Monuments like the Cenotaph should be protected at all costs - GP Taylor

There is something very special about the British way of life. Our liberalism is envied around the world and our desire to stand up for the underdog has often changed the course of history. We have fought against slavery, antisemitism and lead the way in Gay rights.

In the past we have stood up to enemies bigger than ourselves to prevent domination and control by extremist powers. Our national flag, statues and memorials give witness to the willingness of millions of British people to lay down their lives for strangers in foreign lands.

Women and men have died to protect both freedom of speech and the freedom of the individual. At this time of year our thoughts turn to those whose sacrifice and bravery are marked by the many memorials in our towns and cities. These are more than just stones marked with the names of the dead, they are a living memory of human lives lost and what it means to be British.

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Yet, there are those in our communities who do not share our love of country. Our history is constantly belittled with accusations of colonialism. Being British is promoted as racist and something we should be ashamed of. Many people who seek safe refuge in this country would prefer to live in parallel communities. They are happy to enjoy the benefits of living here without integrating into our society.

A member of the armed services gives a salute at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London as the nation falls silent to remember the war dead on Armistice Day. PIC: Yui Mok/PA WireA member of the armed services gives a salute at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London as the nation falls silent to remember the war dead on Armistice Day. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A member of the armed services gives a salute at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London as the nation falls silent to remember the war dead on Armistice Day. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Respect for our culture and our past is meaningless and can be disregarded. Monuments like the Cenotaph or Admiralty Arch can be urinated on with contempt, our flags burnt and poppy wreaths destroyed without guilt.

The statue of Winston Churchill can be defaced and sprayed with the word ‘racist’ without fear of prosecution. Ludicrously, protesters carrying the flag of St George can be threatened with arrest, whilst nearby, those waving banners of other nations are given free passage.

Pride in our country or uttering anything mildly patriotic is looked on as something that could see you reported to your local anti-terrorist unit. Yet, amongst the silent majority, discontent with this state of affairs is stirring. Many people are sick and tired of seeing our tolerant beliefs being seen as weakness.

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At no other time has there been a need to safeguard in law the British way of life and the monuments that we gather around each November. Britain needs new legislation to protect our culture, flag and memorials from damage and disrespect. A Crown Loyalty Act could afford such protection. It is staggering to think that there is nothing in law other than a toothless Criminal Damage Act to protect monuments.

After the BLM riots of 2020, such a bill was proposed in parliament by Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke. Gullis said, "at present there is no specific law to protect these important monuments and unless £5,000 worth of damage is done, it is incredibly hard to prosecute."

Sadly, even though it had support, the bill was quietly withdrawn after the first reading. An opportunity was lost and all that we hold dear is still under threat by those who do not respect or care for the British way of life.

It is critical and urgent that a law is put into place making it illegal to damage or disrespect our culture, national flag or any designated monument.

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Those critical of our culture must understand that there are consequences to their actions. It would not be unacceptable to have mandatory prison sentences for anyone found breaking the law.

Over the weekend, I was heartbroken to see police officers fighting in Whitehall to protect the Cenotaph from protesters. That monument stands as a reminder of the dangers of extremism and the loss of lives needed to overcome it. Hitler was an antisemite who had to be stopped at all costs.

The Cenotaph is not only at the heart of our capital city, but also at the heart of what it means to be British. However, it was not just the Cenotaph, but Nelson’s Column and the statue of David Lloyd George that were also disrespected as police looked on powerless to intervene.

It is not racist or xenophobic to be proud of our culture, monuments and flag and want them to be protected by strict laws. Tolerance can only go so far, and when haters want to change our nation, our way of life and disrespect us, then they should face the full force of the law.

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If a protester destroys a British flag or desecrates a monument or statue, they should face a lengthy jail sentence. Gone are the days when common decency prevailed. We are living in a time of simmering anger where people are now prepared to go to any lengths to promote their beliefs. Just Stop Oil, Fascists, Islamic Fundamentalists and Eco warriors; the list is endless, all have a history of damaging property.

In an ordered society, no one has a right to do this. British culture must be protected at all costs and the symbols of our freedom defended by robust laws that make outcasts of those who attack them.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Yorkshire.

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