Sekhemka – The Final Chapter?

On Thursday (10 July 2014) the Sekhemka Statue will, unless there is a last minute legal intervention be hawked off to the highest bidder by the Christie’s Auction House bringing to an end this stage of what has turned out to be a disgraceful, despicable and deceitful process to realise a profit from a gift to the people of Northampton by the Northampton Conservatives.

I have written on this subject a number of times and according to a reliable source it has angered Cllrs Mackintosh and Eldred and their Conservative colleagues to the extent that they are going to demand an apology for what I have written, with the threat of being reported to the Standards Committee if they don’t receive one.

I have seriously considered how to respond and have decided on the following,

(I’ll return to the threat of the Standards Committee later on).

Yes I will apologise.

I apologise to the Friends of Northampton Museums,

I apologise to the Northampton Arts Collective

I apologise to the Egyptian Society

All of who in arguing that they had not been consulted on the sale of Sekhemka were effectively accused of lying by Cllr Eldred and Cllr Mackintosh who stated very clearly at the Cabinet meeting in Sept 2012 and again by Cllr Eldred at the ‘Call In’ that they had been consulted with.

In light of the fact that the Councillors and Conservatives couldn’t produce evidence of the consultation who should we believe?

I apologise to Ms Gunnila Loe

who, and apparently has the evidence was forced to resign as Secretary of the Friends of the Museums following a threat from Cllr Mackintosh that the Friends would be denied access to Council buildings to hold their meetings if she didn’t stop opposing the sale of Sekhemka.

I apologise to members of the public,

Who in feeling that they have been bullied by Cllr Mackintosh had their right to Freedom of Speech removed by the Mayor following a protest by the Leader of the Council at the last Council meeting.

The fact is if an individual or organisation believe they have been bullied by Cllr Mackintosh, or anyone else for that matter surely they have the right to stand up and say so in the Council Chamber and Cllr Mackintosh would have had the right to explain and reject the accusations.

Interestingly he did not deny the allegations but simply called on the Mayor to protect him.

I apologise to the Arts Council of England and Museums Associations Ethics Committee,

For being angry with them following repeated claims from Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Eldred that they were working closely with the organisations and that there wasn’t a problem with the proposed sale of Sekhemka.

It turns out of course that this couldn’t possible be true following the latest announcement from David Fleming, the chairman of the MA’s ethics committee, who said:

“The MA’s code of ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored. At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest. We would urge the council to seek alternative sources of capital funding before undertaking the sale of such an important item with a long history of association with the borough. Without this, the MA cannot endorse the sale.”
Mr Fleming also said the MA may review Northampton Museum’s membership if the sale goes ahead and its arts council accreditation may also be in jeopardy”.

Anyone who doesn’t read this as an ethical organisation who has been consistent in opposing the sale of items such as Sekhemka probably has no idea or doesn’t simply care.

Who do we believe?

My money is on the Museums Associations Ethics Committee.

I apologise to the people of Northampton

Who sadly now are already starting to see Northampton Museums as pariahs with Alan Moore saying he would never consider now donating his original manuscripts to the Museums in the town of his birth and which he has always defended and supported.

His statements that

“How can anybody across the country thinking of making a donation to a museum make the donation in the knowledge that a few years in the future perhaps 100 years in the future the council might decide to sell it off?” said Alan, who in the past has given Northampton Museum a piece of art created by local illustrator and children’s author Denis Watkin Pritchard (known as BB).


“This undermines the entire principle on which most museums operate,” said Alan.
“In the wake of this if this means that councils, when they are in financial trouble, can sell off things which have been entrusted to them this obviously means that I can never make a donation to the museum again and I would have thought that anybody who would have been thinking of making a donation would be thinking twice.”

probably sums up the view of many who have items they may be considering loaning to a museum.

I apologise to the Northampton taxpayers

Who have seen over £10,000 of their money spent by Cllr Mackintosh and the Conservatives on trying to establish that “THEY OWNED” and had a right to sell Sekhemka.

Strangely, but perhaps it is only me though I doubt it but I recall that we were told back in 2012 that the ownership was not an issue because the statue was gifted to and therefore the property of Northampton Borough Council.

It will not have escaped those interested that according to Cllr Eldred the current 7th Marquess of Northampton spent over £40,000 in challenging the Conservatives ownership claim which has resulted in an agreement (we are told) that profits would be split 55% – 45% between the Conservatives and Marquess.

I apologise to the Northampton Borough Council staff,

Who following the claims by Cllr Eldred at the Sekhemka Statue decision ‘call in’ that following a comprehensive review including consultation with all organisations concerned (see above) of the Northampton Borough Council Museums disposal policy, whilst of course as is now the norm failing to produce any evidence of the consultation, were put in the in the position of having to say,

“All we did was change the date on the existing document”

Whoops, caught out again.

I would apologise to the 7th Marquess of Northampton but I won’t because, and this is only my opinion he should as one of the nations wealthiest aristocrats with an estimated fortune of £120 Million refused to do a deal with Cllr Mackintosh and prevented the sale making it very clear that if they didn’t want Sekemka it and all of the other Egyptian items should be given to another museum.

I am at a loss to understand for the life of me why the 7th Marquess who has the historic name Northampton and whose first name is Spencer has entered into what I and many others see as a cheap and sordid deal with the Northampton Conservatives.

The question now is will he at the 11th hour honour the principles and wishes of his predecessors the 2nd and 3rd Marquesses and withdraw his agreement to the sale?

I doubt it but hope is eternal.

I will not apologise to Cllr Mackintosh, Cllr Eldred or the Northampton Cabinet members who are equally culpable for their decision and the way they have intentionally misled the public over the sale.

Which brings me back to the threat of the Standards Board,

Put simply it has about as much clout as being savaged by the teeth of a rampant hen.

If the Leader of the Council wants an apology he and his colleagues will have to look to the legal system and wouldn’t it be interesting to examine the whole issue where everyone concerned would be able to exercise their freedom of speech and produce and more importantly demand to see the evidence?

Perhaps it’s my obtuse nature but having Councillors, Senior Council Officers, Museums & Arts Supporters & Organisations and representatives of the 7th Marquess under oath would be entertaining.

And what of Sekemka?

The statue itself has an inscription on the base which translates as

“Inspector of scribes of the house of the master of largess one revered before the great god Sekhemka”

Scribes were considered as part of the royal courts and the majority of what we know about ancient Egypt is due to the activities of the scribes and their officials.

The great monuments and buildings of the time were constructed under their supervision, they documented the economic activities of the time and also the activities in other lands.

The statue itself depicts Sekemka with the scribes scroll and his wife at his feet.

Perhaps Cllr Mackintosh sees himself as the ‘Great God Northampton’ with Cllr Eldred at his feet ready to ‘scribe’ a version of the ever changing and contradictory statements made since September 2012 into a narrative reflecting their version of the truth.

Except of course both Locally, Nationally and Internationally Northampton Borough Council is now and will forever be stained with a reputation of lacking ethics, principles and being dishonest in its approach to the arts, all thanks to the Northampton Conservatives.

Is this the final Chapter?

It may be for Sekhemka if the sale goes ahead,

It certainly won’t be for Northampton who will suffer the repercussions in the future.