It's time for us to lose our Marbles

Monday 20 October 2014

Look, I'm as big a patriot as the next Briton but honestly, we have to give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece.

We really do. We nicked them just over 200 years ago and I know we ended up bunging the Ottomans some dosh - guilt money - a bit later, but the fact is that even back then people here were deeply uneasy about it. Many described it as a perfect blend of vandalism and looting. And it was.

Thomas Bruce - 7th Earl of Elgin - was our ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and somehow wangled a controversial permit to rip the marbles from the Parthenon and other buildings in the Acropolis of Athens.

Now they're on display in the British Museum. I went to see them a few years ago and they are stunningly beautiful artefacts. But they are stolen stunningly beautiful artefacts.

Talking of beauty - step forward the new Mrs George Clooney. The hotshot lawyer formerly known as Amal Alamuddin has accepted a brief from the Greek government to get their marbles back. They say they are 'stolen intellectual property'. Again, they're right. What if the Ottomans had quietly hacked Nelson off his plinth in Trafalgar Square and now proudly displayed him in downtown Athens? I think, like Horatio, we'd be hacked off too, and want him back.

The argument over the Elgin Marbles has been simmering since 1801. I sense it is finally about to come to the boil, thanks to the celebrity involvement of a woman who will (as Judy predicted here last week) probably be the next first lady of the United States of America, when gorgeous George runs for president after Hilary Clinton's twin term in the Oval Office.

But more importantly, I sense a paradigm shift in public opinion on this whole issue. If, ten years ago, you'd asked me if the marbles should go back to Greece, I would probably have said no. But the drip-drip of pressure from Athens has had an effect. It's made us think, and think honestly, about the principals involved.

So let's do the decent thing, however belatedly. Send the Parthenon Marbles - their proper name - back to the Parthenon. Time to right an ancient wrong. We'll feel better for it, promise.

Read Richard and Judy's Daily Express column in full here.
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