Showing results 1 - 12 of 942 for the category: British Museum.

May 20, 2015

Understanding how Greeks feel about the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 9:41 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Events

Disclaimer – I am not Greek, so everything I am writing below might be a load of rubbish. Similarly, I know that in Britain, there are many enlightened individuals, who understand the issues surrounding the Parthenon Marbles and want to see them returned to Athens.

A few weeks ago, I looked in detail at the varying levels of support for return of the Parthenon Marbles from different political parties in the run up to the UK general election. Now that the election has been and gone, I will soon be re-visiting this article, seeing how its results vary based on the current make up of Parliament.

One thing that I noticed while conducting this survey, much of which was done over Twitter, was that many of those who are against the return of the sculptures did not really understand what the issue meant to the Greeks. Not only were there those who dismissed the issue as unimportant and not worth worrying about, but others who merely responded that they were quite happy with the current situation and saw no need to change it. Still more spoke out against return of the sculptures, but when asked further questions realised that they did not actually know many of the details of the case.

All too often, the British press love to portray restitution requests by Greece as nationalistic tub-thumping – something that amounts to its critics as little more than petulant whining having changed their mind over a past decision. Hopefully those reading this website have a more enlightened view, but it does not take long reading the comments below many press articles, to find this flawed understanding is all too common.

A big part of the problem is that we only see the situation through our own eyes – we feel that as we are happy with it, that anyone who wants to change it is disruptive. We do not even attempt to look at the story through the eyes of a Greek – how they feel every time we think about it. The fact that many see the case as too insignificant to have opinions about compounds the issue – the Parthenon Sculptures really do not mean that much to the average person in Britain, whereas from a Greek perspective, the emotion attached to the case is very different.

George Zacharopoulos is a Greek comedian based in the North East of England. Some of his shows contain a sketch on the Parthenon Marbles – which while good for its amusement value alone, does offer a good way of starting to understand how their story is perceived by many in Greece. Looking at the situation in a different way helps to understand just how galling it feels to Greeks to hear mealy mouthed commentators trying to argue that rather than complaining, Greece should be thanking Britain for looking after the sculptures for them.

His show is next on in London at Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane on July 12th 2015.

In the meantime, you can see a clip off him talking about the Parthenon Marbles here (Start watching 6:20 into the clip). He tells me that he has since further developed that part of the act, so it is longer than what you can see here.

Watch the video, and remember to see him while he’s in London if you are able to.

Parthenon Marbles litigation still under consideration by Greece

Posted at 7:36 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Text of the original press statement by Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis, clarifying the earlier comments about potentially taking legal action over the Parthenon Marbles.

As I already said, it is a great shame that more has not been made of this clarification, or that a more detailed statement was not made sooner. Many newspapers in the UK have already been spinning the original story as the campaigning for the Parthenon Marbles being over – that Britain was acknowledging Britain’s legitimate ownership of the sculptures. This was never the case – not in the original statement and definitely not in this one. This is not an issue that will go away, much as certain elements within Britain might wish that to be the case.

I have given the text as an automatically translated version, with the original Greek below.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture

05/14/2015
A journalist’s question about the Greek government’s strategy regarding the claim of the Parthenon Marbles, the if. Minister of Culture Mr. Nikos Xydakis made the following statement:

The legal advice is extremely useful and reinforce the arguments of Greece for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the Greek government has never stated its commitment in the near future to follow the court proceedings.

The judicial route is one of the many avenues open before us.
Read the rest of this entry »

May 19, 2015

Greece is not ruling out Parthenon Marbles legal action

Posted at 12:48 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Possibly, Greece did not realise how much the world’s press would seize on the relatively brief remarks made by culture Minister Nikos Xydakis regarding plans not to take legal action.

Whilst many newspapers have been busy printing stories some of which are mainly conjecture, based on a few lines from a speech, the Greek government were already backtracking, emphasising that they were not writing off the idea of legal action – but that it was just one of many avenues open to them that they were exploring.

