Statue of former PM boarded up over fears it will be confused with slave trade advocate

A group of men stand beside the boarded up statue of Sir Robert Peel in Tamworth on Saturday. (PA)

Authorities in Staffordshire have been forced to board up a statue of former prime minister Sir Robert Peel over fears he could be mistaken for a slave trade advocate.

Council leaders in Tamworth fear that protesters could deface the monument believing it to be Sir Robert’s father, also named Robert Peel, who opposed the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill.

The statue, which stands outside Tamworth town hall, was erected in memory of Sir Robert who fought for much of his political career for the abolition of slavery.

It comes after statues across UK were vandalised earlier this week during Black Lives Matter protests.

Tamworth council leader Daniel Cook told BBC News :"Given the current national focus on memorials, including statues of Robert Peel, we feel it necessary to take extra precautions to protect Tamworth's 167-year-old Peel monument for the time being and fence it off.

"The Tamworth MP and former prime minister Robert Peel depicted in the Tamworth statue was anti-slavery and supported its abolition, and it is widely felt he has been confused with his father, who opposed the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill."

Sir Robert Peel served as prime minister from 1834 to 1835 and again from 1841 to 1846 and was instrumental in bringing debates about slavery into the Commons.

His statue has sat outside Tamworth town hall since his death in 1850 and was funded by local people in gratitude for his efforts in Westminster to help them.

Tamworth’s MP Christopher Pincher said “threats” against the statue “helped no-one”, but said protests should go ahead so long as they are conducted peacefully.

“Robert Peel statue being covered to protect it from agitators who can’t get their history right,” Pincher said.

“The Council is doing this because of the threat to the statue and man of whom we are all proud. These threats help no one, but distract from a message of peaceful protest.

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