Weekly column of the MP for Stroud.
It was great news that £867,600 had been donated to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) through the government’s £80m Green Recovery Challenge Fund.
I’m really happy that this world renowned charity is headquartered here. I am proud to be a member of WWT Slimbridge and to work closely with the national policy team in Parliament. The funding will be used for their Flourishing Floodplains initiative as part of promoting nature-based eco-friendly solutions in England.
WWT are key players to help fight climate change, improve biodiversity and bring innovation. It is important that the government helps in this way. In England alone we have lost around 90% of our wetlands in the last 500 years. Such devastating habitat loss contributes to the environmental crisis we face today and we must do all we can to reverse this loss.
I remain very concerned about the shenanigans surrounding an organization’s request to take down a statue known as the Blackboy Clock. They demanded that it be removed immediately even if there is a council consultation asking residents for their opinion.
The result is that the organization believes it is right and believes that its point of view should be adopted. They called locals racists for expressing an alternative point of view and sparked a lot of hate online in the process.
We live in a free country and everyone is entitled to an opinion. My personal view is that the statues should remain in place and not torn down. We must live with our history and learn from it. Hiding statues in museums can be a quick way to deal with outrage, but unfortunately it won’t educate because such a small percentage of the population visits museums. If necessary, I think factual information plaques should be placed near the statues to provide information.
I was called a racist for giving my opinion. I believe other local people who have been called racist online by the organization are considering calling the police or taking legal action. I thank them for not being intimidated.
I am of the opinion that cancel culture must be challenged whenever its tentacles attempt to take hold of our communities and silence them.
A number of people have now contacted me to say they have never seen the Clock, some have lived here all their lives. Naturally, I also receive emails from both sides of the debate. Please see the board consultation and I look forward to seeing how the board plans to handle the issue.
If anyone experiences racism or inappropriate behavior online or offline, please contact the police. Fortunately, we have low levels of recorded hate crime in Stroud, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening and we need to tackle it hard. I will continue to fight online hate and expose abuse as well with my work on Online Harms Bill. I do these things to change the future, not to target the past.