A MULTI-MILLION pound plan to revamp and upgrade the biggest single memorial to Cecil Rhodes in this city raises all the same questions, and a few more besides, that are raised by the statue of the man on High Street.

Can we celebrate the good done by a historic figure who also did things which were bad? How much should we judge historic figures by our modern standards? If a man’s legacy helped sustain an institution but we no longer like the man, is it right to keep spending his money (as it were) but bury his memory?

Unfortunately, at yesterday’s Oxford City Council planning meeting, not one of these questions was raised.

Indeed, for a council of which many members have previously called for the tiny statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College to be torn down, the silence at yesterday’s meeting about a huge, sprawling complex of buildings was deafening.

Because there is no doubt that Rhodes House on South Parks Road – a public edifice at the heart of our city – is a huge tribute to Cecil Rhodes: the official grade II* listing of the building specifically states that it ‘is a memorial to Cecil Rhodes’.

The Oxford Mail does not take a stance on the Rhodes Must Fall debate: we have said before that the only thing we hope is that the ongoing row provides an opportunity to talk; for everyone to explore the issues at hand and maybe even learn something about this famous man, the history of South Africa and British imperialism.

Instead, yesterday, there was silence.

Of course, this is how it should be at a city council planning meeting: planning committees across the country are repeatedly reminded – and often remind others – that they are solely charged with determining applications based on this country's planning laws – all other feelings and opinions are irrelevant.

However, when so many members of the council in question have previously shouted their contempt for Cecil Rhodes from the rooftops, it feels very odd now for no one to be saying a damned thing.