Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain cannot “photoshop” its cultural landscape and complex history as doing so would be a distortion of its past, amid an ongoing row over the removal of statues of historical figures.
“If we start purging the record and removing the images of all but those whose attitudes conform to our own, we are engaged in a great lie, a distortion of our history,” Johnson wrote in The Telegraph.
Johnson also defended Winston Churchill and said it was “absurd and deplorable” that the former prime minister’s monument should have been in any danger.
“He was a hero, and I expect I am not alone in saying that I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,” he said.
Many monuments of historical figures have been boarded up as anti-racism protesters taking to the streets following the death of African-American George Floyd, have put statues at the forefront of their challenge to Britain’s imperialist past.
Earlier this month, a statue of Edward Colston, who made a fortune in the 17th century from the slave trade, was torn down in the port city of Bristol and thrown into harbour.
Johnson is an admirer and biographer of Churchill, and some of those close to him say he wants to emulate him.
But Churchill expressed racist and anti-Semitic views and critics blame him for denying food to India during the 1943 famine which killed more than two million people – aspects of his legacy which some say are not scrutinised enough.