Sadiq Khan has drawn a furious backlash for his decision to board up the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square this weekend. Mr Khan insisted it was a necessary move to make, amid fears the Churchill statue would become a “flashpoint for violence”. However, Boris Johnson labelled the decision “absurd and shameful” while Home Secretary Priti Patel said Winston Churchill should be “liberated”.
During an interview on BBC Breakfast, the London Mayor fired back at Mr Johnson’s criticisms, claiming he didn’t show this same passion in dealing with race or COVID-19.
Mr Khan told the BBC: “I’m not suggesting to tear down any of the statues in Parliament Square, what we have done is to protect the statues, the cenotaph, and others.
“We have intelligence, for example, that some of the extreme far-right want to pull down the statue of Nelson Mandela.
“Last week, some of our statues were vandalised, and a flag was set on fire on the cenotaph.”
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He continued: “We are erring on the side of caution and prevention. That is why we have boarded up these statues temporarily.
“I’m well aware that Winston Churchill could be a flashpoint for violence. What I don’t want is an excuse to protect the statues to be used by the far-right.
“There is a debate to be had. Do the squares, the streets, the statues in London reflect the contribution made by the diversity of our city?
“It wasn’t until 2018 when a woman had a statue in Parliament Square, and there is a lacking presence of the BAME community, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ community. We should have that conversation.
“I don’t think we should be celebrating slavers, like they do in Bristol with the big presence of Colston in the city.
“There are some statues in London of slavers and I would welcome slave traders being replaced by other people who have made contributions to our city.”
Viewers criticised the remarks from Mr Khan, with one saying: “Sadiq Khan criticising Boris Johnson by implying Boris is more interested in protecting statues than protecting lives! OUTRAGEOUS!”
London’s mayor was accused of caving in to mob rule by covering up Winston Churchill’s statue.
Another added: “Can you tell me and the other tax paying Londoners how much it cost to box in the statues around London, and for how long are they to be hidden from the tax paying public?
“Shameful capitulation. Winston Chrchill is turning somersaults! What has happened to London?”
Last weekend, protesters daubed “was a racist” on the Parliament Square statue.