Reparations for Barbados

On Saturday 17th July 2021, a rally took place outside of Charborough Park, the Dorset home of Richard Drax, M.P., to call for Mr Drax to pay reparations to the people of Barbados.

In December 2020, The Observer and the Sunday Mirror revealed that Mr Drax was worth an estimated £150 million due to property ownership. Amongst interests was a 621 acre Barbados sugar plantation, where from 1640 to 1838, his family profited from the work of slaves.

Over the last year, Stand Up to Racism groups around the country hosted speakers from universities in the Caribbean and the Barbadian parliament. When Barbadian professor Sir Hilary Beckles spoke at a Dorset Stand up to Racism meeting on “The Drax Heritage and Legacy”, some attending Liberal Democrats asked the constituency party to get involved.

The South Dorset Liberal Democrat Executive discussed this issue at length. Amongst the many points made were the following:

  • Our approach should not be about hounding Mr Drax. It should be about asking him to do something to right past wrongs. 
  • Mr Drax is not being singled out for the actions of his ancestors. He currently owns the property in question. His vast personal property wealth results from the slave trade and the payments to former slavers from mid-Victorian times until the 1950s. These are live, ongoing issues.
  • Mr Drax is our M.P. He is accountable to us.

The Executive decided to provide all South Dorset members with the opportunity to hear a Barbadian M.P. talk about the issue. After the presentation, the members would have a chance to vote on whether the constituency party should sign the letter written to Mr Drax by the Dorset Stand Up to Racism group that calls for the return of the Drax Hall Estate to the people of Barbados.

On the night, the Barbadian M.P. had to attend an emergency parliamentary session. Still, one of his associates was able to tell us more about the estate and how the islanders viewed it. We learnt that the Barbadian Drax estate currently employs between 40 and 50 people in poor working conditions. If Mr Drax gave Drax Hall to the people of Barbados as reparations, they hope to turn it into a museum to tell the island’s history.

After the meeting, the South Dorset Liberal Democrats held a secret ballot. A large majority of South Dorset members attending favoured signing the Dorset Stand Up to Racism letter.

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