University condemns ‘defacement’ as employee accused of egging Thatcher statue

The University of Leicester said the matter was being addressed in line with its procedures.

16 May 2022

A university has said it “does not condone defacement” after one of its staff members was accused of egging a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

Jeremy Webster, who is deputy director at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre, is alleged to have been responsible for the incident which happened shortly after the memorial’s installation in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on Sunday morning.

Three eggs were thrown at the monument by a man in a white t-shirt with a cry of “oi” heard after one hit its target.

The university said the matter is being addressed “in line with (their) own procedures.”

Lincolnshire Police said no arrests had been made on Sunday in connection with the incident, but they did receive a report of criminal damage shortly afterwards.

The statue was lowered into place in the town amid previous threats of “egg throwing” and was booed by passing motorists.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher Statue
A man in a white t-shirt throws eggs at a statue of Baroness Thatcher (Joe Giddens/PA)

In February 2019, a planning committee unanimously voted in favour of the £300,000 statue – which was originally intended for Parliament Square in Westminster.

Webster is alleged to have been seen holding an egg carton in one hand and preparing to throw an egg from the other on Sunday.

Egg residue and a piece of shell could be seen on the statue’s lower half.

Police turned up at the scene within minutes of the incident.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher Statue
A statue of Baroness Thatcher was lowered into place on Sunday (Joe Giddens/PA)

Kerry Law, chief marketing and engagement officer at the University of Leicester, said: “The University of Leicester has a long-standing history of supporting art, fostering creativity and protecting creative freedom.

“It does not condone any form of defacement and takes any act of defacement extremely seriously.

“This matter will be addressed in line with the university’s own procedures.”

Two CCTV cameras have been installed around the memorial to combat any threats of vandalism, the local council said.

Reports originally presented to South Kesteven District Council showed the statue was moved to the area due to fears of a “motivated far-left movement… who may be committed to public activism”.

After a large-scale £100,000 unveiling ceremony was approved by the council in 2020, a Facebook group proposing an “egg-throwing contest” at the event attracted interest from more than 13,000 people.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher Statue
Two CCTV cameras have been installed around the statue (Joe Giddens/PA)

Around 2,400 others visited the Facebook page to say they would go to the event featuring “egg throwing … and potentially graffiti art”.

After its installation, passing motorists loudly booed the monument, with one shouting “Tear it down” and another saying “This is no good for Grantham, is it?”

Before planning permission was given to the statue, the only marking of Baroness Thatcher in the town was a plaque on the corner of North Parade and Broad Street to show where she was born.

A council spokesman said the Public Memorials Appeal, which funded the monument through donations, will host an official unveiling ceremony at a later date.

Leader of South Kesteven District Council Kelham Cooke said: “We must never hide from our history,” adding it is “appropriate the debate that surrounds her legacy takes place here in Grantham”.

The statue, standing at just over 20ft high, is situated in between two existing statues of Sir Isaac Newton and Frederick Tollemache in the town’s Civic Quarter.

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