So – we read from this, that Greece is not committed to opening legal proceedings in the immediate future, but the idea is still on the table for potential use at a later point in time.

One must go back though to the original statement a few days before – that Greece must “use it or loose it”. They might not have all the time in the world to wait before taking legal action.

I am disappointed to see that very few news sources outside Greece have chose to cover this retraction of the original story – continuing to go to town on the original news, despite the fact that it is no longer correct.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

From:
Greek Reporter

Greek Culture Ministry: Legal Action is One of Many Options Available for Parthenon Marbles’ Repatriation
A. Makris
May 15, 2015

Seeking legal action is only one of the options available to Greece on the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Alternate Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis said on Thursday, following his statement on Wednesday that the government will not sue the British Museum on the issue.

Asked about Greece ’s strategy on the issue, the minister said: “Legal opinions are extremely useful and reinforce Greece ’s arguments for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the Greek government has never stated it is committed to initiating court proceedings in the near future.”
Read the rest of this entry »

May 18, 2015

The Daily Express and the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 7:52 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I get the impression that of all the UK newspapers, the Daily Express is perhaps the one that is most incandescent with rage at the very thought that the Parthenon Marbles might one day return to Greece. Why this should be the case is unclear, because their articles are sometimes relatively factual, despite what the crazed headlines would suggest.

Here, we learn that Amal Clooney has a “lawyer nose” whatever that might be, and that she has been told to “butt out” (presumably in a different press release to the one covered by all the other newspapers, which did not use this language.

Perhaps Mr Desmond is feeling the pressure now that internal divisions within UKIP are jeopardising his latest stab at offering cash to political parties in the hop of getting a peerage. For the man who made his fortune from Asian Babes magazine, it is unclear why he has taken quite such a dislike to Amal.

George Clooney & Amal Alamuddin

George Clooney & Amal Alamuddin

From:
Daily Express

Amal Clooney sent packing after she sticks her lawyer nose into Elgin Marbles row
GEORGE Clooney’s barrister wife Amal has been told to butt out of a legal row between Greece and Britain over ancient Greek marble sculptures.
By Helen Barnett
PUBLISHED: 14:20, Thu, May 14, 2015

The international human rights lawyer had told the Greek government to take Britain to the International Criminal Court to reclaim the Elgin Marbles.

The sculptures date back to the 5th century BC and were acquired by Lord Elgin in Athens in the early 1800s when he was a British ambassador in Ottoman… and never returned.
Read the rest of this entry »

Greek minister argues against Parthenon Marbles legal action

Posted at 7:33 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further coverage of the statement by Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis not to take legal action over the return of the Parthenon Sculptures at the current time.

As I mentioned in the other batch of articles on the issue, there seems to be little new information in any of these stories over and above what was originally stated. The stories have instead become retellings of the narrative of the acquisition of the Marbles, adjusted according to the newspaper’s own leanings on the issue.

I have now been quoted in at least three of the articles, which is impressive, as I have only spoken to the writer of one of them.

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Artnet

Greece Says No to Amal Clooney’s Elgin Marbles Advice to Sue British Museum
Amah-Rose Abrams
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Amal Clooney is still working hard to win back the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum and return them to Greece, filing a 150-page document recommending the Greek government takes the British Museum to the International Court.

However, according to the Times, Greece has promptly snubbed Clooney’s efforts and decided not to follow her advice, despite Clooney and her colleague Geoffrey Robertson telling Greece that it was a case of “now or never” in the lengthy battle involving the ancient Greek artworks.
Read the rest of this entry »

Greece drops plans for litigating over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further coverage of the announcement by the Greek Ministry of Culture that they are not planning on taking legal action over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

One thing that strikes me with all this coverage, is that the papers are essentially making full page stories from the short piece in Το Βημα – There is no more detail contained in any other stories other than speculation & interviews with others outside the process, on what their opinions on it are.

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

From:
To Bhma

Xydakis: “We will not claim the Parthenon marbles via the courts”
The Alternate Culture Minister explained that politics and diplomacy must be used instead
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Alternate Minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis announced that the Greek government will not be seeking the return of the Parthenon marbles via the courts, but rather via political and diplomacy.

