The toppling of slaver statues has presented a “serious threat to the sense of white superiority” which was built up during the Brexit referendum, Billy Bragg has said.
Posting on his Facebook page the musician and political activist said Britain’s decision to leave the European Union gave publications such as the Daily Mail and its readership “the feeling that, no matter how bad things might be, they were still in control”.
Commenting on today’s front page splash in the Mail, Bragg said:
“The toppling of slaver statues presents a serious threat to their sense of white superiority, which is why what would normally be a grifter opinion piece on page 25 has instead become a scream of outrage on the front page.”
The statue of Robert Milligan was removed by a local authority in London after Labour councils pledged to begin reviewing such monuments in their areas amid anti-racism protests across the country.
The figure was taken down from its plinth at West India Quay in the Docklands on Tuesday evening, two days after campaigners tore down a statue of a slave trader in Bristol.
The removal of the Milligan statue paves the way for a “wider conversation about confronting this part of our history and the symbols that represent it”, the Tower Hamlets mayor said.
Review the appropriateness of local monuments
Earlier on Tuesday the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Labour group said that after consulting with all Labour council leaders there was “overwhelming agreement” to listen to and work with local communities “to review the appropriateness of local monuments and statues on public land and council property”.
It followed a similar decision by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, after his office announced that the newly formed Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review landmarks in the capital, including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials.
Tweeting a video of the moment the Milligan statue was taken down, Mr Khan said: “It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade – but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.”
UPDATE: The statue of slave trader Robert Milligan has now been removed from West India Quay.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 9, 2020
It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade – but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces. #BlackLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/ca98capgnQ
The removal came after the Canal and River Trust charity, which owns the land where the statue was located, said it would organise its “safe removal” following a petition launched by local Labour councillor Ehtasham Haque.
The borough’s mayor John Biggs said: “I know the strength of feeling about this following the removal of a similar statue in Bristol, and we’ve acted quickly to both ensure public safety and respond to the concerns of our residents, which I share.
“The East End has a proud history of fighting intolerance. We now need a wider conversation about confronting this part of our history and the symbols that represent it.”
The statue of the noted West Indian merchant, slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks, had stood outside the Museum of London Docklands.
He owned 526 enslaved Africans who were forced to work on his family’s plantation in Jamaica, according to the museum, before his death in 1809.