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Osborne makes crass Parthenon Marbles quip to Varoufakis

Those in the UK who are opposed to the return of the Parthenon Sculptures (I think we can make a safe guess that this is the camp that George Osborne sees himself in), never seem to see it as a serious issue. More often than not, any questions about the sculptures are brushed aside with a quick joke – nine times out of ten, referring to someone having lost their marbles.

It might have been vaguely amusing the fist time – but its not like the quip has not been made thousands of times before. Further to this, campaigners have also pointed out such remarks stigmatise mental health issues.

Perhaps the lack of concern for the Parthenon Marbles stems from the fact that knowledge of them amongst many people is in fact fairly limited. They hope that distracting discussions with a joke hides their own ignorance.

UK Chancellor George Osborne

UK Chancellor George Osborne

Independent [1]

Yanis Varoufakis and George Osborne exchange blows over the Elgin Marbles
Jon Stone
Tuesday 19 January 2016

Yanis Varoufakis has hit out at George Osborne after the Chancellor made a joke about a contentious marble sculpture taken from Greece to Britain in the 19th century

During an exchange with shadow chancellor John McDonnell in the House of Commons Mr Osborne referenced the fact that Mr Varoufakis would be speaking at a series of events organised by Labour.

“Today he says he is going to tour the country with former Greek finance minister Mr Varoufakis to educate us all about economics. The one thing they’ve got in common is they’ve both lost their marbles,” the chancellor said.

The joke was also a reference to the fact that Mr Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, was Greek.

Greece has long demanded the return of the so-called “Elgin Marbles”, a series of marble sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens by the Earl of Elgin in the early 1800s.

The marbles, which portray an impressive battle between legendary heroes and centaurs, are held in the British Museum in London.

The peer maintained he had permission to take the sculptures because he had received a permit for local occupying Ottoman Empire officials – whose very presence was resented by many Greeks.

Greece has asked for the return of marbles but the UK has refused to negotiate, despite attempts by the United Nations to mediate the dispute.

Unimpressed with the quip, Mr Varoufakis tweeted: “For your information George, we never lost them – our marbles were stolen!”

Mr Osborne was also criticised for making an apparently derogatory reference to mental health.

Luciana Berger, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, said shortly after the exchange that the comments were inappropriate.

“[I’m] very disappointed to hear George Osborne flippant language on mental health today – it must never be used for political point scoring,” she said in a post on Twitter.

Mr Varoufakis is one of the speakers in a series of seminars organised by Labour. The events will seek to challenge the Government’s economic narrative.

The economist served as the finance minister for Greece’s leftist Syriza government during its early negotiations with the country’s creditors. He stepped down after the Government accepted many of the creditors’ conditions.

Daily Mirror [2]

George Osborne accused of demeaning his office with cheap joke about mental health
19 Jan 2016
By Arj Singh , Dan Bloom

George Osborne has been accused of demeaning his office with a “schoolboy” joke about mental health he cracked in the Commons.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis hit back after Mr Osborne said he and shadow chancellor John McDonnell had “lost their marbles”.

The Tory Chancellor was referencing the Elgin Marbles, swiped by Britain from Athens in the 19th Century, as he mocked the left-wingers’ plan to hold economic seminars across the UK.

But his schoolboy humour backfired as Mr Varoufakis tweeted: “For your info George, we never lost them – our marbles were stolen!”

And Mr McDonnell said: “On the day that the IMF has echoed Labour’s warnings about the global economy and called for the Government to increase investment spending, the Chancellor decides to demean his office with schoolboy jokes about mental health.

“If the Chancellor could at least appreciate how angry families of steelworkers in south Wales are, knowing that when bankers’ bonuses were threatened, he immediately shot across to Brussels with an army of lawyers to defend them, and he’ll jump into a helicopter for a Tory fundraiser, but it’s taken him four months to lift a finger for steelworkers”.

Labour MP Kate Osamor added: “He used the term ‘has he lost his marbles’, which I feel was very unparliamentary.

“But I also would like to say that this comment comes in the week when the Government has been exposed as leaving mental health services underfunded.

“So what the Chancellor has said goes to the heart of their callous attitude towards vulnerable people and I wanted to put that on the record.”

Commons Speaker John Bercow replied: “I didn’t make the immediate judgment that it was unparliamentary.

“I think it was intended in a jocular spirit but of course we all have to weigh our words carefully in this place and think of the possible implications of language chosen.”

The row began when Mr Osborne told MPs Labour had called for the return of flying pickets and suggested Trident subs could patrol without nuclear warheads.

He added: “Then today you have said you are going to tour the country with the former Greek finance minister, Mr Varoufakis, to educate us all about economics.

“I think the one thing they have got in common is they have both lost their marbles.”