Although statues are quite rightly very much in the news at the moment, this post is not about them. Instead, read the compelling pieces by David Olusoga in The Guardian last Monday – The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue is not an attack on history. It is history – and Simon Schama in today’s FT – History is better served by putting the Men in Stone in museums.
Instead, I want to look at the thread that Boris Johnson posted on Twitter earlier today, and in particular the first two tweets.
In the thread he argues that we cannot now try to edit or censor our past, he deplores the risk of damage to the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, and, having at least in his own mind placed himself on the right side of history, goes on to claim that the recent protests have been hijacked by extremists intent on violence.
It is all very much aimed at his base (and perhaps not surprisingly it has attracted a considerable number of likes and retweets).
And it is all remarkably disingenuous.
There is certainly a lot going on in the thread as a whole but what about those first two tweets?
As I read them my immediate thought was just how much Johnson wants us to see him as our latter-day Churchill – the hero leader, saving this country from . . .
Well, from what?
It was going to be the tyranny of those ungrateful Europeans. Wasn’t that what Brexit was all about? But it is now, like it or not, the Covid-19 pandemic.
And heroes, Johnson implies, should be forgiven their failings – for no better reason it seems than they are heroes.
Johnson firmly places Churchill against racism (and in doing so he very definitely edits history) and he allows him those unacceptable opinions. And in so doing, Johnson seems to be suggesting that we too should allow Johnson his unacceptable opinions.
Hmmm. He may be disappointed.