Mr. Xydakis, who spoke to Mega Channel on Wednesday morning, noted that Amal Clooney, of the Doughty Street Chambers legal firm, will be providing legal advice on the matter.
Read the rest of this entry »

May 16, 2015

Greece drops plans for legal action over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 9:08 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I was very surprised to hear this story, particularly with the timing of it coming only a day after much of the content of the press summary of the legal report was published.

My first issue is that the actual report has not yet been delivered to the Greek Government. It was commissioned by the previous ND / PASOK coalition government when Geoffrey Robertson, Norman Palmer and Amal Clooney visited Athens last year. Originally the report was due to be delivered in late April, but for various reasons has been delayed until the end of this month. We know from previous new stories about the way that this exercise has been funded, that the cost of researching and producing this report was not an insignificant amount.

So, apart from the lawyers working on the report, my understanding is that nobody has yet seen the actual final report – not the Greek Government, not the press and definitely not the plethora of armchair legal experts who are commenting on the press reports.

Even once the Greek Government has seen the report, something of this scale and importance would generally require extensive consideration and review, to understand the full impact of what was being proposed, to let the government’s own legal team assess its veracity etc. Once that had happened, further discussion would be required, to allow the government to weigh up the possible options available to them and decide how they wanted to proceed. None of this appears to have happened, and I don’t see how it could have, as nobody has yet seen the report. As such, it is hard to believe that the content of the report is what led to this decision.

The report on the legal options for the Parthenon Marbles, as I mentioned earlier was commissioned by the previous government, and the current government have not to my knowledge actually met with the lawyers who are working on it. Based on this information alone, any rejection seems to be more of a reaction to the fact that they are wanting to do different to those who came before them, rather than any other reason.

The Greek Government says that they want to use politics and diplomacy to resolve the issue. This is not a new approach however – if anything it is reverting to what has been tried in the past, as any consideration of other options by Greece has only happened in the last few years.

The diplomatic approach has been tried since the mid 1980s – and to an outside observer, any success has been very limited. The Parthenon Sculptures still do not appear any closer to returning than they were fifteen years ago. If anything, the British Museum has become more trenchant in their opposition during this time, first by dreaming up new arguments such as that of the Universal Museum and more recently loaning one of the pediment sculptures to Russia, while continuing to snub Greek loan requests.

The most recent initiative by Greece, mediation of the issue via UNESCO, which many had high hopes for, was rejected by both the British Government and the British Museum after an inordinately long period of consideration.

All the above actions took place during a period when the government in the UK (Labour – 1997-2010) although oficially rejecting return, had many members who were enthusiastic supporters of the restitution of the sculptures. During the government of the last five years (Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition – 2010-2015), although the major partner in the coalition was less supportive of the issue, the Liberal Democrat leader who was also Deputy Prime Minister had previously expressed strong support for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens.

This has now changed. The new Conservative government that entered won the General Election earlier this month, are entirely unreceptive to any hint of the the sculptures returning. Sure, there are a few enlightened individuals within the party – but they stand out like beacons of hope against the backdrop of so many others who are still in denial that the days of empire are over. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture have, in the last few years, stated publicly their opposition to returning the sculptures.

One must also bear in mind one of the themes of the precis report presented to the press – the idea that action must be taken now, otherwise the opportunity might evaporate. Its now or never.

All the above points make me feel that any rejection of the report so rapidly suggests that full consideration has not really been given to the issue. As such, I hope that this turns out to be some sort of misunderstanding on the part of the Greek Government and that whatever they decide, they will first think through their options carefully – and review the actions already taken in the campaign since the mid 1980s. I will happily support them in any initiatives that they believe will get the sculptures back to Athens, but a coherent plan is needed. The British Museum’s loan to Russia could well be a sign that they were starting to feel the pressure and wanted to try and assert their own dominant position as clearly as possible – backing off now, just when they were starting to feel uncomfortable will achieve nothing.

