Livingstone: Take down Trafalgar Square's irrelevant generals

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The Independent Online

First it was the pigeons. Now Ken Livingstone has decided that the monumental figures of the generals should also be removed from Trafalgar Square.

First it was the pigeons. Now Ken Livingstone has decided that the monumental figures of the generals should also be removed from Trafalgar Square.

The Mayor of London feels that the stone statues of Major-General Sir Henry Havelock and General Sir Charles James Napier, who distinguished themselves in 19th-century battles on the Asian continent, should be replaced with figures more relevant to modern-day Britons. Or, to put it more simply, they must go because he "hasn't got a clue" who they are.

"In our main square in our capital city the people on the plinth should be identifiable to most of the population. It is time to move those two generals and have figures ordinary Londoners and other people... would know. I haven't got a clue who they are," he said yesterday, only weeks after he banned the feeding of pigeons in the square, leading to accusations that hundreds of them were starving to death.

His remarks were greeted with outrage. Bernard Jenkin, the Tory spokesman on London, called the plan "another example of left-wing politicians trying to bash Britain. Last week, the politically correct left accused the word British of being racially coded. This week Livingstone is trying to erase a fundamental part of our nation's heritage from the heart of our capital city," he said.

Colonel Alistair Cumming, regimental secretary of the Highlanders - to which Havelock belonged - asked: "What business is it of his to remove statues? And where do we stop? Are they planning to rip Nelson off his column?"

It is not the first threat to the generals. In 1950 there was a campaign to replace them with "figures representing a socialist democracy such as railway men, merchant seamen and miners".

Havelock (1795-1857) served in the Burmese and Afghan Wars and in the Indian Mutiny. Napier (1782-1853) fought in the Peninsula War against Napoleon and also in India. Asked who might replace the two men, Mr Livingstone was less sure of himself. "I am not going to venture names at this stage ... we need a period of consultation," he said.

He may, however have bitten off more than he can chew. Those responsible for deciding what should adorn the empty fourth plinth took years to suggest that it should be an ever-changing exhibition. The public consultation threw up hundreds of ideas ranging from the Queen Mother and Red Rum to a 24ft high pigeon - an idea the Mayor would surely veto.

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