Keir Starmer demands Rhodes row Oxford dons 'get on with their jobs'

‘Get on with your jobs’: Keir Starmer takes aim at Rhodes row Oxford dons after they refused to teach students

  • Sir Keir Starmer has demanded Oxford dons ‘get on with their jobs’ after they refused to teach students in a row over a statue of Cecil Rhodes
  • The Labour leader told academics it was unfair to punish ‘hard-hit’ students
  • Group of 150 lecturers threatened to stop tutorials for Oriel College students until statue is removed from its building

Sir Keir Starmer has demanded Oxford dons ‘get on with their jobs’ after they refused to teach students in a row over a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

The Labour leader told academics it was unfair to punish ‘hard-hit’ students in their quest to remove the colonialist.

He waded into the furore after 150 lecturers threatened to stop tutorials for Oriel College students until the statue is removed from its building.

When asked yesterday if he supported the dons, Sir Keir urged them to end their boycott immediately.

Sir Keir Starmer has demanded Oxford dons ‘get on with their jobs’ after they refused to teach students in a row over a statue of Cecil Rhodes

He told LBC News: ‘Get on with the job of teaching people. Let’s get our feet back firmly on the ground and teach the students. 

‘Students have been through hell in the last 18 months you know – cooped up in flats, six at a time, quite often all of them have got Covid because they’ve given it to one another. They have been amongst the hardest hit in the last 18 months.’

Oriel last month rejected calls to tear down the statue of Rhodes after an independent commission produced a review following the long-running Rhodes Must Fall campaign.

It is understood removing the statue would have been prohibitively expensive because of the likely legal battle involved in getting permission.

The college said it would instead spend money on improving the ‘day to day experience’ of ethnic minority students.

A group of 150 professors called on staff to stop holding tutorials for Oriel students until the statue of Cecil Rhodes (pictured) is removed

Critics say the monument of the wealthy imperialist – who is blamed for restricting the rights of black Africans in the 19th Century – causes offence to ethnic minorities.

An Oxford student in the 1870s, Rhodes left money to Oriel on his death in 1902 and his statue stands on the college’s building on Oxford High Street.

Oriel last week acknowledged the rebellion with ‘sadness’, and suggested the academics were abandoning their ‘duty of care’ for students.

Meanwhile, the boycott was condemned by Oxford’s vice chancellor, Louise Richardson, as well as universities minister Michelle Donelan.

Downing Street warned the college’s 300 students could be entitled to compensation if the university did not take ‘appropriate action’ to quell the rebellion.

Sir Keir’s strong stance comes after his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn condemned the statue and called for its context to be made more clear to the public.

He told student newspaper Cherwell: ‘Cecil Rhodes was racist.

‘He subjugated and killed large numbers of people in what became Rhodesia and eventually Zimbabwe and Zambia, and made a great deal of money out of diamond mining and others in South Africa.

‘I don’t see a need to venerate his life at all.’

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