Johnson says we must ‘preserve our cultural, artistic and historical heritage’


The prime minister said people “should not go around looking retrospectively to change our history” after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was torn down by four men.

Ryan Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, are on trial for pulling down a statue during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020, while a large crowd was present. He was acquitted by a jury at Bristol Crown Court on Wednesday.

A further six were given “convincing justice” results, in which they had to pay a £100 fine, do unpaid work and fill out a questionnaire about their actions.

It’s like someone is trying to edit their Wikipedia entry – it’s wrong

The verdict prompted a debate about the jury system after defendants – called the Colston Four – opted to prosecute and did not rule out involvement in the incident, instead claiming the statue’s presence was a hate crime. And so it was not a crime, remove it.

But prosecutors said it was “irrelevant” to who Colston was and that the case was outright criminal damage.

Asked about the decision, Boris Johnson told broadcasters at a vaccination center in Moulton Park, Northampton: “I don’t want to comment on that particular decision – it’s a court matter.

“But what I would say is that my feeling is that there is a complex historical heritage all around us, and that reflects our history in all its diversity, for good or for bad.

“What you can’t do is try to look retrospectively to change our history or bend it or edit it in retrospect.

“It’s like someone is trying to edit their Wikipedia entry – it’s wrong.

“And I think if people want to democratically remove a statue or whatever, that’s fine. But I think, in general, we should preserve our cultural, artistic, historical heritage — that’s mine. Thoughts.”

Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland defended the jury system, despite describing the verdict in the Colston case as “perverted”.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “Sometimes we will get jury decisions that probably fly in the face of the law and sometimes the evidence, that is the price we pay for the admirable system, system of jury trials that I and many others strongly believe in.”

The decision does not set a precedent. It was a case decided by a jury on the facts before him