Bench plaque taking swipe at MP is removed

The plaque on the bench in the Egerton Lodge Memorial Gardens EMN-160606-125632001
The plaque on the bench in the Egerton Lodge Memorial Gardens EMN-160606-125632001

A plaque fixed to a park bench in Melton taking a swipe at Rutland and Melton MP the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan has been removed.

The plaque had been installed on a bench in the Egerton Lodge Memorial Gardens, opposite Sir Alan’s constituency office in High Street, by anonymous activists The Brass Monkey Club.

It said: “This bench is dedicated to the proud low achievers who have managed to retain their dignity, despite not being able to claim £5,000 on gardening expenses’.

Sir Alan sparked an angry backlash after he supposedly said that people who aren’t rich are ‘low achievers’ during an address in the House of Commons on April 11. At the time he was speaking in Parliament in response to the Prime Minister’s statement about his tax affairs.

But in his monthly column in the Melton Times, published in April, Sir Alan said his comments had been misunderstood and misinterpreted. He said he had been directing his criticism at Labour MPs sat opposite him and not at people watching at home. He also stressed that he didn’t think money was the only way to measure achievement and that he wasn’t criticising ordinary people.

The plaque’s ‘gardening expenses’ reference relates back to 2009 when it was revealed that Sir Alan had recouped more than £4,000 in expenses for work to his garden. He later stopped claiming for the work after agreeing that it could be construed as ‘excessive’.

On its Facebook page The Brass Monkey Club describes itself as ‘combatting unfair actions and corporate cruelty with humour and bits of rectangular metal and public furniture’.

The ad-hoc group has installed other satirical plaques in various other UK towns and cities and one in New York.

A spokesman for the group said: “We try and raise issues, local and national, through the medium of bench plaques. We are trying to light-heartedly raise attention to important issues. Some of our plaques are just meant to be funny rather than have a poke at someone.”

Mr Duncan declined to comment on the plaque.

A spokesman for the Melton Mowbray Town Estate, which owns the Egerton Lodge Memorial Gardens, said: “Melton Mowbray Town Estate is a non-political organisation. We would not comment on unauthorised statements on plaques or posters which the charity had not sanctioned or supported.

“The Memorial Gardens is a place for the people of Melton and its visitors to enjoy a time of quiet reflection and should be respected as such.

“The gardens, which are currently looking quite magnificent, are for those who wish to spend some time enjoying the lovely surroundings and remembering our local people who gave their lives during world conflicts.”