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London's Mayor aims to oust war heroes' statues
LONDON, England -- London's elected socialist mayor is at the centre of a controversy over Britain's military heritage.
Ken Livingstone has called for the removal of two statues of 19th century generals situated in the capital's Trafalgar Square.
Livingstone, who became the city's first elected mayor earlier this year, says that while most people know Admiral Horatio Nelson, who stands atop the square's column, hardly anyone knows who Major General Sir Henry Havelock and General Sir Charles James Napier were.
The statues of the two generals, who were once bathed in the glory of the British Empire after distinguishing themselves in battle, flank Nelson's column but now face being removed.
On Friday, as tourists gathered in the square and fed the pigeons under the gaze of Havelock, few were aware of their uncertain future.
One woman from New Zealand said: "It would be a shame if they are moved, but actually I didn't even notice them."
"I've got no idea who these guys are but they look great," said U.S. tourist Carol Tynan from Ohio. "Why take them down?"
Sir Henry Havelock (1795-1857), whose statue was erected in Trafalgar Square by public subscription in 1861, served in the Burmese and Afghan wars.
He is also known for his efforts during the Indian Mutiny and as a member of the 78th Highlanders regiment.
General Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853) fought in the Peninsula War against Napoleon and in major battles close to Hyderabad.
Livingstone, who admits to not knowing who the two generals are or what they did, said: "I imagine that not one person in 10,000 going through Trafalgar Square knows any details about the lives of those two generals.
"It might be that it is time to look at moving them and having figures on those plinths that ordinary Londoners and people from around the world would know."
An indignant Evening Standard -- London's daily newspaper -- accused the mayor of "old-fashioned socialist populism" and said he was forgetting something important -- history.
Another critic, Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative shadow minister for London, branded the plan "another example of left-wing politicians trying to bash Britain."
He said: "Last week, the politically correct left accused the word 'British' of being racially coded.
"This week Livingstone is trying to erase a fundamental part of our nation's heritage from the heart of our capital city."
No contenders have been named to replace Havelock or Napier and Livingstone says he remains open to suggestions about their future location and what should replace them.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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