Richard Drax – the MP who hides behind his wall

A wealthy MP

Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, is the wealthiest landowner in the House of Commons, worth an estimated £130m. (1) Within Dorset, only the National Trust owns more land than South Dorset’s MP. (2)

Family’s wealth historically derived from the labour of slaves

Richard Drax’s great wealth is derived from his family’s historic involvement in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The Drax family pioneered the use of African slaves on to cultivate sugar on their plantations in Barbados and Jamaica rather than white indentured servants: a model soon replicated across the Caribbean and in the southern states of America. (3)

Drax Hall

Richard Drax still owns the family’s ancestral slave plantation, comprising 621 acres, Drax Hall, situated on the island of Barbados.

Workers on the plantation allegedly earn as little as £24 a day, half the average wage in Barbados. (4)

The call for reparation and restitution

The people of Barbados call for reparation and restitution. Trevor Prescod, Barbadian Labour MP and Minister of the Environment, has spoken to members of the South Dorset Constituency Labour party of their campaign for reparation and restitution.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, spoke to members of the Swanage and Rural Purbeck Branch of the historic crimes against humanity perpetrated by Drax’s ancestors.

Sir Hilary, Chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, described Drax Hall as a “killing field”.

His words strike to the heart of the matter: “when I drive through the Drax Hall land and its environs, I feel a keen sense of a massive killing field with unmarked cemeteries. Sugar and Black Death went hand in glove. Black life mattered only to make millionaires of English enslavers and the Drax family did it longer than any other elite family.”

Sir Hilary estimates that 30,000 enslaved Africans died in Jamaica and Barbados cultivating sugar on plantations owned by Richard Drax’s ancestors. (5)

Yet Richard Drax refuses to engage with the people of Barbados or with their representatives.

The March Against Slavery

On July 17, 2021, Dorset Stand Up to Racism held a well-attended March Against Slavery outside the gates of Richard Drax’s estate in Dorset, Charborough Park.

The March was live streamed by the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. Nigel Costley, of the SW TUC, fully supported the March and its objectives. Dianne Abbot sent a message of support.

Frances O’ Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, spoke at the March calling upon Richard Drax to make reparation and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Calls for Richard Drax to show moral leadership

Live-streamed from Barbados, the Labour MP and Minister for the Environment, Trevor Prescod said: “Drax Hall witnessed terrible pain and suffering – and (the Barbadian) people today still experience disadvantage that is the outcome of generations of slavery.

We ask Mr Drax to show moral leadership and to discuss with us how to address the legacy of chattel slavery.”

Grafton Straker of Dorset Unite, who grew up in Barbados, spoke outside one of the gates of the estate. He said that as a child he was taken to plantations for days out, “but we were never told about the horrors of slavery”. (6)

Dorset Stand Up to Racism has repeatedly asked Richard Drax to meet with them so they could hand him a statement.

As with Sir Hilary Beckles and Trevor Prescod they have had no response.

On August 23, 2021, the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was observed by Dorset Stand Up to Racism outside Charborough Park.

This is a personal and private matter

Recently, Grafton, who is co-Chair of Dorset Stand Up to Racism and a member of the South Dorset Constituency Labour Party, telephoned Richard Drax’s office in order to meet with MP and discuss with him the issue of reparation and restitution.

Richard Drax does not hold regular, calendared, Constituency Surgeries in Weymouth or Swanage. Constituents wishing to see him must ring for an appointment to meet him at the Dorset Green Technology Park, formerly known as the Winfrith Technology Centre, located within what was once an Atomic Energy Establishment.

Unlike the former MP for South Dorset, Jim Knight, now a Labour Peer, Richard Drax appears to be seldom in close contact with his constituents or their Councillors

Richard Drax replied in a letter to Grafton saying that he did “not engage in discussions on private and personal matters”: “on this occasion” he wrote, “I am unable to offer you an appointment”.

Shaista Aziz, journalist and Oxford City Labour Councillor, seeing the letter, makes the obvious point: “seeking accountability from an MP who represents you isn’t a ‘private’ or ‘personal’ matter”.

Shirking of responsibility

Perhaps Richard Drax’s response to Grafton should come as no surprise. In 2010 he was asked by the Daily Mirror about his historical responsibility.

He replied: “I can’t be held responsible for something that happened 300 or 400 years ago” (7)

But surely Sir Hilary Beckles’ words strike home:

“It is no answer for Richard Drax to say it has nothing to do with him when he is the owner and the inheritor (of Drax Hall) … (he) should pay reparations”.

David Comissiong, Barbados ambassador to CARICOM is also clear as to the question of accountability:

“This was a crime against humanity … You can’t simply walk away from the scene of the crime”. (8)

No champion for his constituents

Our MP has shown himself not only blind to the crimes of his ancestors, but to the pressing concerns of so many of his constituents.

Wages in Portland are amongst the lowest in the United Kingdom: social mobility likewise: housing unaffordable and local public health services are being eviscerated.

Members’ Register of Interests

Paul Lashmar, Head of Journalism at City University, has reported in the Mirror and Guardian how Richard Drax’s entries in the Members’ Register of Interests have needed attention: it seems that the MP has at times, allegedly, been tardy or remiss in recording accurately all his assets. (9)

An open wound

Lock down denier, Brexiteer, wealthy and entitled: when will Richard Drax – real name – Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax – come out from behind his wall and heal the open wound created by his continuing ownership of Drax Hall?

With personal wealth estimated at £130m he could easily afford it …


1 – The Guardian, 4 April 2021, Wealthy MP with slave trade links failed to publish accounts for four of his firms, Paul Lashmar and Jonathon Swift

2 – Who owns England? – The ten landowners who own one-sixth of Dorset

3 – Reparations must be made for the toxic legacy of West Indian Slavery, Thom Cross, The National, 5 July 2020

4 – Tory MP raking in cash from sugar plantation where thousands died during slave trade, Mirror, Paul Lashmar, Jonathon Smith & Alan Selby, 12 December 2020

5 – see: Note 4

6 – Protestors demand wealthy MP pays up for family’s slave trade past, The Observer, 18 July 2021, Paul Lashmar

7 – Wealthy MP urged to pay up for his family’s slave trade past, The Observer, 12 December 2020, Paul Lashmar & Jonathon Smith

8 – see: Note 4

9 – see: Note 1