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

From:
Guardian

Greece drops option of legal action in British Museum Parthenon marbles row
Helena Smith in Athens
Wednesday 13 May 2015 17.13 BST

Cultural minister makes revelation despite dossier from human rights lawyers exhorting the Greek government to pursue legal channels immediately

Greece has ruled out taking legal action in its battle to reclaim the Parthenon marbles from Britain. The unexpected move abruptly ends the legal battle in one of the world’s most bitter cultural disputes.
Read the rest of this entry »

May 13, 2015

Greece advised “use it or loose it” with Marbles legal action

Posted at 11:23 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the advice received by Greece from the legal team (which despite what the Daily Mail would like you to believe, is not led by Amal Clooney – she is merely one of the three members) on the case for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Daily Mail

Amal Clooney advises Greece to take British Museum to international court to win back Elgin Marbles, saying: ‘It’s now or never’
By Jenny Stanton For Mailonline
Published: 09:27, 13 May 2015 | Updated: 10:18, 13 May 2015

Amal Clooney has told Greece it’s ‘now or never’ to win back the Elgin Marbles and has advised it to take the British Museum to the International Court of Justice.

The human rights lawyer, whose London Doughty Street Chambers in London has been advising the Greek government on possible action, has filed a 150-page report outlining a strategy to ensure the return of the 5th century BC statues.
Read the rest of this entry »

Greece advised to take Parthenon Marbles case to ECHR

Posted at 10:55 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Last Autumn, the Greek Government met with a team of Lawyers from the UK, to discuss the legal options available to them in trying to resolve the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles.

The Lawyers were commissioned to produce a more detailed report, which it was later revealed was funded by a wealthy Greek individual rather than by the government.

Since the process started, the government which started it has been replaced by a new SYRIZA led coalition.

This report has now been delivered to Greece and some details of it have managed to leak to the Greek Press.

The proposals suggest various possible options, including the International Courts of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. One key aspect of the proposals is the point that action should be taken now, otherwise the opportunity to take it may be lost for ever, through the doctrine of laches and acquiescence. Greece’s window of opportunity is limited, so if they are ever going to take this route, the time is now.

When the legal team first visited Athens, Greece was still awaiting a response from Britain regarding mediation through UNESCO. Since then, a negative response has been received by Greece and the nature of this response suggests that a change of policy is unlikely in the near future – meaning that litigation may now be the only option left for Greece.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Independent

Elgin Marbles: Greece should take UK to court over sculptures, claim human rights lawyers
Ian Johnston
Tuesday 12 May 2015

Greece should take the UK to an international court to win back the so-called Elgin Marbles, according to legal advice prepared by senior human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson.

Athens has the best chance of securing control of the sculptures if it takes action through the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, according to a 150-page report prepared by its team of eminent global lawyers.
Read the rest of this entry »

May 4, 2015

The Parthenon Marbles & the 2015 General Election

Posted at 11:28 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum, Similar cases

Introduction

For a long time, like many others who have followed the case closely, I have had a general understanding of which parties supported return of the Parthenon Marbles and which did not. However, with the upcoming General Election in May, I thought it would be interesting to see if the figures actually backed this up.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the parties in the UK currently have an official policy on it, although past statements actions have given a relatively good idea of where the main parties stand on the issue. As followers of British politics will know though, this election, more than any in recent years is as much about the rise of other smaller parties as it is about the main parties. Predictions are that the share of votes cast for smaller parties will far exceed what has been achieved at any previous elections.

In 2010, I took a look at the policies of the main parties and based this on historic information. As a result of this, I know that we had people in the government who strongly believed in the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece, but they were unable to express these views, as they believed that there were more major issues that needed to be tackled with their coalition partners, before time was invested in things such as this.

Methodology

This time round, I have looked at the information on support from various parties using two entirely different methods.

The first analysis is based on the incumbent MPs and their previous expressions of support. The majority of these come from Early Day Motions, although there are additional instances where people have been added to the list (either for or against) based on public statements, replies to letters or direct conversations.

