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Call for referendum on Shrewsbury Clive of India statue

By Keri Trigg | Shrewsbury | News | Published: | Last Updated:

Calls have been made for a county-wide referendum on whether the statue of Robert Clive should be removed from Shrewsbury town centre.

The Robert Clive statue in Shrewsbury's square

Debate has raged in recent weeks over the monument of Clive of India, as he was known, which has stood in the Square since 1860.

Inspired by Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the tearing down of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston from its plinth in Bristol, two petitions calling for the removal of the Clive statue have garnered 23,000 signatures between them.

Having surpassed the 1,000 signatures required to trigger a council debate, Jake Thompson, who started one of the petitions, will present them to councillors at a meeting next week.

Men gathered to show their support for the statue last month

A motion also been tabled by Liberal Democrat Councillor Nat Green, who represents the Quarry and Coton Hill ward which covers Shrewsbury town centre. The motion has been backed by the Liberal Democrat group.

Councillor Green argues that rather than councillors being asked whether to take down the statue, the question should be put to the people.

His motion says: “As a result of recent demonstrations, a spotlight has fallen upon various monuments to individuals who, upon examination, had controversial aspects to their lives that some argue are offensive to contemporary eyes, and that their behaviour should not be worthy of such public commemoration.

“In Shrewsbury, this takes the form of the statue of Robert Clive that stands in the Square.

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“It is clear that passions have run high on both sides of the argument and, noting the trying times that we find ourselves in, this motion is intended to take a measured, democratic approach to a fraught issue.

“In light of this, as member for the division in which this statue stands, I propose the following.

“That first, a history board should be placed adjacent to the statue giving a balanced narrative of Clive and his history.

“Then second, after an information campaign in the media and perhaps through public meetings, a referendum of the people of Shropshire is held on whether Clive should stay, or go; with options as to his replacement should his removal be required. After all, it is their town and their Square.

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“By taking this course of action, Shropshire Council will have shown itself mindful both of contemporary sensibilities, but not have been seen to have discarded the past on a whim.”

Council Leader Peter Nutting has previously expressed support for an information board to be placed next to the statue, but said it should not be removed.

Critics say Clive, who served as Shrewsbury’s mayor and MP, should not be commemorated in the form of such a prominent statue due to his part in establishing British colonial control of India and large parts of south east Asia through his role in the East India Company, which oversaw theft and looting of the region’s treasures and introduced policies which led to the Bengal Famine of 1770 in which a third of the region’s population starved to death.

A rival petition was also set up in support of retaining the statue, arguing that to remove it would be to erase part of the town’s history, regardless of whether people still believe its subject to be worthy of celebration.

The petition and Councillor Green’s motion will be debated at a meeting of the full council next Thursday.

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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