Sir Keir Starmer is ‘favourable’ to returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece but won’t publicly raise the matter until after the general election, it has been claimed.
The Labour leader is reportedly privately open to handing back the 2,500-year-old sculptures but fears upsetting Tory voters if he speaks about it publicly.
Greek newspaper Ta Nea has quoted Labour officials as saying Sir Keir is open to ‘finding a legal formula that will allow for the eventual return of the Marbles’ to Athens.
As reported by The Times, the same sources said Sir Keir will not raise the issue publicly before the general election for fear of dissuading Conservative voters.
But Labour pushed back against the Greek media report and said it had no plans to change legislation which prevents the removal of objects from the British Museum apart from in certain circumstances.
Sir Keir Starmer is ‘favourable’ to returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece but won’t publicly raise the matter until after the general election, it has been claimed
Also known as the Parthenon sculptures, the Elgin Marbles were made between 447BC and 432BC and decorated the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens
The British Museum is currently pursuing a deal to temporarily return the Elgin Marbles to Greece
George Osborne , the ex-Tory chancellor who is now chairman of the British Museum’s board of trustees, has expressed his hope that an agreement can be reached with Athens
George Osborne, the ex-Tory chancellor who is now chairman of the British Museum’s board of trustees, is currently pursuing a deal to temporarily return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
In a speech this week, Mr Osborne expressed his hope that an agreement could be reached with Athens that would see the sculptures sent back on loan to Greece in exchange for ‘other treasures’ coming to Britain.
Also known as the Parthenon sculptures, the Elgin Marbles were made between 447BC and 432BC and decorated the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens.
Lord Elgin removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the ruins of the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805, before they entered the British Museum.
These have since been the subject of a 200-year-old dispute over ownership between Athens and London.
Since taking on his role at the British Museum, Mr Osborne has clashed with the Government over his exploration of plans for the artefacts to potentially return to Greece as part of a loan or exchange deal.
Cabinet ministers have warned returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece would be a ‘very dangerous and slippy road’ and voiced fears it could lead to further demands for the return of other ancient artefacts.
Downing Street has said it has no plans to amend legislation under which a museum can dispose of objects within its collection only in very limited circumstances.
But this would not necessarily rule out a loan of the Elgin Marbles.
If Sir Keir replaces Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister after the general election, it could be left to him to approve – or oppose – any deal agreed by the British Museum.
A Labour spokesman said the party had ‘no current plans’ to change laws that prevent the permanent return of ancient artefacts.
‘Strong cultural and historical partnerships between countries are important to ensure the British Museum, and other UK cultural institutions, can maintain their world leading status,’ they said.
‘The next Labour government will hear the case from the British Museum and its chair on any proposed changes to the National Heritage Act 1983 as it stands.
‘We’ve no current plans to change it.’
In a speech this week, Mr Osborne expressed his hope that an agreement over the Elgin Marbles could be reached that would not see the British Museum relinquish its claims to ownership or the need for changes to legislation.
‘I hope we can reach an agreement with Greece,’ he said. ‘An agreement that enables these great sculptures to be seen in Athens, as well as London.
‘An agreement that allows other treasures from Greece, some that have never left those shores, to be seen here at the British Museum.
‘As trustees we look for a partnership with our Greek friends that requires no one to relinquish their claims, asks for no changes to laws which are not ours to write, but which finds a practical, pragmatic and rational way forward.’