LONDON – Nothing has worked yet to persuade the British Museum to return the stolen Parthenon Marbles to Greece but the campaign picked up a key supporter in the United Kingdom’s former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw.
He has teamed up with a Greek campaign to return the marbles, saying their rightful home is at the Acropolis Museum in Athens that opened in 2009 and has reserved a glass-walled top floor with a view of the Parthenon to show them off if they’re ever returned.
He didn’t say why he didn’t make the push while he was in position as the Culture Secretary to do so but the site iNews said he has now with important figures such as Lord Vaizey and renowned writer Stephen Fry to make it happen.
“It’s only right that the sculptures should be viewed as one piece of art in the Acropolis Museum,” Bradshaw, a Labour minister who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said.
A YouGov poll, showing widespread cross-party support for the treasures return showed that a majority of Britons also believe the marbles should be returned although no government has agreed.
Bradshaw said he hoped new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who took over from the abbreviated tenure of Liz Truss – who opposed the return – would look favorably on the idea.
“I hope that as Rishi Sunak has family roots in a different culture he might be more sensitive to these issues and he won’t stand in the way of their return,” he told iNews about the cause.
“The Marbles have become a high-profile symbol of cultural injustice,” the former minister said. “Returning them would send a very good signal that Britain is still an outward-looking and engaged nation in a post-Brexit world. We’re not a small island looking in on itself.”
The 2500-year-old sculptures were ripped off the Parthenon 200 years ago by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin, who said he had the permission of the ruling Ottoman Empire – which didn’t own them.
Bradshaw has joined the advisory board of the Parthenon Project, founded by Greek businessman, John Lefas, to push for the change in legislation that would pave the way for the sculptures’ return, the news site noted.
“It’s a long-running wrong and I’ve never understood why this problem can’t be resolved. Attitudes to restitution are changing across the world and at the British Museum,” the ex-minister said.
“It is clear there is widespread support amongst the British public, and amongst all political parties, for the principle of returning the Parthenon Sculptures to their rightful home in Athens,” he added.
He added: “The British Museum is a ‘museum of the world’, and Greek artifacts will and should continue to be displayed there as part of a new cultural partnership. A win-win solution for reunification has never felt closer.”
He said: “As a symbol of democracy representing the cultural identity of millions of people,” that it was right for the sculptures to be sent to the Acropolis Museum and their homeland.
Lord Vaizey, another former culture minister and Chair of the Parthenon Project, said: “The argument for returning the Parthenon Sculptures, an extremely important symbol for the people of Greece – comparable to Stonehenge for Britons – is clearcut and logical.”
Fry has compared the taking of the marbles from occupied Greece to the Americans trying to remove the Eiffel Tower from Paris when it was under German occupation.
Any permanent return requires a change to the 1983 National Heritage Act, which restricts some national museums from deaccessioning objects from their collection and the British Museum offered only to loan them.