Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran has written to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urging him to issue clear advice to local councils on the removal of statues and street sign names associated with the slave trade.
The call comes after protesters toppled the bronze figure of Edward Colston in Bristol city centre. The statue, which had been in place since 1895, had been the subject of a petition to remove it due to his role as a slave trader. Meanwhile in Glasgow, anti-racism campaigners have erected new street signs including renaming Buchanan Street as George Floyd Street.
Layla Moran has urged the government to issue “clear, concise and effective guidance” to local authorities on assessing and removing street signs and statues commemorating individuals involved in the slave trade. The ministerial advice would provide details on carrying out public consultations with local residents. The Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful said that this would help councils to engage with their communities over whether to remove statues or street signs.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:
“My personal view is clear - statues of slave merchants should not still be standing in our cities. However, no-one should be tearing down statues through some kind of vigilante action.
“We therefore need a clear process for assessing and removing these statues, in conversation with local communities.
“The government must urgently provide clear guidance to local councils that encourages them to engage with local residents on this issue. Most people were never asked for their views at the time, so I believe that must happen now.
“We need to have a frank and open national debate about our history and legacy, but that will only succeed by engaging with local communities across the country.”
Please see a copy of Layla Moran’s letter to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick below:
Dear Secretary of State,
I hope you are well and able to stay safe at this time.
I’m writing to you about the issue of statues commemorating individuals involved in the slave trade.
As an Oxford MP, I know how difficult this issue can be and like most MPs my email inbox and postbag are full of messages from people who are worried about the messages that these statues send.
To that end, I wanted to contact you to ask if your Department could liaise with other departments, such as the Department for Education, to offer clear, concise and effective guidance to local authorities on this issue, especially after the events this weekend in Bristol.
Such guidelines from the Government will help our councils to start a public engagement process to engage with residents about the suitability of statues in their communities. Many were never asked at the time for their views, so I believe that must happen now.
Tough conversations have happened in America on these kinds of topics, and I believe the same must happen here. I hope you grasp this opportunity and act.
Thank you in advance for your assistance and for your reply.
Layla Moran MP
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon