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Council leader says Clive statue should remain in place

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

The leader of Shropshire Council has said the Clive of India statue should remain in Shrewsbury, ahead of a council debate on the controversial figure.

Campaigner gathered to 'protect' the statue on Saturday

Councillor Peter Nutting said in information board could instead be put up next to the statue in The Square to help people learn about Robert Clive and form their own opinions.

Petitions calling for the removal of the sculpture have amassed over 20,000 signatures over the last week, while a rival petition saying it should stay has so far gathered 7,000.

Under Shropshire Council policy, a debate is triggered once a petition reaches 1,000 signatures, and this is likely to take place at the next meeting of the full council on July 16.

Critics say Clive, a former Shrewsbury MP and mayor, should no longer be commemorated in such a prominent position due to his his part in establishing British colonial control of India and large parts of south east Asia.

But Councillor Nutting, who also sits on Shrewsbury Town Council and was mayor of Shrewsbury between 2018 and 2019, said removing the statue could be perceived as trying to erase part of the town’s past.

“As the leader of Shropshire Council and following careful consideration of arguments for and against its removal, I now believe that the statue of Robert Clive in The Square in Shrewsbury should remain in place,” said Councillor Nutting.

“Over the last few days I have listened carefully to the arguments for and against its removal and I am well aware of the strength of feeling on both sides of the argument.

“I have also had a large amount of letters and calls from members of the public which mostly support the retention of this important part of our local history.

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“In any council debate I will of course listen to all sides of the matter, but at this moment, and having considered all viewpoints and discussed this with colleagues, I do believe the general consensus is that the statue of Clive should remain in place.

“Clive is clearly a notable figure in Shrewsbury’s and Shropshire’s history.

“Therefore I don’t wish to be seen to be erasing him from the history books, but I do think there’s a good case for educating people about his life and enabling them to form their own opinions about his deeds or misdeeds.

“Some have suggested that an interpretation panel should be put in place alongside the statue to enable people to learn more about Robert Clive and his life and I think this is something we should seriously consider.”

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Calls for the statue to be removed were sparked earlier this month when Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in a harbour.

It sparked attacks on other monuments across the country and a fierce debate on whether statues of people with links to slavery, colonialism and racism still have a place.

Councillor Nutting said the council “fully supported” the sentiment behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

He added: “We have remained quiet up to now, partly as we were keen to listen and learn more, but largely as Shropshire Council has always believed that all lives matter – whatever a person’s race, gender, sexuality or colour of their skin.

“We condemn racism and hate crime and with the support of colleagues and partners work hard to stamp them out.

“That’s why back in 2016 the council agreed a cross party resolution – signed by all political leaders – that reads: ‘Shropshire Council resolves to send out a very clear message that all forms of racism and hate crime are unacceptable and, as such, they should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.’

“That resolution still stands today and I expect will do so for many years to come.

“While we acknowledge people’s right to protest we ask them to do so peacefully, lawfully and safely and respecting the current social distancing guidelines.”

Black Lives Matter protests have been held across Shropshire in recent weeks, including demonstrations in Shrewsbury, Telford, Ludlow and Bridgnorth. Similar events were held over the border in Welshpool and Newtown.

Meanwhile around 50 men gathered to ‘protect’ the Robert Clive statue on Saturday, including former BNP leader Nick Griffin, who lives near Welshpool.

David Parton, who started one of the two petitions for the statue to be removed, said Clive should be moved to Shrewsbury Museum and his prominent position be taken up by someone more worthy of celebration.

“I am heartened Shropshire Council has listened to the people, and is taking their concerns about Clive’s position in pride of place in Shrewsbury seriously.

“Clive was a mass-murderer responsible for millions of deaths. His statue belongs in Shrewsbury Museum where future generations can learn about his racist crimes to ensure they never happen again.

“The plinth in the centre of The Square should be used to celebrate heroes, not murderers.

“We call upon Shropshire Council to consider replacing Clive in the long-term with World War One hero and poet, Wilfred Owen instead.”

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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