There was more than a hint of political posturing about the Greek prime minister’s expressions of outrage at being ‘snubbed’ by Rishi Sunak on his visit to this country.
The two had been set to meet on Monday, until Kyriakos Mitsotakis gave a provocative BBC interview calling for the ‘reunification’ of the Elgin Marbles. Having part of the 2,500-year-old frieze in London was like seeing the Mona Lisa ‘cut in half’, he said.
Downing Street, which had expressly asked Mr Mitsotakis not to publicly grandstand about the Marbles, promptly cancelled the meeting, offering deputy PM Oliver Dowden as a stand-in.
Enraged by this insult, Mr Mitsotakis flew straight home and began railing about his mistreatment. Inevitably, Labour sided with the Greek leader, pledging that, if in power, they would not stand in the way of returning the sculptures to the Parthenon.
But could it be that this ludicrous diplomatic storm was deliberately whipped up? Certainly, it has done Mr Mitsotakis no harm at home. He has banged the populist drum for the repatriation of the Marbles and elicited support from the party that may soon be in power here.
There was more than a hint of political posturing about the Greek prime minister’s expressions of outrage at being ‘snubbed’ by Rishi Sunak on his visit to this country
The two had been set to meet on Monday, until Kyriakos Mitsotakis gave a provocative BBC interview calling for the ‘reunification’ of the Elgin Marbles
With British Museum chairman George Osborne also in favour of returning them on a loan basis (which would almost certainly become permanent), he must think he is close to victory.
But would repatriation be right? There is a strong argument that if Lord Elgin hadn’t removed the friezes (with permission) in the early 1800s, they wouldn’t be with us today. Thanks to the depredations of war, acid rain and neglect, most of the sculptures which remained in Athens were either destroyed or have seriously deteriorated.
Nor is there any prospect that the surviving friezes will be ‘reunited’ on the Parthenon, where they would soon decay. As now, they would be displayed in a museum. But there is a deeper reason for keeping them here. For over 250 years the British Museum has been a living monument to the history and cultural achievement of mankind.
Housing 4.5million artefacts dating from the dawn of civilisation to the modern age, it offers free access to everyone from scholars to curious children, regardless of nationality.
The Rosetta Stone is there, Egyptian mummies, African bronzes, fragments of life in Ur and Babylon, relics of the South Seas and the pre-Columbian Americas. It is truly a unique resource for the world. Start breaking it up, and where do you stop?
BBC beyond a joke
What do you do with a comedian who isn’t terribly funny but rants on social media about Israel being a genocidal ‘apartheid state’? Give him a job on the BBC, of course.
Mocking the carnage of October 7, when 1,200 Jewish citizens were massacred by Hamas terrorists, anti-Israel comic Guz Khan is to host the terminally smug, Have I Got News for You. Most Mail readers may be unfamiliar with his work, but he believes Israel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing. Hamas seems to have escaped his wrath.
No one expects these panel shows to be strictly impartial. But neither should the BBC promote someone who is so gratuitously offensive to a large part of its licence-fee-paying audience.
Mocking the carnage of October 7, when 1,200 Jewish citizens were massacred by Hamas terrorists, anti-Israel comic Guz Khan is to host the terminally smug, Have I Got News for You
Risks of remote GPs
Young doctors are told the most important piece of equipment they possess is their eyes. GPs, especially, learn a lot about what ails their patients by seeing and talking to them face to face.
So a study showing that remote consultations put those patients at risk comes as no surprise. They may be convenient, but they are no substitute for the personal touch.