Abandon tokenistic twaddle and do something real to help BAME students

Liverpool should concentrate more on practical help for BAME communityies within which they work and less on tokenistic gestures

Yesterday I accused Liverpool University of tokenistic twaddle over its decision to remove the name of Gladstone from the Greenbank Halls of residence.

Gladstone became Prime Minister 35 years after slavery was abolished in Britain and the British Empire. He did so many things which effectively began the creation of the welfare state; he is the only PM to be born in Liverpool and the only PM to have that position on 4 separate occasions.

Did he get everything right? No he was a product of his times which can only be considered and not rewritten.

I have suggested that the University ought to follow the example of the Council when we resolved unanimously at our January Council Meeting to explain Liverpool’s past roles with appropriate plaques and descriptors so that people can discuss the problems of slavery and Britain’s role in it.

I’ve asked all three Liverpool universities to do practical things within their institutions to end the discrimination which can be seen in the areas where they have their main academic campuses. My letter to them suggest three things that they could do but there are many more.

Interestingly, I got a quick email back from the University saying that they were only consulting on the name change. However, they failed to mention my requests for action at all. This just confirms my view that the University was looking for some cheap publicity rather than being prepared to get to grips with problems in the areas where they predominantly work.

The full letter is attached:

Cllr Kemp can be contacted on 07885 626913

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

16, Dovedale Road,

Liverpool L18 1DW


Colm Toibin,


Liverpool University

By E-mail

                        10th June 2020

Dear Mr Toibin,

Re: Gladstone Halls, Liverpool 18

I have been contacted today by the media in connection with a report that Liverpool University has decided to remove the name Gladstone Hall from its residential campus in Greenbank Road.

If this is true I can only condemn what I regard as tokenistic twaddle on the back of justifiable rage regarding the conditions of people of colour in the UK. AS an organisation which has some pretension to academic acclaim a little basic research would have shown you that:

·         William Ewart Gladstone is the only Prime Minister born in Liverpool

·         He is the only person to have been Prime Minister on 4 occasions.

·         He did much to abolish laws which treated working people with contempt, left them with no rights and no food. As such many of the things that he did led to the formation of the welfare state.

·         He first became Prime Minister in 1868 35 years after slavery was abolished in Britain and the Empire in 1833.

I urge you to reconsider this crass decision and do two things:

1.      Keep the name and provide an explanation nearby of who Gladstone was and what he did both good and bad so another opportunity is provided for people to understand the often dark past of the City and Country. This is what the Council agreed to do unanimously in January this year when we agreed a motion which agreed to use the names and the buildings of Liverpool connected with the slave trade to explain our past in an objective way. 

2.      Do something useful to try and deal with undoubted problems faced by the BAME community in this City and others. All three Liverpool Universities have the majority of the academic campuses in Liverpool 1 3 and 8 which are areas of great poverty and high numbers of people from ethnic minorities. You could:

·         Endow a scholarship in the name of George Floyd where, on an annual basis, an award could be presented to encourage students of colour to research and publish the facts about our City’s and our Country’s past.

·         Work with the schools around you and set up better pathways programmes to support BAME young people into University.

·         Establish outreach programmes when your academics and students at all levels could do things within the deprived communities in the way that the Liverpool University Settlements used to do in North and South Liverpool.

These are just some of the ideas that you could look at. I am sure that there are more and indeed better ones. As this is a challenge that I am setting to all our Universities I am copying this to the other Chancellors and Vice Chancellors.

The time has come when words and gestures are not enough. Your University needs to start acting alongside the Council and others to correct generations of discrimination in the communities within which you undertake your business.

I would be more than happy to have a discussion with you or your staff at any time to further this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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