The Siege of the Poole Statue
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BY MATTHEW GROVES
In the Dorset town of Poole we are a fair distance from the madness that has gripped London, but even here the craziness has spread. The programme of the removal of historic landmarks demanded by those who vandalised and graffitied London last weekend has reached this quiet corner of England. The local authority is attempting to remove the statue of Baden Powell, the founder of world scouting, which was erected only twelve years ago for a major anniversary. Nonetheless, unlike the Metropolitan Police, who were chased down Whitehall as the mob took control of the capital city, in Poole there has been stern resistance. One septuagenarian former scout travelled from Wales to join others protecting the first leader and founder of scouting.
This planned removal of Baden Powell’s statue tells us a lot in microcosm about the current state of affairs. There is a statue of a man who made a major contribution to humanity, but was – all of us are – imperfect in some respects. There is the angry demand of the mob that sees any white male figure as oppressive, and in some way linked to the death of George Floyd in the United States or at least to slavery (Baden Powell was involved in the Second Boer War that freed many Africans from oppression, much like Cecil Rhodes). Then there is the craven response of elected politicians, deaf to the opinions of the vast majority of the British public who value their history. Put that all together and you have something like a farcical, yet tragic, Orwellian situation.
First-Baron Baden-Powell, who not only founded the Scouts, but was a hero defending Mafeking during the famous siege is a model case for recognition and national acknowledgement. Of course, he had his faults and was a man of his time. Such applies to anyone for whom a statue has been erected. He, like many at the time, including Labour Minsters such as Sir Oswald Mosley, was fascinated by the new phenomenon of Fascism. This was before the full horror of Nazi evil was revealed. There are also accusations he prioritised whites for food during the siege of Mafeking.
Baden Powell then represents the very heart of the problem. Can we have statues to men who were far from perfect, but made an amazingly positive contribution to the good of mankind? Scouting has made an immense contribution to society and the lives of Scouts themselves. One can only wish more of the rioters over the weekend had learnt a bit of the ethos of Baden Powell’s organisation.Perhaps they might not then have vandalised and daubed graffiti on important national monuments, but made the point they wished to make with respect and dignity.
Behind this urge to tear down statues of people who, let’s be honest, made a far greater contribution to civilization than the hero of these protests (tragic and wrong as his death was), is an underlying destructive-nihilism. Yes it is dressed up as the desire for a better world, but it quickly descended into an orgy of wanton destruction. This is integral to the ideology that they hold. Just as they reject the statue of a hero who had faults and want to remove it entirely, replaced by graffiti, so they want to tear down Western civilization, only seeing its faults not the great things it has bestowed upon the world.
Yet when we erect statues to great men and women, knowing of their faults, we are celebrating what they gave not where they fell down. We are forgiving for them being men and women of their time, in recognising the major contributions they made for future generations. In just the same way, if in its past the West was guilty of the crime of slavery, so from within itself it produced the will and virtue not only to abandon slavery but to hunt it down and eliminate it. Just as there are still individual injustices in the West, our ancestors nonetheless bequeathed us the principle of equality before the law.
Black Lives Matter seems to want to tear all this down. Because of human imperfections it judges the whole of society to be wanting and not fit for purpose. We must not accept this lie. They have nothing constructive to replace the values they now disregard. There is no respect for key values that we have inherited, such as democratic decision-making as opposed to mob rule, respect for property (private and public), the benefit of discussion as opposed to shouting down those with whom you disagree. Follow the BLM approach and you will find yourself in an Orwellian situation of no freedom of speech and no history.
This is really because many of the leaders of the BLM, whether they articulate it or not, have a Marxist agenda. This is not just a political programme (which seems currently to amount to the disastrous demand to defund and abolish the police) but a whole spirit of resentment against the West and what it stands for, its values and historical journey. Such nihilistic political movements have always existed, but today there is a difference, which makes this a far more dangerous moment in our history.
For years if not decades in our educational institutions and in the media there has been a programme of demoralisation, whereby we are continually told about the evils of our society. History is revised to paint the West, which abolished slavery and saved the world from Nazism and Communism, as the oppressor. This programme of demoralisation combined with the all-pervasive political correctness has led to fear of speaking out and self-censorship.
This problem seems at its worst amongst elected centre-right politicians, whom ordinary people should be able to look to for support and protection as their identity and heritage is attacked and erased. Most Conservatives are so cowed by the Left and its narrative that they adopt a policy of placating and appeasing. Currently there has been no confident statement made by Britain’s Conservative Government to stop the removal of our history and identity from our public spaces. The danger with appeasement, as one of the targets of this topple-the-statue vandalism – Sir Winston Churchill – could tell us, is that you end up with a far greater enemy to have to face. The more you appease movements like Black Lives Matter the more they will demand. Now is not a time for kowtowing or cravenness before the mob, but time to take a moral stand. Perhaps our Prime Minister needs to remember who his great hero is and live up to the exemplar of Sir Winston Churchill more, who was not afraid to take a stand for the truth. Has he not noticed that the statue of our national hero is covered in painted insults? Prime Minister – Speak up for Churchill’s contemporary Baden Powell and all the others under threat too!
Matthew Groves was a local Councillor for eight years in East Surrey, during which time he was vice chairman of the Planning Committee and Chairman of the Housing Committee. He stood for Parliament in the 2010 General Election in Plymouth Moor View. After this he worked for the Church House Parliamentary Unit liaising with MPs about education reforms and some other policy matters. For a time he wrote blogs for the Respublica thinktank and the British Monarchist Society. He is now completing a full-time postgraduate research degree in theology.