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The Guardian view on a heritage culture war: stop weaponising history | Editorial

Oliver Dowden should be championing museums and heritage charities, not stoking anger against them Last Monday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden had his much-trailed video meeting with 25 heads of heritage bodies and museums. It is to be hoped that he has now satisfied the desires, misplaced and embarrassing as they are, of those on the right who have been clamouring for some kind of showdown with supposedly “woke” English cultural organisations. It is time for arguments about monuments and statues, which have been cynically and quite unforgivably stoked by the Conservatives, to be quietly de-escalated, and for the unhappy rhetoric that has developed on the right since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests to be put aside in favour of a more sensible, calmer conversation about how best to understand Britain’s fascinating, complex and, yes, often difficult past. It has been reckless and cynical of Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, and others to fan the flames of discord, characterising English councils, museums, charities and community leaders as rippers-down of monuments and deniers of history. It is notable that the mood has been a good deal calmer in the other countries of the UK, where the Tories do not hold sway on cultural policy. In England, one might think hordes of iconoclasts had been roaming the country. Precisely one statue, a long controversial sculpture of slave trader Edward Colston, was torn off its pedestal in Bristol last summer. Continue reading...
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