Losing their marbles

by Rick Johansen

At last, we now know that prime minister Rishi Sunak cares about something. He really, really cares about something. In fact, he cares truly, madly, deeply about something. Hmm, let’s think for a moment. He cares about food poverty? He cares about climate change? He cares about NHS waiting lists that have now soared over eight million? Nope. None of the above. But as the country goes to hell in a handcart, it turns out that what Sunak cares most passionately about is some fucking marbles. I shit you not.

Sunak was due to meet the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis today in one of those photo opportunity-type meetings, where they talk about great matters of state and then pose for the media, smiling and shaking hands. It’s harmless fluff and nonsense, but every major world leader, and Sunak, does it. But then it transpired that Mitsotakis had been interviewed on the BBC by Tory Laura Kuenssberg and said that he wanted the Elgin marbles returned. With a matter of minutes left before the meeting was due to start, Sunak threw a hissy fit and cancelled, offering up the services of his doughnut of a deputy, Oliver Dowden, instead. According to the BBC, a senior Conservative source, so almost certainly Sunak’s main spokesperson, said: “It became impossible for this meeting to go ahead following commentary regarding the Elgin marbles prior to it.” So, what are the Elgin Marbles?

Wikipedia says this: “The Elgin Marbles are a collection of Ancient Greek Sculptures from the Parthenon and other structures from the Acropolis of Athen, removed from Ottoman Greece to Britain by agents of  Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, and now held in the British Museum. The majority of the sculptures were created in the 5th century BC under the direction of sculptor and architect Phidias.”  The removal happened between 1801 and 1812. And ever since then, Greece has demanded they be returned.

Britain’s position is that the Elgin Marbles are ours, they were stolen … er … acquired legally, we have looked after them better than those wretched Greeks ever would and that the British Museum has more visitors than the one at the Acropolis. But the best excuse came from the Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan who pointed out that if we sent the Marbles back, then other cultural items now held in Britain might also have to be returned to the places they were acquired from. Perish the thought.

Of course, it could be that I am completely out of line with public opinion and the main topic of conversation at the office water cooler and in pubs up and down the land is that we must keep the Marbles. It’s certainly something for taxi drivers to talk about. So, I am making a guess and my guess is that most people don’t give a toss about the Elgin Marbles and of those few that do care feel, as I do, that it’s about time they were returned to the Acropolis.

This is now where we are, where our prime minister can only get fired-up about something a million miles away from the real needs of the people. Where millions are fretting about feeding their children and paying utility bills, Sunak prattles on about some ancient Greek sculptures. Out of touch doesn’t come close to describe this oily little man who understands the life of the ordinary person about as well as your average billionaire who owns four homes, at least one of which is equipped with an indoor swimming pool and a gym.

In fact, this non story, because that’s what it is, is just another illustration that Sunak and his government have long lost their own marbles and would be well advised to find them again before banging on about the Elgin ones.


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