It comes as a genuine shock, then, that a council has removed one of his paintings instead of calling in the valuers. Tendring district council says it destroyed the new painting that materialised in Clacton-on-Sea – where Tory defector Douglas Carswell is about to fight a byelection for his new party Ukip – after getting a complaint that it was “offensive and racist”. Was it?
Not in a million years. This is the best Banksy I have never seen: a clever and succinct satire on some currents of feeling in contemporary Britain, terrified of “migrants”, menaced by otherness. Far from being by any stretch of the imagination “racist”, it is – was – a witty putdown of the drab, dour vision of Britain touted by those who would push down diversity and hold back the tide of modern human movement.
Then again, the council’s story is at best incomplete – it did not have to instantly act on the reported complaint. Some will suspect its claim of racism is an excuse for removing a work it knows to be precisely the opposite. How convenient to use the language of political correctness to censor an anti-racist artwork.
I know one thing. Banksy suddenly matters again. He has created a powerful image of our prejudiced times. Far from a stupid mistake by a confused council, its destruction is a real and vicious act of censorship. Banksy has not been banned from Clacton-on-Sea because he is a racist. He has been suppressed because he exposed the truth.