I don’t think it is a great idea to use historical parallels as a guide to present day actions. Just because things played out a particular way back then there’s no reason they should do so again in the same way. And worse than that, historical parallels can be very bad guides to action. For example, the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden described Egyptian president Nasser as another Hitler to justify invading Egypt to take control of the Suez canal. Continue reading
Category Archives: History & Current Affairs
This is an unedited first draft – I’ll tidy it up later.
I am very impatient about Brexit. I really want the process to start and to get us outside of the EU as quickly as possible. My reasoning for this is quite simple. I want to get back in. At the moment if you complain about leaving the EU when the decision has been made to leave it you sound a bit pathetic. The argument has been had and my side has lost it. It is quite reasonable for people to say we should move on. And indeed we should. I am not looking forward to leaving, but it does have the consolation that when we are outside people campaigning to get back in will be the radical outsiders and the outers will be the establishment. (Actually I think they always were the establishment, but being opposed to the status quo gave them a sort of faux radicalism.) Continue reading
A book I read a long time ago suddenly seems more interesting than it has for many years. Back in 1985 I was a Labour Party activist. I had other things on my mind at the time and it wasn”t a huge part of my life in the way that it was for some of the other activists I met. But I went to meetings. I was briefly a secretary of a ward branch (sounds a lot more important than it actually was). I used to go out leafletting and canvassing. And this being the eighties, I was also involved in internal party debates. Continue reading
History is the story of real people’s lives and I am now old enough for the early part of my life to count as history – and that sometimes gives current news stories a poignant context. In the late eighties I was working in a medium sized engineering company which used a lot of steel. One of my workmates was then in his sixties and was an absolutely incorrigible old Tory while also being an absolute font of knowledge about engineering. He was also tremendously interested in metallurgy and was very interested indeed in the British steel industry. As such he was very keen indeed in one of the Thatcher government’s more minor projects, the sale of the nationalised British Steel. Continue reading
Things get pretty mixed up over the course of 1600 years, but there is a smidge of the blood of Alfred the Great in the veins of Prince Andrew. In fact he has some kind of relationship to most of the occupants of the English throne. And while some of them are admirable human beings, the plain fact is that there are some monsters in there too. They really don’t constitute a great advert for family values in the round. Some of them took mistresses in a raffish and charming way, like say Charles II. Others would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. Henry VIII even started a new religion so he could marry who he chose, and later was quite prepared to cut former wives heads off to avoid all the bother of a divorce. George II managed to devote almost his entire energies during his reign to his mistresses. Continue reading
We have been here before of course. In March 1962 the Liberals sensationally captured the supposedly safe Conservative seat of Orpington. On the very same day elsewhere in the country they turned in a swing of 22% in a safe Labour seat, leaving the official opposition looking distinctly short of voter support even though they did manage to hang on to their seat. A new dawn had arrived of three party politics. Continue reading
At time of writing the Liberal Democrats are gathering in Glasgow for their last conference before the 2015 election. Conventional wisdom amongst the political commentators and pollsters is that they are looking at an election where they are likely to lose about half their seats. Even that isn’t as bad as it could have been. Had the proportional representation measure they proposed early in the parliament gone through they would have struggled to get anyone back to Westminster. Continue reading
The Romans fought three wars against the Carthaginians. The first two were deadly battles between great empires, but the third was simply a siege. The Romans found a pretext and used their superior forces to surround Carthage. The encirclement lasted four years. The Carthaginians defended themselves for as long as they could. But it was hopeless. Ultimately with the Romans in control of the land and the sea around the city there was only ever going to be one outcome. When the Romans finally broke in they killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. The city was destroyed and the ground ploughed up and sprinkled with salt to prevent a settlement of the area again. Continue reading
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant has got himself into a bit of trouble over the last couple of days by saying on Twitter that he didn’t dare appear in an interview with a female human rights campaigner for fear of being unable to prevent himself from punching her ‘in the throat’. It was a vulgar thing to write and predictably enough led to a bit of storm in the media. In the short run it gave David Cameron, who has a knack for these things, the opportunity to disown Fabricant and show himself to be a decent man. Privately he probably welcomed the chance to detoxify the Tories a bit. In the longer run it will be a bit more of a nudge to women who don’t like being hit and and men who don’t approve of hitting them that the far right isn’t the place they want to be. Continue reading
Politics should be about principles and policy. Inevitably it is also about personalities. Ideally it shouldn’t be about propaganda. If you believe in something you shouldn’t want to win a point by misleading someone.
In the eighties and nineties the Liberal Democrats used to engage in what they called pavement politics. This involved focusing their efforts in particular areas where they thought they had the best chance of being successful. This involved one particularly underhand tactic. In areas where the Conservatives were strong they would do their best to ‘squeeze’ the Labour vote by putting out leaflets pointing out that Labour couldn’t win. This was often done in local council wards where Labour in fact certainly could win, and from time to time where they actually did win. Continue reading