Today Ken Livingstone uses his regular Guardian Comment is Free column to explain why next Sunday he’ll be apologising for “London’s role” in slavery.
In his article Livingstone calls the British government’s refusal to apologise “squalid” but why should anyone alive apologise for a system of slavery they had no part in creating? No-one would seek to claim credit for slavery’s abolition so why does Mr Livingstone feel the need to apologise and berate the Government for not doing so?
The Mayor seeks to bolster the case for an apology with the statement: “Germany apologised for the Holocaust” but the Holocaust is an event which took place in living memory and which directly affected people still alive today. It’s difficult to see how the same is true of slavery.
The presumption that a person’s colour made them less deserving of what we now term ‘human rights’ than a white man or that the trade in people based on their skin colour could ever be justified was clearly wrong but society corrected that when it abolished the slave trade.
London and this Mayor have a proud, but not perfect, record of modern day racial integration. Neither should be apologising for events they played no part in.
It’s not even clear who we’re being asked to apologise to. Is it to the slaves who are long dead? To their descendants who are no more affected by the legacy of slavery than white Londoner’s are responsible for it’s creation? To the African nations who today include some of the most persistent abusers of Human Rights?
Even less clear is who the Mayor is apologising on behalf of. All Londoners which may include the descendants of slaves? White Londoners whose ancestors may or may not have played any part in the trade?
One thing I am clear on, when the Mayor issues his apology he won’t be speaking for me.