauded in the way he is. He was a truly vile man.

      1. Paul, can you not see the hypocrisy of the black kid being a rhodes scholar?

        Would you have gone to university on a ”thatcher scholarship”?

        Nobody’s ‘lauded’ rhodes. Despite what you think of him (And I’m not particularly fond of him neither) what would that black african kid be doing now, and where would he be, had rhodes not left a legacy at all?

      2. It seems crazy to refuse a scholarship because of its name! In this case all Rhodes Scholars would be white. I’d certainly take one in Thatcher’s name just to stop you reaping the advantage!

      3. An education? JF Kennedy says he better understood the evils of Colonialism after his time as as a Rhodes Scholar and that his opinion was reinforced a little later during a tour of Vietnam and Cambodia watching the French trying and failing to re-introduce a brutal Colonialism. Thus his attempts to get America out of there in the 1960’s which directly led to his being shot by conservatives. Students aren’t required to sign up for right wing ideology when they are offered scholarships.

      4. Well I certainly wouldn’t accept anything from a rancorous owld bastard that impoverished me and millions of others like me while making avarice a virtue.

        And especially not to ‘gain an advantage’ over the same people as impoverished by the hag as me.

        That’s just buying into the whole ethos of thatcherism.

        Now you can call it as cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I’d call it conscientious, meself.

    2. Taken to its extreme I can name yet another person who kept,captured and traded slaves but a lot of people would like to bury the fact and paper over it.
      Mohammed.

      Should we demonise the religion because its founder was a slave trader? Or is it ok because ‘it was the culture in those days”?

      1. Cardinal Sin
        That’s a great point which I had no clue about, the history and the context is crucial, but to educate the ignorant like me is critical
        Thats howJVL saved my Sanity and cleared up a lot of disinformation and propaganda on Anti Semitism

  18. Qwertboi, I can see Paul’s point, to a degree.

    You don’t need a statue of hitler, stalin or hussein to know they were cnuts.

    But, whether we like it or not, in one way or another the ‘contributions’ (If you can call them that) made by the likes of Colston to their respective communities have impacted (directly or indirectly) on people’s lives every bit as much as Wilberforce’s has to the nation.

    1. There are some good social media ‘jokes’ about allowing statues of Jimmy Saville to be restored in honour of his generosity to charity.

    2. It cannot be beyond us to decide which statues are torn down, removed to a museum or replaced
      That’s the racism debate in a nutshell, how we teach history

      1. Or maybe the British state could simply put a plaque on every single contentious historical statue/building to point out that the edifice in question is contentious for x reasons and is in no way endorsed by the current state, but is simply sustained as a historical matter?

      2. But who decides whether they’re ‘contentious’ or not?

        Camoron was of the ‘hang mandela’ tribe once, now he isn’t (he says) but knows some people still are.

        If that was reflected here, we’d have plaques being taken down and put back up with every change of government..

      3. A new plaque for every change of Govt is rather unlikely. Starmer wouldn’t be changing anything! But it’s not an enormous burden is it if there is a significant change of ideology? Only costs a few bob and a guy with a hammer and nail. Our view of the past is constantly changing.

    3. I don’t want to imagine Liverpool without its beautiful architectural legacy of the slave trade and Empire – if statues have to be destroyed why not also the buildings slavery paid for?
      Some in Liverpool carry highly-offensive statuary in friezes I believe.
      Maybe a better expression of national remorse over slavery would be repairing its legacy – the racism that still oppresses the descendants of the enslaved.

      1. Until recently Acton Town Hall in W London carried fascist symbols including the ‘Rods of Authority’. themselves. Nobody noticed really. They went not long ago in a re-development. The thing about a statue of somebody in a prominent street is to honour and celebrate those the Community admires. They are put on a plinth to raise them above ordinary heads. Somebody who simply isn’t honoured any longer might be better off in a museum?

  19. Shaky david Cameron and his family were plantation owners who received millions in compensation when slavery was abolished, what a twat

  20. Just about every statue in our cities celebrates/memorialises denizens of the British Empire – thinking politically we should tear them all down and destroy them to prevent the far right (ie the tories) building support around them – but that would leave our cities defaced and ugly.

    Instead of tearing down statues we should educate people about Britain’s imperial history from a left wing humanitarian perspective instead of the jingoistic Tory perpective – and try to right the many wrongs of Empire.
    Fix the legacy, not the symbols.
    Having said that, if they try to punish the protesters I might join the protesters – and then they’ll be sorry… 🙂

    1. So long I have wondered why they continue to exists and at the same applauded those who have rejected them, it says much about their character.

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