Londoner’s Diary: ‘Retain and explain has failed on slaver statues’

·3-min read
 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

CAMAPAIGNERS say London needs to rethink how the city presents statues of slave traders because “retain and explain” has left us in a “worse position than we were before”.

Retain and explain is a policy to keep controversial statues alongside explanations of the background of their subjects. “The difference now is that people know there are these statues celebrating individuals who made all their money through slavery, so it’s not ignorance any more,” campaigner Chris Cleverly of One Voice For Freedom tells us as part of a drive on Anti-Slavery Day, which is today. “The whole retain and explain policy [is] fine, but… at the moment it seems to be a plaque with a QR code.” Fashion designer Ozwald Boateng told us: “It’s reprehensible that organisations who have made promises to end present-day and historic injustices as a result of the George Floyd murder are now ‘ghosting’ the responsibility.”

Cleverly hit out at Mayor Sadiq Khan, pictured, saying his commission on statues was “just another attempt… to sidestep responsibility”.

A spokesperson for Khan said he wanted to ensure diversity in public spaces and added: “The Commission has not been established to remove statues.”

Best bit of writing? Not a lot of people

Comments: Michael Caine
Comments: Michael Caine

MICHAEL CAINE is enjoying his late career change into thriller writing, because unlike on film sets, “you don’t have to talk to anybody”. He says: “Writing, you don’t even have to get out of bed, just have a pencil and a pad by the side.” The veteran star of Zulu and Alfie has been writing a thriller during the pandemic, and likes the fact that

“you are your own boss and you don’t have to ask anyone permission for anything”. Sir Michael plays an ageing alcoholic writer in his latest film Best Sellers, but says — unlike his character — he doesn’t drink during the day. Always the professional.

Cool Britannia struck a chord

Pete Doherty (Karen Toftera - stkarenn@gmail.com)
Pete Doherty (Karen Toftera - stkarenn@gmail.com)

PETE DOHERTY’S The Libertines might have Cool Britannia to thank for their existence. Music manager and record label founder Alan McGee, who brought Oasis into Downing Street for their famous photoshoot with Tony Blair, says his resulting closeness with Labour led to the New Deal For Musicians scheme. That made access to dole money easier for musicians. Asked on The Rockonteurs podcast who benefited, McGee replied “a few… [the] Libertines did”. Neat.

Art’s weathering economic storm

NO SIGN of an economic downturn at the Frieze modern art fair, which finished yesterday. At Christie’s on Friday, the first Non-Fungible Token ever sold at auction in Europe went to a buyer in the room for £800,000, and sales totalled more than £64 million. The mood continued at Phillips auction house on Saturday, with several young artists selling for more than 10 times their estimates. Even the coffee market seemed to be thriving — one visitor reported paying £7 for a flat white.

Capital’s 48-hour party people

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

LONDON was alive with the sound of parties this weekend. On Friday, Dua Lipa chatted to Donatella Versace at a Frieze bash in Temple. Across town, MOBOs founder Kanya King and dramatist Kwame Kwei-Armah were joined at the Savoy by presenter June Sarpong at The Black Excellence Awards, while model Lily Cole attended the premiere of director Charlotte Colbert’s new film She Will at the Curzon Mayfair.

SW1A

A candle and a photo of Sir David Amess greeted mourners at a vigil in Essex (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
A candle and a photo of Sir David Amess greeted mourners at a vigil in Essex (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Sir David Amess’s sense of fun left an impression on those he met. On Twitter one of his former staffers recalled the “constant chorus” of his office in Parliament, which was full of budgies and fish. And how, whatever the topic of his speeches, he always snuck in the line: “And that’s why Southend should become a city!”

Just weeks ago Sir David spoke to us about his daughter Alexandra’s wedding, to which he brought a cut-out of Margaret Thatcher. And at Tory conference, we heard him speak passionately about how “wonderful” it was that animal welfare was now at the centre of Tory policy, adding he could “move off the scene” happy in the knowledge that new MPs were taking up his mantle.

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