Rishi Sunak loses his marbles™ Politico

Who knew, but the UK PM clearly has a sensitive soul that cleaves to the marble representations by Greek sculptor Phidias to decorate the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple. Unless, it’s all about politics

Rashmee Roshan Lall

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Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum. Photo by Andrew Dunn

“Rishi loses his marbles”™ Politico.

I wish I’d been clever enough to think of the headline Politico chose for the remarkable sight of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak losing his rag over the Parthenon sculptures. The sculptures, incidentally, are known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, in memory of the British soldier and diplomat who, ah… removed them from Athens in the early 19th century.

Mr Sunak appears desirous of holding on to the marble sculptures, which having been removed by Lord Elgin from Athens, were bought by the British government in 1816 and placed in the British Museum. So he got rather annoyed that his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on a visit to Britain, had the nerve to mention the sculptures in his BBC TV interview Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Mr Mitsotakis had explained that he, like many Greeks, did not want many of the sculptures to remain in the British Museum. “It’s as if I told you that you would cut the Mona Lisa in half and you would have half of it at the Louvre and half of it at the British Museum… this is exactly what happened with the Parthenon Sculptures.”

Such sentimentality on the part of the Greeks seems to have “irritated” Mr Sunak, to use the word employed by nameless aides to the UK prime minister. Indeed, Mr Sunak took the extraordinary step of calling off scheduled talks with Mr Mitsotakis just hours before they were to meet, a mega snub to a key European ally with which Britain has economic ties as well as key issues to discuss, not least migrants.

Clearly, Mr Sunak cares about art, truly, madly, deeply. Everyone who thought he was just a technocratic, nerdy banker kind of person was wrong.

Who knew but Mr Sunak clearly has a sensitive soul that cleaves to the representations made by the sculptor Phidias in marble to decorate the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple.

Unless, unless…it’s all about politics. And the fact that there’s an election coming up very soon, within the next year.

You see, Mr Sunak would rather like to win it for his Conservative Party, despite opinion polls showing the main opposition Labour Party ahead by double digits. Amd what could be more reliable than culture, specifically a culture war, to get the British electorate firing on all cylinders?

How about engaging in an almighty fight over things, cultural products that were created by someone, far far away and brought over to these shores during the long-ago period when Britain ruled the waves?

Originally published at https://www.rashmee.com

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Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London