NO BANKNOTES OF COLOUR: The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, announced that WWII codebreaker Alan Turing will feature on the new £50 note
CAMPAIGNERS WHO urged the Bank of England to choose a black, Asian or minority ethnic figure for the new £50 have said they are disappointed by a decision that has failed to address the lack of racial diversity on British banknotes.
WWII codebreaker Alan Turing has been chosen as the new face of the £50 note, which will enter circulation by the end of 2021.
A person from a black or minority ethnic has never appeared on a Bank of England note in the institution’s 324-year history.
Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and The Weald, was a vocal advocate of the campaign to get a BAME figure on the new note. In April she presented a ten minute rule bill in Parliament urging the Bank of England to rectify the lack of representation of BAME people on banknotes.
Speaking to The Voice about today’s announcement, Grant said: “I am, of course, disappointed that the Bank of England have not supported the #BanknotesOfColour campaign by choosing a person of colour as the face of the new £50 note. I do feel this represents a missed opportunity to send a message from one of the greatest institutions in the land that the contribution of diverse communities to the building of Britain really does matter and is truly valued.”
Despite believing the Bank of England missed an opportunity, Grant was keen not to dismiss the significance of celebrating Turing’s achievements.
“We should not let our disappointment diminish from the brilliance of Alan Turing. He is a national hero, from the LGBT community, who is fully deserving of this special recognition,” she said.
Campaigner Patrick Vernon of the #BanknotesOfColour project told The Voice also agreed that while it was positive that the bank had embraced diversity in once sense, it was a shame that it had failed to rectify the historic lack of BAME representation.
“On one level it’s great the bank have, in terms of diversity objectives, selected Alan Turing, who is a war hero and also a person from the LGBT community who’s been overshadowed for many decades, so I think it’s great that we recognise that,” he told The Voice.
Vernon and his co-campaigner Zehra Zaidi worked for months to garner support and petition the Bank of England to put a BAME person on the £50 note. They had even suggested that the note could feature two figures – one on each side, one BAME person and one LGBT person.
Vernon, who personally wanted Mary Seacole to be chosen as the face of the new note and the first black person to be honoured in this way, said that he and others fear there may never be another redesign of the banknote. The new Alan Turing £50 note is the last of the Bank of England’s collection to be changed from paper to polymer.
“There may not be a future banknote. They might just simply reissue the current people, which means that for the last 400 years the bank has been issuing banknotes, they’ve never had a person of colour on at all – which is pretty outrageous,” he said.
He added: “Having banknotes representing the diversity of Britain from a race equality perspective would have made a lot of difference. Also, it would have meant that the bank acknowledged its past, because the Bank of England, historically, has a close relationship with the slave trade.
“Not only was the Bank of England overseeing this financial economy during the slave trade, a number of the governors also had plantations in the Caribbean.”
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