The second analysis is entirely new and is based on a survey of candidates on Twitter. I started this exercise following the dissolution of Parliament at the end of March 2015. I targeted a wide range of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, some of whom had been MPs in the previous parliament and many others who had not. This helps us to better gauge levels of support not just from those who have been elected in the past, but also from those who have yet to be elected.

Because people were asked a question on twitter, it meant that the replies could be more nuanced than a simple yes or no. This made it harder to categorise the results, but led to some additional categories and could form the basis for development of new campaign strategies in the future.

Anyone who looks in detail at either of these methods will see that they both have their flaws. However, if we bear in mind these issues, there are some interesting things that can be learned from the data, some of which backed up my expectations, while others were unanticipated.

Survey 1: Indications of the opinion of MPs in the previous parliament

Limitations

  1. Nearly all the data here is collated from responses to Early Day Motions. Prior to the 2010 election, my data covered more MPs, but so many stood down at that election, that there have not been enough significant events since then to gauge support from new MPs so clearly.
  2. The results skew towards those who sign EDMs. MPs that are in the Government (e.g. ministers, junior ministers etc.) tend not to sign EDMs. There are others out there too, who never sign EDMs on principle – often because they believe them to be a waste of time, which does not achieve anything directly. While this may be true up to a point, there is no denying, that they allow other MPs to gauge levels of support for a cause, which may then be utilised in other ways. And MP may know of a few other strong supporters of a cause, but often EDMs add to their list others who they barely know, or who they had never considered as being potential enthusiasts in the same issue.
  3. Results can be skewed for smaller parties. With a larger (hypothetical) party, 20 supporters out of 100 MPs can give a clearish indication of 20% support within the party. With a party of 1 or 2 members though, it is easy for them to come out as being 100% in support, whereas the reality is that the sample size is smaller & therefore the results potentially less accurate.

The dataset

The data is based on the 649 MPs (the speaker is not counted) at the end of the previous parliament. This is to say – the 21 by-elections during the last five years have been factored into the results. Data has been collected both during the previous parliament and in the case of those who were MPs prior to that, from EDMs dating back as far as 1991. In total, the results of 24 pro-restitution and 3 anti-restitution EDMs have been taken into account.

249 MPs were new to Parliament in the 2010 election (an unusually high number, in part due to many retirements) or have joined through by-elections since then. As only two EDMs have referred to the Parthenon Marbles since 2010, results skew in favour of those MPs who have been in parliament for longer.

Results

Of the parties with more than ten MPs, the highest level of support is from the Lib Dems, at 46%. Labour is next at 23%. Finally, there are the Conservatives with 2%.

Of the smaller parties (where results may hold less accuracy), the SNP has support at 33%, with 2 out of 6 MPs. The SDLP both show 60% support with 2 out of 3 MPs. Plaid Cymru has 100% support with 3 MPs Respect show support of 100%, but only has a single MP.

There have also been some anti-restitution EDMs tabled – generally in direct response to the pro-restitution EDMs that the above results are based on. Of these, the only signatories are from the Conservatives, with 20 MPs indicating that 7% of their MPs have specifically stated that they are against reunification of the sculptures.

As these results do not go against what my more recent survey showed, I will deal with the conclusions of both sets of results together.

Survey 2 – Twitter survey of PPCs

Limitations

As mentioned before, there are a number of potential flaws to this study.

  1. There is an election on – as a result, many PPCs have other things on their mind as well as answering questions on twitter, so well thought out responses would not necessarily be forthcoming. Results may skew towards those who have more time available, which is likely to mean those who are not part of the incumbent government.
  2. Some MPs have a twitter account purely as a PR tool, which in managed for them by their office staff on an occasional basis.
  3. The results as a whole will skew towards those MPs who are on twitter – something that I would imagine ties to a younger demographic, although as more and more expand their online presence, this becomes less of an issue.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, when related to the results of the first survey, my findings from the twitter poll suggest that those who are against the return of the sculptures are less likely to reply than those who are.

