Rishi Sunak's panic over the Parthenon Sculptures and George Osborne's hidden role

Rishi Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's panic can be seen in every public expression lately, and the proof is that he does not even manage to handle the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures with the public opinion of Britain overwhelmingly supporting the fair demands of Greece. Having already in the past supported unfounded positions regarding the return of the Sculptors, breaking even with the Chairman of the Board of the British Museum on the matter, who has expressed his will to proceed with the discussions with the Greek side, Sunak was forced, as he could not even handle the issue, to cancel the meeting with the Greek Prime Minister.

The steep fall of him and his faction in the opinion polls, the scandal of dealing with the pandemic that recently came to light, the impasses in the refugee issue and the repeated unfortunate statements of Ministers are some of the problems that Sunak has to face during the fragile, as it seems, his tenure-and to these was now added the matter of the Parthenon Sculptures. After all, the situation favouring the Greek positions is not accidental.

It is characteristic that the newspaper Independent, in its publication a few days ago, precisely on November 16, 2023, claimed that the British Museum's talks with the Greek side have progressed significantly and to such an extent that we are talking about an original lending agreement, even putting on the table the Ancient Greek treasures that could be exhibited in the famous Bloomsbury museum in place of the Sculptures.

Let's not forget that the President of the British Museum, George Osborne, is a prominent figure in British political life, a former Tory chancellor with deep knowledge of the matter who had already leaked details of the deal to the British media a long time ago claiming that it was to the benefit of Britain and the museum itself to show goodwill and mutual benefit on the issue of reunification since, he insisted, it would be a win-win deal.

As the British sources say, it is about the exact details discussed during the meeting between the Greek Prime Minister and the leader of the official British Opposition, something that irritated Sunak.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's imminent victory is seen as almost inevitable, and it makes sense that the Greek prime minister is considering the day ahead - especially the return of the Parthenon Sculptures in talks with him.

As an anonymous government source told the Financial Times after the cancellation, “I bet what really pissed off Sunak was the Greek PM meeting with Starmer. He’s going to have to get used to it.”

Sunak has previously attempted to portray Starmer as a “woke” politician and argues that the Labour leader is being “reckless” even considering a deal involving the Parthenon sculptures.

But all he does is look panicky.

According to the newspaper, he thinks appearing noncommittal on the return issue will win over the more conservative and extreme Tories who oppose such a plan.

According to the Financial Times, "Sunak wants to present himself as a defender of the Parthenon Sculptures, displayed at the British Musefmitsum while portraying Sir Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour leader, as someone prepared to give them up."

Still, others want the British Prime Minister furious after Mitsotakis' statements and his interview with the BBC - at least that is what all the government sources cited by the British media claim, many of which, however, talk about yet another waterlog and indecency of the British Prime Minister.

In an interview with the BBC and the journalist Laura Künsberg, Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that it is not a matter of "returning" but of "reuniting" a leading work of art of humanity as you cannot admire these sculptures anywhere but in their natural space, asking that if we cut half of the Mona Lisa and half was in the Louvre what would happen?

Also, the Greek Prime Minister made it clear that the Sculptures were stolen goods, which is said to have greatly upset Sunak with the leaks and reports in the British media, such as the Independent, stating that there is no return for London and that the British prime minister will reject the call of his Greek counterpart for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Labour, who are apparently already in talks with the Greek prime minister, is talking about a government fiasco, stressing that Starmer has nothing to do with the matter and that "If the prime minister isn't able to meet with a European ally with whom Britain has important economic ties, this is further proof he isn't able to provide the serious economic leadership our country requires. Keir Starmer's Labour party stands ready."

What does the Greek Ministry of Culture say?

The Greek Ministry of Culture, at the same time that the Greek Prime Minister was defending the Greek positions regarding the return of the Sculptors, which are consistent with those expressed by Minister Lina Mendoni, was giving, for its part, its own answers regarding during the parliamentary scrutiny in Parliament arguing that the recent thefts of valuable treasures from the British Museum "destroys the last argument of the British Museum, that the sculptures of the Parthenon are safer there than in Greece".

As Lina Mendoni stated, "The government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis - and himself personally - has been working systematically and methodically for four and a half years now and has achieved a series of very positive developments in the national issue of the Parthenon sculptures, their claim and their definitive reunification in the Museum of the Acropolis" to conclude that "this is a very serious case which the Ministry together with the government is following closely."

With the scandals threatening to tarnish the reputation of the British Museum and the British government's unhinged positions no longer convincing even the last supporter of the Elginian positions, it stands to reason that there are no longer any arguments that Sunak could support publicly in a joint press conference with Mitsotakis.

After all, the condition for the meeting, which ultimately never took place, was that they would not make any joint statement, which would potentially embarrass the British Prime Minister and force him to adopt once again the hard-line logic he still adopts lastly in every area of ​​his policy.

Tina Mandilara is a columnist for Proto Thema.

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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