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Bruce Kent battles to preserve peacekeeper's statue

PUBLISHED: 09:44 18 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:41 07 September 2010

UNDER a mile from Eurostar s magnificent new terminal linking London and Paris stands a statue of a man who helped pave the way for the grand scheme

UNDER a mile from Eurostar's magnificent new terminal linking London and Paris stands a statue of a man who helped pave the way for the grand scheme.

Outside Mornington Crescent Underground station Richard Cobden's crumbling figure rises above the shoppers and commuters, many of whom will have no idea who he is, let alone the impact he had on Anglo-French relations.

Cobden, born in 1805, was one of a number of peace campaigners who pushed the traditionally warring nations to build closer economic ties.

A man who has taken great inspiration from Cobden is Britain's best known peace campaigner Bruce Kent.

And the honorary vice-president of CND is now leading the calls for Cobden's statue to be restored in honour of his influence.

He said: "People like Cobden are a great inspiration. People remember military history but they forget peace history too easily.

"Richard Cobden would have been pleased with the new St Pancras station because I don't think he would have approved of the train arriving in a station called Waterloo.

"He was in favour of anything that brought the two countries together and would have taken a ride on the Eurostar like a shot.

"He spent a lot of time in the 19th century in partnership with other people opposing wars. He was not a pacifist but he believed war was barbaric and unnecessary and if there were more economic links between countries like Britain and France then it could be avoided."

When the second French Empire was formed in 1851, panic spread through Britain that the country was about to be invaded by its neighbour across the Channel.

But Cobden, a former MP for Stockport, who had made a name for himself in his battle against the unpopular Corn Laws, made a series of speeches to Parliament trying to calm the passions of his countrymen.

His hard earned popularity went out of the window and he quickly became the most abused and ridiculed man in the country for his lack of patriotism.

But in the end Cobden was proved right and the seemingly inevitable war never came about.

And the fact that French Emperor Napoleon III helped pay for his statue is a sign of his standing across the channel.

Mr Kent said: "At the moment the statue does not do justice to him. It does not even have his first name on it, and the lettering is not clear.

"We want local people to take pride in it. Every year we organise a peace walk around London, passing the Hiroshima Tree and the statue of Gandhi in Tavistock Square and if they do something to the Cobden statue then we will definitely include it in the walk. Mornington Crescent is a great location because Camden is rich with local political figures."

The idea to give Cobden greater exposure has come from community group Camden Town Unlimited, which wants to revitalise the area around the underground Station and rename it Cobden Junction.

Camden Town Unlimited's director Simon Pitkeathley said: "A lot of what Richard Cobden stood for would resonate with people who live and work in Camden Town. I think that the regeneration of the south of the high street is key to developing more engagement with the local community.

"We are just beginning the process of trying to get it done."

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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