Rhodes statue to go: How Oxford leaders reacted

OXFORD MPs, leaders and campaigners have reacted to the news that Oriel College bosses want to remove the controversial Cecil Rhodes statue.

They agreed the board has made ‘the right decision’ and has listened to the ‘overwhelming majority’ who signed the petitions and marched outside on High Street to remove the memorial, over accusations he was a racist.

And the group which has been campaigning for Rhodes’ statue to come down has issued a statement of cautious optimism about Oriel College’s announcement.

Rhodes Must Fall, the campaign set up to remove the statue and others like it across the world which pay homage to Cecil Rhodes, released a statement following the announcement.

It said: “We would like to thank all of those who have, over the years, contributed to the development of this decolonial and democratic social movement.”

The Rhodes Must Fall protest on June 9. Picture: Ed Nix

RMF Oxford added it welcomed the new inquiry, but said: “We have been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action, but has not followed through: notably, in 2015, when the College committed to engaging in a six-month-long democratic listening exercise.”

The statement added: “Therefore, while we remain hopeful, our optimism is cautious. While the Governing Body of Oriel College have ‘expressed their wish’ to take down the statue, we continue to demand their commitment.”

RMF added it would continue to call for the removal of other ‘colonial iconography’ in the university.

It will also continue to campaign to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum at the university, and for better representation of Black staff and students, as well as more Black African recipients of the international Rhodes scholarship.

The shadow chancellor, who when pressed on live TV last week refused to say definitively whether the statue should stay or go, has now said she is ‘pleased’.

Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds said: “I am pleased to hear reports that Oriel College have listened to the overwhelming majority who have asked for the statue to be removed.

“Last week I supported Susan Brown’s calls on the college to apply for planning permission to remove the statue, and I hope they will do so shortly.”