Calls for Haringey to build statue or rename street after first Asian MP Sir Dadabhai Naoroji
PUBLISHED: 17:43 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:03 07 July 2020
Britain’s first Asian MP should be commemorated in Muswell Hill as part of the council’s Black Lives Matter review into public spaces, Haringey’s opposition says.
Sir Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) was elected to Parliament with a margin of five votes in 1892 as a Liberal Party MP for Finsbury Central – which at the time covered Muswell Hill.
As an anti-racism pioneer, Haringey Liberal Democrats say Naoroji should be celebrated with a statue or plaque in Muswell Hill, or have a public space renamed in his honour.
The call follows Haringey Council announcing a review of its public places following Black Lives Matter protests in June.
Naoroji Street in Clerkenwell, Islington, is named after Britain’s first Asian MP and Haringey’s opposition have called on its borough to follow suit.
Cllr Julia Ogiehor (Lib Dem, Muswell Hill) said: “In recent weeks, we have seen people claiming the likes of Cecil Rhodes didn’t know what they were doing was wrong because moral values were different back then.
“In fact, at the same time Rhodes was using his position as Prime Minister of the Cape to entrench White Supremacy, Naoroji was in Parliament condemning racism and colonialism.
“By remembering that Victorian voters were willing to choose an Indian campaigner against the Empire as their MP, we are remembering that whilst racism has a long history, so too does anti-racism.”
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Born in Bombay, India, Naoroji made his first visit to Great Britain in 1855, when he was shocked by its prosperity compared to India’s impoverishment.
In 1886, then Prime Minister Lord Salisbury said England wasn’t ready to elect a “Black man” following the late MP’s failed bid to win the seat of Holborn.
Six years later Naoroji won the public vote and campaigned for India’s independence from the British Empire, whose colonial rule he argued was “bleeding” his homeland to death.
Suraj Bhanot, Hornsey and Wood Green Conservatives’ chairman, said Naoroji deserves to be recognised for his “groundbreaking” election.
He said: “It would serve as an example to those from ethnic minority backgrounds today whose paths to Parliament were paved by a man who made that first journey over a century ago.”
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West said there is “not nearly enough” recognition of Black and minority ethnic leaders.
She called for the hosting of local exhibitions and permanent displays to honour anti-racism pioneers such as Naoroji.
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, Haringey Council’s leader, said a discussion on how to memorialise historical figures is “long overdue” and that the proposal for Naoroji will be considered as part of the town hall’s public spaces review.
To contribute to the review or to nominate someone who should be celebrated, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To read a historic biography of Naoroji by Dinyar Patel in the BBC click here.
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