FEW can have missed the controversy sparked by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s great new initiative.
The grand-sounding Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm – convened on the face of it to ‘raise public understanding’ and judge the validity of our shared and historic spaces – sounds all very educational and worthy.
Except that, populated with the activists, academics, writers and actors Khan has selected for it, it looks more like a task force to erase our history and demonise our past.
For example, amongst its appointees are ‘community educator’ Toyin Agbetu, whose main claim to fame to date is disrupting an event for the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, all the while seemingly labouring under the impression the slave trade was still going on.
We wait with bated breath for activists such as Agbetu to get around to confronting the Tuareg people for still owning 200,000 black slaves in Mali, well over 100 years since the French authorities there formally abolished slavery.
The full list of Agbetu’s co-commissioners can be found here.
But, just as street names don’t lower or raise the average person’s prospects, Khan’s carefully-selected task force provides more evidence that the modern civil rights movement exists primarily to improve opportunities for middle-class minorities in the media and arts. Only Amazon and hand gel manufacturers have had a better 12 months.
When a nation is in crisis, enemies sense an opportunity. Singularly weak from fear, confusion and frustration with Covid, we haven’t had to suffer German bombers or Chinese submarines, but the diversity industry on the offensive.
As we worried about our health, loved ones and livelihoods, illiberal ideologues pounced to try to exercise the power they never win at the ballot box.
The authoritarian hard-Left has always sought alliances with other anti-Western groups, irrespective of whether they had anything else in common.
The current coalition is middle-class Marxism, post-colonial black nationalism and Islamic advocacy groups. None has produced an open, tolerant, successful society in the countries where they hold power.
Corbyn’s Labour Party, local council corruption, campus chaos and the quality of Left-wing media output shows they’re not off to a better start here.
Typically, it is rather hard to find statues of capitalists or royalty in communist countries. To the contrary, it’s the modern despot, Lenin, who still stares out across city squares from Kazakhstan to Belarus, whereas the usurped tsars, generals and emperors have long since been reduced to scrap.
In the post-colonial African states, Idi Amin pulled down George VI amid a series of reforms and policies that Amnesty International believes ultimately killed half a million people.
Rhodes fell in Harare soon after Zimbabwe’s independence, as Mugabe began a reign characterised by totalitarianism and economic collapse.
Congo’s leaders removed the statues, street and city names of King Leopold before themselves heading down the path of civil war, mass sexual violence and the murder of millions.
Having liberated themselves from reminders of the problems and complexities of history, they were free to start again, and repeat the same mistakes.
So far, the wonders of pre-Islamic Egypt are safe from conservative Muslim attitudes towards idolatry. Relics and artwork in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the Maldives haven’t been so lucky – destroyed by the views of those who can’t fathom how likenesses exist for reasons other than worship.
For such value systems, statues aren’t reminders of the complexities of history and civilisations’ incremental improvement, or the mere background to your daily commute, they are instruments of propaganda and the effects of authoritarianism.
Bureaucracies, zealots and tyrants erase the past in attempts to engineer the present, with consistently disastrous results.
Since the lockdowns started, adherents to these belief systems have ramped up the issue in the UK. Last summer saw mobs in Oxford, Bristol and London projecting their dislike of this country and its history on to inanimate symbols of past fame, prowess and philanthropy.
Rather than promote the Western, liberal, tolerant standards of understanding (not all our history is ‘good’, but let’s be able to remember and examine it) in response, Mayor Khan instinctively succumbed to the mindset of the tinpot Third World dictatorship.
The man who attempted to quash Louis Farrakhan’s entry ban to the UK, before gleefully promoting a de facto disinvitation to a democratically elected American president is again exhibiting curious and inconsistent – if not hyprocritical – standards.
While gangs of young men with machetes have become familiar to the people of the capital, Labour politicians in London are introducing the complementary political culture.
Dawn Butler seems to believe Members of Parliament are above police enquiries, former mayor Ken Livingstone has theories about Israel that would have embarrassed Colonel Gaddafi; an Enfield councillor and the deputy mayor of Kensington suggested Israel created ISIS. Diane Abbott praised Chairman Mao after sending her son to private school.
It’s all too reminiscent of that Soviet and post-colonial style of disparity where incompetent and conspiracy-minded elites prospered while the average citizen lived in unexamined misery.
Renovating every plinth in Whitehall with a bronze Ian Wright or Andi Peters takes us several steps closer to that. Yet if every bust of Churchill was toppled and replaced, real life for the struggling poor would be just as hard – exams still to be passed, coursework to be completed, the university projects and job interviews just as stressful, and all just as important as before.
Erasing history will not ameliorate gang culture or gun and knife violence. These will remain just as destructive and important to tackle.
Naming a street after a diabetic social worker from Tottenham does nothing to address this. It just shrinks England further, to the point where the nation’s culture exists only after we get home and lock the door.