Sekhemka Debate – Opposition to Sale Continues

Who really owns Sekhemka?
Who really owns Sekhemka?

Sekhemka Debate – Opposition Remains

The contentious issue of the Northampton Borough Council insisting that they have been open and honest about the sale of the Sekhemka statue continues as opposition to the sale grows.

It is not acceptable in the political world to say that people haven’t been honest in what they have said, or in laypersons term lied.

So I won’t, and will instead lay out the issue, the evidence and let the reader decide.

When the proposed sale first went before the Conservative Cabinet in September 2012 Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Eldred both very firmly stated that the Council had consulted widely with the organisations supporting the Arts and Museums.

Now for the problem,

The organisations stated that they had not been consulted.

Dark cloud of suspicion over Conservatives explanations
Dark cloud of suspicion hang over Conservatives explanations

So who do you believe?

What was strange is that the Council has an obsessive compulsion to retain all consultation information and data to demonstrate how good they are.

Except in this case it seems the consultation information isn’t available.

As those who have been following this issue know I and Cllr Terry Wire the Leader of the Labour group challenged the decision and ‘called it in” to be investigated by an all-party group of Councillors.

The committee was told by Cllr Eldred that,

‘The proposed sale was due to a change in the ‘Museums Disposal Policy’ following an extensive consultation with the arts and museums organisations.

Now for the problem

The organisations stated that they had not been consulted.

So who do you believe?

Once again evidence of the consultation wasn’t and continues significantly be absent and perhaps more interestingly is that when the Northampton Borough Council Director responsible for the museums was sent to get a copy of the amended ‘Museums Disposal Policy’ it wasn’t available.

Significantly though the Director reported to the Committee that having spoken to a member of staff the only change that had been made was ‘the date’.

Which begs the obvious question? “If the only alteration to the ‘Museums Disposal Policy’ from the previous policy was the date where was the consultation”?

Cllr Eldred also told the committee that he had signed off the changes in the Disposal Policy, but couldn’t remember when?

A cynical or suspicious person may well think that this in itself is strange and that in a matter that was clearly going to raise issues a Cabinet member would have made sure that they had the evidence available to back the decision up.

One of the fundamental questions that has been asked throughout the whole of the Sekhemka debate has been “Do the Borough Council have the Legal Ownership and Right to sell the statue”?

Both Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Eldred have said that they checked the legal position and it was theirs to sell.

Those organisations opposed to the sale have been consistent in stating that the Borough Council don’t own or have the right to sell it.

Now for the problem

If the Leader and his Cabinet colleague supported by the evidence and senior officials of the Borough Council have as claimed checked and are the legal owners and have the right to sell the Sekhemka Statue then put simply. “Why hasn’t it gone on sale”?

and, if the Conservative administration is now embroiled in a legal wrangle over the ownership why did they say they had already checked the position out and just how much is it costing in legal costs?

It seems that we either have to believe the Friends of the Northampton Museums, Egyptian Society, Arts Collective and other organisations and supporters who claim that they were not consulted and have evidence of being ‘intentionally misled’ or alternatively believe the Conservative Leader and Cabinet Member.

It appears that excellent people, who have opposed the sale of Sekhemka, if the talk on the Northampton grapevine is true, have been subject to intimidation from the Borough Council administration forcing them to resign from their roles in organisations.

The sale of Sekhemka is a running sore that has and continues to raise very serious questions about the truthfulness and integrity of those at the Guildhall who have been involved in the decision to sell it.

Clearly if an individual owned the statue they would have a right to sell it and if it was mine I would certainly want to see it on public display and at a price of £2million many would be only too happy to sell.

The issue is that the Sekhemka wasn’t sold or given to ‘but’ loaned to the Northampton Corporation Council to be displayed as part of a wider Egyptian Exhibition for the benefit and enjoyment of generations of Northampton residents.

When there are two conflicting accounts of an issue they can’t both be true.

Has the Conservative ability to tell the truth already taken the exit?
Has the Conservative ability to tell the truth already taken the exit?

I started this blog by saying that it would be wrong to say that someone has been telling lies even though on the evidence available it looks as if someone has.

We will have to wait and see just who it was.