They haven’t toppled this one yet, but after bringing down the statue of the 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, moves are afoot to take down the statue of Robert Clive, the East India Company adventurer who laid the foundation for British colonial rule in India.
Two online petitions were launched on Sunday to take down the statue from the Square in Shrewsbury, about 170 miles north-west of London where the statue has stood since 1860. Signatures crossed a thousand overnight.
Shrewsbury has long celebrated its former mayor and MP. But objections to Clive have been more than ideological; the East India company which Clive led into political dominance brought the Bengal famine of 1770 that killed millions. “If we are not comfortable with a statue of Joseph Stalin or Genghis Khan, how can we be comfortable with a statue of Clive?” says David Parton who is leading one of the petitions.
The move follows from the Black Lives Matter protest that has seen the statue of Winston Churchill defaced in London. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called violent protests thuggery, but clearly the protests in Britain are not driven entirely by trans-Atlantic empathy over the killing of George Floyd in the US. The anger against injustice and inequality is lived out experience among black people, and other minorities, in Britain, every day.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confessed boldly to that experience in his country; in Britain the anger has provoked denials from the government. These convince few; they have brought only further evidence of the reasons for the protests.
Late as Usual
Britain continues its steady and so far uninterrupted record of moving late, too late, in dealing with spread of the virus. The government has now discovered the usefulness of masks; people have been asked to wear them on public transport from June 15. The world has been wearing masks for some time now, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made that demand two months back. He was ignored, as was experience and advisories around the world.
And again nice and late Britain began its move on Monday to quarantine visitors on arrival for a two-week period. But this when the number of infections in Britain has dropped to record lows, the number of officially reported daily deaths has come down steadily. On Monday the daily death toll was down to 55, the lowest yet. Countries the visitors are coming from have been easing their quarantine, as Britain now introduces its.
The quarantining method is primarily voluntary. Visitors will be advised to go to a chosen destination and stay indoors two weeks, except for essential needs and emergencies. No one knows just how such a quarantine will be enforced. If a visitor has nowhere particular to stay, the government has offered to house them in particular facilities. No one knows again what these are and where.
Three major airlines, British Airways, Ryanair and Easyjet have launched moves to begin legal action against the government over this quarantine move. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said he will not cancel flights. British people, he said, will simply ignore the quarantine because they “know it is rubbish”.
In their own language all airlines seem agreed that the move will choke the travel business that had been looking to recover from a long lockdown. The Daily Telegraph quoted a leaked report from the Home Office to suggest that the government lacks the means to enforce the quarantine. Home Secretary Priti Patel believes this will prevent a second wave of the virus, and she’s sticking to that decision.
Health Class Travel
Dinesh Dhamija, until recently member of the European Parliament and better known in the travel business as the founder of ebookers.com that pioneered web-based travel bookings, proposes a new travelling order based on age and health. Some current proposals to leave alternative seats on flights vacant may well become unsustainable for airlines, or just too expensive for passengers. “Because in effect that will mean everyone’s flying business class,” Dhamija tells News18.
Dhamija figures this will need a bolder move. “We can all see that the older generation above 60 are affected a lot more than people who are 25. So I don’t see why there shouldn’t be two or three different kinds of laws for two or three different kinds of passengers. So the younger lot can travel if they want to, and if not, they can stay home. You can’t say why is a 25-year-old travelling and I can’t because I’m 60 or 70. We know this affects the elderly and those with health conditions. So if you have conditions if you’re 40, don’t fly, otherwise do.”
Bound to be a controversial move if at all made, but what move over this virus has not been controversial.