No More Touching Statues of Churchill & Others in Commons Lobby
London: The statues of former prime ministers that frame the Member’s Lobby of the House of Commons have been placed off-limits. “Four statues (Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and David Lloyd George) are seriously under threat due the tradition of touching the toes of the statues for good luck,” Melanie Unwin, the House’s Deputy Curator, reported to the cross-party Works of Art Committee. The tradition of MPs tapping the toe of the Churchill statue before entering the Commons chamber has been ongoing since the work by Oscar Nemon was unveiled in 1970. Resulting damage to the statue became a concern in 2006. Now, however, the other three statues are also endangered. Labour MPs began paying their respects to the Attlee statue while Liberals adopted Lloyd George as their touchstone. Although the statue of Lady Thatcer was only put up in 2007, it too is already showing serious wear.
“There are now cracks and small holes on the surface of the Churchill statue, and substantial loss of surface texture on the other statues,” Unwin testified. The committee decided that “Do not touch” signs will be used while the House is sitting. Additionally, barriers may be installed around the “internationally important artworks” to keep people away entirely. Quite apart from MPs, members of the public and VIPs touring the Houses of Parliament have regularly followed the tradition of rubbing the toes of the statues. Now, though, it appears everyone will be out of luck.