The Dataset

I messaged 1174 PPCs who were on Twitter. From this, I received 138 responses – a reply rate of approximately 12%.

351 of those contacted had been MPs during the previous Parliament, (equating to 54% of the 650 constituencies) so there was a good representation amongst those asked of both current MPs and potential new ones (particularly when one bears in mind that 89 from the last Parliament are retiring of have been deselected – bringing the number of incumbents asked to 63% of those who are standing again).

The candidates selected were based on various lists of twitter contact details I came across, so were somewhat random in their nature, involving a selection of all the parties expected to win seats in Mainland UK. None of the Northern Irish Parties were represented by this list.

With the exception of SNP members, all others came from a single list of Twitter handles that I located, so the balance of parties comes from there. It is skewed a bit heavily in favour of Labour, but all parties are represented by enough members to constitute a reasonable sample size.

The question I asked initially in my tweets was:

In run up to election, was wondering what your views are on Parthenon Marbles return? Many voters feel strongly about it

After I had sent out the first 200 or so messages, a number of people queried the use of the term “many people”. I still stand by my use of it – perhaps not as a percentage of those in the UK it is not many, but worldwide, we are talking of numbers in terms of millions.

To avoid getting side-tracked by queries and to tie the question more closely to current events, for the remainder of those questioned, I asked:

In election run up, was wondering what your views are on Parthenon Marbles return? & of UK rejection of UNESCO mediation

It rapidly became clear once I started getting answers that a simple yes or no was not going to cover everything.

Many people added more detail to qualify their answer; I will cover some of the key points from this later.

Quite a few of the answers were not yes or no, or even maybe. I created a separate category for cases where their intent was completely unclear. It also includes those who only reply to queries from those in their constituency.

Others were undecided, so fell into the maybe category.

Finally, a surprising number (enough to create a category of its own) stated that either that they had no answer or did not have the time to consider it, because they did not see the subject as being an issue. No constituents had ever asked about it in their years of campaigning, or they did not have the time to think about it.

The results of this survey are shown below:

Views of PPCs from different parties on whether the Parthenon Marbles should be returned - May 2015

PartyYesNoMaybeUnclearUnimportant
Con18%41%12%18%12%
Green87%0%10%0%3%
Lab65%2%15%9%9%
LD70%13%4%9%4%
PC100%0%0%0%0%
UKIP38%25%13%13%13%
SNP100%0%0%0%0%
Responses broken down as a percentage of those questioned from each party

There was quite a lot of data to digest there, but it can be made simpler if those from the maybe, unclear and unimportant categories are ignored. It seems safe to assume that if it came to a vote, these people would be likely to at the very least follow a 50 / 50 split, or to follow the split of opinions of those in their party who have already made their views known, meaning that the overall trend in the results should still be relatively similar.

As you can see from this table, the results are fairly clear cut. With the exception of the Conservatives, in all other parties the clear majority of respondents support return of the Parthenon Sculptures – in most cases by a massive amount.

UKIP is perhaps the most erratic in their responses, with no definite trend. As with most of the other parties, there is no set party policy on the issue, but in their case, members seem more divided on whether or not they want the sculptures returned.

What is interesting is to interpolate these results to match the actual breakdown of the MPs in parliament. The breakdown of each of the parties questioned is taken as a percentage of their number of seats multiplied by their percentage of yes votes. Other parties not covered by my survey are included as zero support, although we already know from the first part of this study, that Respect (with a single MP) supports the return of the Marbles. The total number of MPs used for calculating the percentages is 650 minus the speaker (who does not vote) and minus the 5 Sinn Féin MPs (who do not take their seats in Parliament) Giving a total of 644 voting MPs. This same methodology (in terms of voting and non-voting members) is used to calculate how many seats are required for a majority in Parliament.

