A BUST of Winston Churchill has been removed from the Oval Office following President Biden’s assention to the top job in US politics, sparking a diplomatic row on his first day in office.
Downing Street has declined to criticise Joe Biden for removing a bust of Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, but the removal has caused worries among British MPs, with the move signalling a more difficult ‘special relationship’ with the UK.
The Prime Minister said in 2016 that Mr Obama’s removal of the sculpture “was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire”.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman on Thursday said a similar alteration by Mr Biden was “up to the president” after the Democrat took over the White House from Donald Trump.
The spokesman said: “The Oval Office is the president’s private office and it’s up to the president to decorate it as he wishes.
“We’re in no doubt of the importance that president Biden places on the UK and US relationship and the Prime Minister looks forward to having a close relationship with him.”
Mr Johnson was London mayor, during the EU referendum, when he criticised Mr Obama’s move as the then-president gave his support to the Remain campaign.
Mr Obama said he moved the bust of Britain’s wartime leader to a prominent spot outside his private office of his official residence, adding: “I love Winston Churchill.”
The statue loaned from the UK was reinstalled in the Oval Office by Mr Trump, but it is no longer on display after Mr Biden, who is of Irish heritage, was inaugurated on Wednesday.
Busts of civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, as well as labour leader Cesar Chevez, are now among those situated in the room, a symbol of US power.
Mr Johnson is keen to forge a close relationship with the new president, with some concerns his support for Brexit and Mr Trump may create friction.