Sekhemka Statue – Tactics may end up costing the Taxpayer
Hindsight they say is a marvellous thing and, almost invariably, 100% accurate but it doesn’t provide any comfort to those of us who have continued to raise concerns over the sale of the Sekhemka Statue.
What it also doesn’t provide is why, when the decision was called in, Cllr Eldred and his advisor were so disingenuous and in fact evasive in their responses to questions from the all-party Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
I have consistently argued that the decision was unsound and that the tactics of suggesting that the Friends of the Northampton Museums, the Arts Collective and Egyptian Society were being untruthful when they said that they hadn’t been consulted on the sale is a disgrace.
By the Conservatives failure to produce the consultation documents and responses it was very clear that the organisations hadn’t been consulted – so why lie about it?
They are charges that the Conservative administration have never challenged, presumably because they know that all of the available evidence proves that in fact it was and continues to be the Conservatives who are not being honest.
All of which I have written about in previous blogs which, given the Conservative Leaderships propensity for using ‘bully boy’ tactics when they are challenged, is an acceptance that they are on uncertain ground with the sale.
If the rumours, and I’ll call them that in light of not having seen the emails/letters, are true that Gunilla Loe the Chair of the Friends of the Northampton Museums has been forced to stand down because of her opposition to the sale then it confirms the perception that the Conservatives will do anything to undermine the opposition to the sale.
Even more worrying is that if as a result of the Friends of the Museums being threatened that if they didn’t replace Gunilla they wouldn’t be able to hold meetings or visit the museums then shame on them for giving into the bully and even greater shame on Councillor Mackintosh for making the threat.
But what next?
Can all voluntary groups now expect to receive threatening letters if they dare to stand up for what they believe is correct?
As we know this isn’t the first occasion that Councillor Mackintosh, when he doesn’t get what he wants, turns to spite as shown when he removed Councillor Beardsworth from a housing committee for the ‘crime’ of submitting the motion to award the Lancers the Freedom of Northampton without consulting him.
Or his classic “click brrrr” tantrum moment when challenged on BBC Northampton radio over the number of staff who faced redundancy as a result of the LGSS transfer to his friends on the County Council.
The question is why have the Conservatives taken such a high-handed and playground bully approach?
Surely if they were really confident in their ownership of the Sekhemka Statue and the legal position and entitlement to sell it why would they not just accept that the Friends of the Museum have a right to raise issues and concerns?
Especially when, if they are proved correct, it may cost the taxpayer millions of pounds and no I’m not being alarmist.
If Lord Northampton challenges the decision to sell the statue it will be the taxpayer who will have to pay highly paid lawyers to defend the Conservatives decision to sell, and if once sold it is found to have been illegal it will be the taxpayer who will have to compensate the ‘real owners’.
In effect if the statue is sold for £2m then all of the money and additional compensation will have to be paid out to the rightful owners and the compensation could well be equal to the value of the statue or the ‘new owners’ will have to return the Statue to the rightful owners and be compensated for being sold it in the first place.
Alongside the legal and financial impact of the decision to sell the Statue is what view of the Council’s commitment to the arts and culture is held by others such as the Arts Council.
The statue was given to the people of Northampton along with other Egyptian artefacts under a Deed of Gift by the Marquess of Northampton in 1880.
Put in simple terms the Egyptian collection is for the people of Northampton and cannot be sold or given away.
If the Borough doesn’t want to remain as the custodian of the collection it should send it back to the original owners, namely Lord Northampton and the Compton family.
There is an arrogance within the Conservative administration that they can simply ignore the Deed of Gift Covenant and are basing their whole policy on hoping that Lord Northampton will not sue them if they sell Sekhemka.
Anyone with a modicum of common sense will recognise that where artefacts are concerned and especially when they have a value in excess of £2m the owners and arts organisations will naturally have a very great interest.
The whole sorry issue raises again the suspicion of an administration that has betrayed the trust of the museums and arts supporters and just as with the issue of the concerns raised over why decisions are being taken behind closed doors and reinforces the suspicion that self-interest and underhand dealing is going on.
Is there any wonder that the public perception of politicians is that we are all the same and out of touch?
On a positive note however the concerns raised by the Northampton Arts and museum supporters and the question of who actually owns the Sekhemka Statue and its provenance will I suspect be taken into account by any reputable auction house who may decide it is too big a risk to their reputation to be associated with its sale.
Previous Blogs on the Sekhemka Statue
Sekhemka Statue – Truth & Untruth Exposed 28 May 13
Is it Now a Matter of Trust Betrayed? 6 Nov 12
Sekhemka Statue – Has a Sale Already Been Agreed 16 Oct 12
Sekhemka Decision – The Truth 25 September 12
Sekhemka Statue – Northampton you couldn’t make it up 17 September