Interpolated outcome for a hypothetical vote in the final session of the previous parliament (2014-2015) based on a Twitter survey of PPCs - May 2015

PartyMPsAs %Yes %Aggregate 
Total62%
Con30347%30%14%
Green10%100%0%
Lab25840%97%39%
LD579%84%7%
PC30%100%0%
SNP61%100%1%
UKIP20%60%0%
Others142%0%0%

Not all parties are included in this survey and it relies on a lot of assumptions, but based on the information available, it still represents a surprising outcome, that even with the Conservatives forming the largest block in Parliament (albeit not an overall majority), 62% would support return of the Marbles. This result is notable, as it indicates that support for the issue amongst members might well be higher than the party leaders acknowledge. Bear in mind though that this result, excludes those who are undecided or gave unclear answers, on the assumption that their decision would either match that of others in their party, or not be enough to alter the overall balance.

Additional comments received

Various twitter responses included more detail in addition to the yes / no answer, and from this a number of themes emerged.

From those in support of the return of the Marbles:

  • A solution mediated by a third party (e.g. UNESCO) would be the most sensible way of overseeing a fair outcome.
  • While Parliament can take a view on the Parthenon Marbles, it is important that they also respect the independence of the British Museum.
  • The Loan to the Hermitage in St Petersburg of one of the Parthenon Sculptures weakened the British Museum’s position, both because a loan was made of one of the sculptures and because of the fact that the loan was made to a country with which Britain is not on good terms with at present.
  • That the basis for a return agreement could be the previous offers made by Greece (when Venizelos was Culture Minister) for some form of reciprocal loan of new artefacts to display in place of the Marbles.
  • The importance of context was seen – that the Marbles were intended to be displayed in a certain place and under Greek light – something that can never be replicated in London.
  • That the New Acropolis Museum strengthens Greece’s argument.
  • That the UK could keep copies of the sculptures if the originals were returned.
  • PC PPCs raised the issue of the Mold Cape as one that they see as having parallels to the Marbles, but is relevant to them.
  • That the Marbles are a part of world heritage and as a result are best located in the country where they were created.
  • That they had concerns over whether other artefacts would have to be handed back too if the Marbles returned.

Out of those that opposed the return of the sculptures, arguments raised justifying retention included:

  • The fact that the Marbles were legitimately purchased by Lord Elgin.
  • That Greece has greater problems to deal with at present.
  • That they are “happy with them where they are at the moment”.
  • That if Elgin had not taken them then they would have been destroyed.
  • That Greece would just sell them if they were returned.
  • That they are safer in the British Museum.

This analysis is not the place to try and refute these assertions, but many of these statements are factually incorrect and other articles on this website have already explained this in more detail.

Others suggest that some MPs do not really see the return of the Marbles as an issue.

Finally, I was surprised to hear from some that despite the recent loan to Russia, the presence of Amal Clooney in Athens and previous comments by both George Clooney and Stephen Fry, some said that they had never heard of the case.

Conclusions

At the level of which parties support or are against the return of the Marbles, both surveys present broadly similar results. Although the level of support indicated varies (in part due to the very different methods used in each survey), the indication is that there is support from all the major parties, with the exception of the Conservatives and possibly UKIP.

Because of the nature of both surveys, it is hard to translate the survey results to an exact level of support, although my attempts show that it may well be high enough that a majority in Parliament would be in favour of their return if an un-whipped vote was taken. Factors to consider are whether those who do not reply / do not respond to EDMs do so because they are against the issue, or because they do not have the time, or any one of many other possible reasons.

One thing that surprised me was the numbers that did not see is as an issue of importance. I put this largely down to a lack of understanding of how the other side might feel – while it is easy to be in Britain and happy with the current situation, or uncaring about it, it is harder to take this point of view if you consider how those on the other side of the argument (in this case, the citizens of Greece) feel about the situation. While we might have concerns here about the transport system or the NHS, return of the Marbles is something that relatively easily rights a historical wrong, and at the same time would show that Britain had moved on from an imperialistic viewpoint and increase our standing internationally.

The issue of understanding the other side of the argument is perhaps what produces the high level of support from Plaid Cymru and SNP PPCs. There are various relevant intra-national cases that affect both these areas, the most notable being the Mold Cape and the Lewis Chessmen, which allow them to far more easily understand how another country in a similar situation might feel than for many British MPs who are more comfortable with the status quo.

