The acquittal of the Colston Four does not edit history

Boris Johnson’s response to the acquittal of the Colston Four has shades of another “trial” – namely, the one that flowed from Franz Kafka’s pen. Here is an individual who condemns the editing of history, yet is happy to completely revise his own history – both verbal and in print – should it suit his own needs at any given time. Infatti, he was on record at last week’s PMQs denying a statement about the impact of inflation that he had made on camera, to a reporter, l'anno scorso (Johnson fumbles and flails under pressure from Rayner, 5 gennaio).

If that is not editing retrospectively – which he laments so vocally in connection with the Colston case – then what is? But there seems to be no depths to which he won’t sink in his hypocrisy and opportunistic denialism. Never mind the confected outrage at the tearing down of one controversial statue; this PM is tearing down the reputation and integrity of his office and democracy itself, and continues to do so with impunity. Which is the greater threat to the social fabric?
Colin Montgomery

Boris Johnson’s response to the verdict in the Colston statue trial demonstrates that logic didn’t form a central part of his Eton and Oxbridge education. “What you can’t do is go around seeking retrospectively to change our history or to bowdlerise it or edit it in retrospect. It’s like some person trying to edit their Wikipedia entry – it’s wrong,” he claimed (Politics live, 6 gennaio).

This must take some kind of prize for the world’s worst analogy: on Wikipedia people are usually trying to delete uncomfortable parts of their history that they don’t want in the public arena; whereas the Colston statue demonstration has successfully brought to light and underlined the barbaric history of the UK’s worst slave trader, previously seen as a pillar of Bristol society. Colston hasn’t been deleted from history by the toppling of his statue, his story has simply been revealed in all its awfulness.
Carl Gardner

Boris Johnson has recently been quoted as saying that while he wouldn’t comment on the acquittals of the four individuals, he didn’t think it right that people should go around changing British history. I fail to see how removing a contentious statue in any way changes British history. What Colston (and others) did remains done and cannot be undone. Modern attitudes to all of those actions can be, and hopefully are being, changed and his legacy reappraised. None of that in any way changes the history behind the story. What Johnson’s comments show, tuttavia, is how he and his ilk are prepared to misuse words and history for political advantage.
Graham Bould
Dereham, Norfolk

The news that the attorney general may refer the acquittal of the Colston Four to the court of appeal (Suella Braverman accused of politically driven meddling over Colston Four, 7 gennaio) is straight from the dictator’s playbook intrinsic to any rightwing authoritarian regime; wherever the courts hand down rulings considered unacceptable, the court must be brought to heel or the laws changed. Just as “sleaze” should rightly be called “corruption”, so these attempts by our anti-democratic government to limit the independence of the judiciary should rightly be called fascist.
Richard Giles
Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear




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