Leicester’s antisemite should stay, says MP

By Dana Gloger, September 26, 2008

One of the country's longest-serving Jewish parliamentarians and a leading academic have dismissed criticism of a council for displaying a statue of a 13th-century earl considered an antisemite.

The issue was reignited this week after a member of staff at Leicestershire County Council wrote to councillors asking them to justify the statue of Simon de Montfort in its foyer. The employee, who did not wish to be named, said a more appropriate figure could be found, and suggested the statue may make Jewish visitors and staff feel unwelcome.

But Lord Janner, who was MP for Leicester from 1970-97, said that the council's decision to display the statue of was "not a major issue". De Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, expelled Jews from the city in 1231.

Lord Janner said that when he was offered an honorary degree from the city's de Montfort University in 2005, he "gave it a lot of thought. In the end I decided to accept it as it would make him turn in his grave to know it had been given to someone Jewish."

University of Leicester historian Professor Aubrey Newman said the Jewish community "could not care less about this.

"De Montfort was an important person in Leicester's history and was no better or worse than anyone else from that era. I do not think it is an issue."

A spokeswoman for Leicestershire County Council said the statue would remain: "Simon de Montfort is not unique in the context of historical figures whose attitudes would not be tolerated by today's society."

She said the statue was as much a memorial to its sculptor, Sean Compton, a Second World War hero, as it was to de Montfort.

Last updated: 5:34pm, September 25 2008