While there were some inaccuracies in the understanding of the situation by those who supported return, it was clear from the responses that the amount of misinformation within the retentionist camp is far higher. This highlights that education is key to resolving the issue – many are against restitution in large part only because their understanding of the situation is built on factual inaccuracies. No inaccuracy in the media should go unchallenged, but at the same time spurious arguments that might weaken the reunification cause should be dropped.

In a separate message endorsing the cause that I received from a former Tory councillor, I queried that his opinion was at odds with the majority in his party who I spoke to and whether there was a reason for this. He suggested that a major reason was that many people did not know the history of the case well enough.

So, to sum up, anything other than a Conservative Majority on May 7th 2015 will increase the chances for the return of the Marbles. Once the election is over, I will re-visit this Analysis, both in terms of how the breakdown of parties has changed, and in terms of how many of those questioned have become MPs both within the new Parliament and within the Government.

As a closing comment, one of the PC PPCs who I spoke to noted that: “Finders keepers should be remain a playground chant & not form part of government policy.”

Perhaps this is the simplest summary of the reasons for return of the sculptures.

Key to abbreviations used

Party names

APNI – Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Con – Conservative
DUP – Democratic Unionist Party
Lab – Labour
LD – Liberal Democrat
PC – Plaid Cymru
SDLP – Social Democratic and Labour Party
SNP – Scottish National Party
UKIP – UK Independence Party

Other

PPC – Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
EDM – Early Day Motion

April 20, 2015

Aboriginal protests over plundered artefacts in British Museum

Posted at 9:41 pm in British Museum, Events

As anticipated previously, the Dja Dja Wurrung tribe in Australia is protesting about the display of various Aboriginal artefacts in the British Museum. These protests are likely to increase later in the year, when the artefacts return to Australia ass a temporary loan.

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

From:
Guardian

Preservation or plunder? The battle over the British Museum’s Indigenous Australian show
Paul Daley
Thursday 9 April 2015 08.00 BST

It’s been less than a century since the world’s leading collectors began acknowledging Indigenous Australian art as more than mere ethnographic artefact. Since then, the most enlightened, from Hong Kong to London, New York to Paris, have understood that when you purchase a piece of Indigenous art you become its custodian – not its owner. That image depicting a moment on one of the myriad songlines that have criss-crossed the continent during 60,000 years of Indigenous civilisation can adorn your wall. But you will never have copyright. Sometimes, not even the creator owns the painterly iconography and motif attached to particular stories that are family, clan or tribe – but not individual – possessions.

Such understanding is now implicit in the compact between collectors and creators, as remote Indigenous Australian arts centres match a rapacious international market with the rights of some of the world’s most accomplished, and impoverished, modern artists to support themselves and their families. But for museums, especially those of the great empires, ownership of Indigenous cultural property remains an existential bedrock. Which brings me to the British Museum and its forthcoming exhibition, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation. To call this exhibition – and a related one, Encounters, planned for Canberra’s National Museum of Australia – controversial dramatically understates the bitter politics, anger and behind-the-scenes enmity provoked by the British Museum’s continued ownership of some 6,000 Indigenous Australian items variously acquired after British contact, invasion and occupation of the continent beginning in 1770.
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April 14, 2015

Liam Neeson calls for return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece

Posted at 1:01 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Liam Neeson joins a plethora of other well known actors & celebrites, in calling for the Parthenon Sculptures to be returned to Greece.

The comments were made during an interview about his new movie “Run All Night”.

Liam Neeson says that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece

Liam Neeson says that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece

From:
Greek Reporter

Liam Neeson: Give Stolen Parthenon Marbles Back to Greece
Joanna Kalafatis
Apr 13, 2015

Irish actor and action star Liam Neeson called on the UK to give the stolen Parthenon marbles back to Greece.

He joins legions of fellow actors and celebrities, such as George Clooney, Bill Murray and Steven Fry, who support the return of the Parthenon marbles back to their homeland.
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