Politics

Downing Street says removing Winston Churchill bust from Oval Office ‘up to Biden’


Mr Johnson’s official spokesman denied any ill-feeling, saying: “The Oval Office is the President’s private office, and it’s up to the President to decorate it as he wishes.”

The Jacob Epstein-made bust of the war-time Prime Minister was not on display in pictures released of the newly revamped inner sanctum of the White House. Mr Biden chose instead images of his personal inspirations, including Dr Martin Luther King.

The Churchill bust was first gifted to George W Bush by Tony Blair but was moved out by President Obama. It was handed back on loan to Donald Trump who gave it a prominent position in the room.

Boris Johnson, who was Mayor of London when President Obama rejected the bust, wrote at the time in The Sun: “Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

The reference to Mr Obama’s Kenyan ancestry prompted some accusations of racism and was branded “deplorable” and “completely idiotic” by Churchill’s grandson, Conservative grandee Nicholas Soames.

At the time Mr Obama responded: “There are only so many tables where you can put busts otherwise it starts looking a little cluttered.”

No 10 could not say what would happen to the bust now. “It was loaned in 2017 and there’s no change to that,” said the spokesman. “It’s a loan rather than a permanent gift.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s complaint when Barack Obama removed the bust that it was a “snub to Britain”, No 10 said: “The important thing for us is that we will have a very close relationship, a special relationship, with the US.”

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The official spokesman added: “We’re in no doubt of the importance President Biden places on the UK-US relationship. And the Prime Minister looks forward to having that close relationship with him.”



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