The Third Leader: Plinth idol

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The Independent Online

Upset, we note, over the statue of Lloyd George unveiled in Parliament Square yesterday. Outrage from such as Harold Pinter and John Pilger at so commemorating a man who authorised "vicious" bombing campaigns against countries in the Middle East and Asia. It is never wise to arouse the ire of such distinguished polemicists; and one can see their point. The difficulty, though, I think, can be overcome by a more general consideration of our public statues.

For while in favour of honouring men and women who have displayed exemplary virtues, I believe there is also a plinth for those who have not. Why this concentration on one graven image, that of greatness and goodness?

Some progress has been made. There is a fashion for memorials to our comedians – Eric Morecambe, Tony Hancock, Tommy Cooper. No one suggests we should follow in their footsteps – particularly if you want to be happy – but what better on a grey day than to be reminded of a smile, and our absurdities?

Why not, too, remember those who might serve as a warning rather than an encouragement? The rogues, the misguided, sight of whom cast large might serve to jog the memory, prick the conscience and strengthen resolve? There has, after all, been a gap here since the last severed head (of a Jacobite rebel) fell off Temple Bar in 1772.

Lloyd George, of course, being only human, embraces most of these qualities, from greatness down to some other uncomfortable contemporary parallels, and so is a fine choice to usher in this statuary reform.

Your nominations, please!

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