Statement on Protests and Statues/Monuments

It is sad to see more unrest today across the country and I have received many emails on the subject.

As I have said before, I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and I condemn racism in all its forms. However, there is no excuse for some of the behaviour we have seen in the UK this week. 

There are aspects of Britain’s history which, by the moral standards of today, seem reprehensible. We have even seen comedians apologising this week for work which was acceptable only ten years ago. History and human behaviour are ridden with moral complexity and continue to evolve. 

Attempting to rewrite or eradicate our history does not help us understand or solve the problems of our own time. Indeed, perhaps we need statues and monuments to serve as reminders and spur us on to address those aspects of past behaviours which still exist in our society today. 

Many of our historical figures fought hard to protect and preserve our democracy. If there is a proposal to remove a public monument, it is right and proper for every member of a community to have their democratic say in that decision. Councils have recourse to parish polls and local referendums to assess public opinion, and should use them where necessary. Actions should not be taken in haste merely to appease a small number of protesters, no matter how vocal or violent.

The rule of law matters. Those who commit acts of criminal damage or violence must face prosecution. Whilst the right to peaceful protest is part of the democratic system, mass gatherings remain unlawful as long as there is still a risk of spreading Covid-19. I am disappointed by those who seek to stoke the politics of division – and to place others at risk – at a time when our country most needs us all to pull together. 

We cannot change the events and attitudes of yesteryear. But we can work together in a spirit of understanding and co-operation to ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated. It is only by challenging today’s prejudice and injustice that we can ensure that the world tomorrow is a place of true opportunity and equality for all. That is what I stand for, and it is what I fight for every day as your MP.

Duncan Baker
Member of Parliament for North Norfolk