Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said a diversity candidate for the £50 note will be considered after pressure from campaigners.
In a letter to campaigners who have been pushing for the first black or ethnic minority public figure to be on a banknote, he highlighted the possibility of pioneering scientist Mary Seacole appearing on the note.
Campaigners have been pushing for the Bank to put the first black or ethnic minority person on a banknote – and fear that as we move into a cashless society, the new £50 note will be the last ever issued.
There has been great momentum behind the campaign, with over 100 cross-party MPs, Lords and Ministers signing an open letter, organised by Helen Grant MP, urging the Bank of England to choose an ethnic minority.
After Treasury minister Robert Jenrick told the Telegraph of his hopes for an ethnic minority choice this weekend, Mark Carney has responded.
While he mentioned the possibility of pioneering black nurse Mary Seacole appearing on the note, he said that the Bank will not change the shortlist, which is predominantly filled by white, male scientists.
He told campaigners in a letter: “Over the 6 week nomination period we received 227,299 nominations covering 989 eligible scientists.
“The list of eligible characters has now been published and it demonstrates the wealth of significant scientific achievements that deserve celebrating – including Mary Seacole’s inspirational role in nursing, specifically during the Crimean war. Importantly, it also serves to highlight the huge range of individuals that have contributed to science in the UK across all dimensions of diversity.”
However, campaigners have been displeased by the response, as the Governor still refused to rule out a white scientist being chosen.
Zehra Zaidi, who is leading the Banknotes of Colour campaign, replied: “Our public institutions should reflect modern Britain. It is not political correctness but historical accuracy to reflect that Britain has always been a global country. People from across Empire, and later the Commonwealth, made this country their home and contributed greatly to its development.
“With Brexit looming, it is more important than ever to value these historical and cultural ties as we embark on new trading relationships. It is internationalism and the very diversity of the British workforce that has given the City of London a key advantage as a financial centre. Other central banks, like Canada and New Zealand, seeking to bridge the past, present and future of their respective countries, have put the first ethnic minority face on a banknote.
“On 16 February 2018, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick MP backed our campaign in the Telegraph. This followed a cross-party letter led by Helen Grant MP, the Conservative Vice-Chair for Communities, urging the Bank of England to act. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, replied yesterday by letter, stating that “the Bank takes its commitment to diversity very seriously, and that diversity issues are actively considered at every stage of the character selection process”. However, this is not reflected in the results so far.
“The £50 note is the last in the current series of banknotes to change from paper to polymer. After the 2013 campaign for gender representation that culminated in the Jane Austen £10 polymer note, our campaign hoped that the Bank of England would be more receptive to arguments around ethnic minority representation. It has simply not taken our submissions on board.”