Mystery as Oliver Cromwell's bust turned to face wall at Westminster
REVILED in Ireland as the `Butcher of Drogheda', England's former Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell has himself required a guardian at the heart of the parliament he treated with contempt during his rule.
Something of a civil war has developed at Westminster, with a historic bust of Cromwell was pointedly turned to face the wall.
The repositioning of the artwork, which sits in a House of Commons stairwell beside the Members' Tea Room, was discovered by Labour Party whips in December.
They took a picture of it and posted it on social media with the jocular question `Whodunnit'.
"Someone appears to have turned the bust of Oliver Cromwell in the Members' Tea Room corridor to face the wall," they wrote.
The head was initially left as it was.
However, two hours later, Liam Byrne's communications officer Harry Kind `took matters into his own hands', swivelling the artefact back, with his colleague, senior researcher Erik Cummins, posting another photograph, this time entitled `FTFY' (an acronym for `fixed that for you').
A few days later, staff in the Labour Whips' Office again discovered that the bust was facing the wall.
"I feel we may have stumbled into some underground, long-running war of attrition," they tweeted.
Left-wing commentator Kevin Maguire has now suggested that "a shadowy cell of MPs is suspected of turning a bust of the Lord Protector to face the wall in a belated protest against the 17th century `Butcher of Drogheda' massacring Ireland's Catholics".
However, the high-jinx have been brought to an end after the curator’s office - now understood to be responsible for its repositioning on subsequent occasions - installed a `please do not touch' sign.
Mr Maguire suggested that the "game of cat and mouse between parliamentary authorities and rebels with a grievance" may not end with "Old Ironsides... resting in peace on his plinth".
"Armed police shouldn’t shoot if they disturb a gang in balaclavas creeping about in the dead of night," he wrote.
"They'll be twisting Cromwell, not blowing the place up."
Parlimentarians have long reviled Cromwell, who may have been anti-monarchy, but he was no democrat.
After leading the parliamentary armies to victory over Charles I in the English Civil War, he found himself in sympathy with his erstwhile enemy's dislike of members self-regard and criticism, and closed them down.
After his death and with the restoration of the monarchy, his body was dug up, hung from a gibbet and beheaded before being buried in an unmarked grave in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
Former Alliance MP Naomi Long said she had "never noticed" the bust of Cromwell during her time in parliament.
"I know they had to put a guard up around a statute of Churchill because its toe was being worn away by people touching it for luck.