Tag Archives: history

Deserving of more than a footnote: George Watson and The Unservile State

The Unservile StateThe announcement that the Cambridge academic George Watson had left the Liberal Democrats £950,000 in his will was one of the most surprising political stories of 2014.

George Watson was a distinguished literary scholar and a lifelong Liberal. After working for the European Commission as a translator and interpreter during the 1950s he became a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1961 and remained there until he retired in 1990. As a scholar, he was known for serious bibliographical work, spirited polemics, and a traditional approach to literary criticism. He also made two forays into electoral politics, contesting Cheltenham in 1959 and Leicester in the 1979 European Election.

Watson is perhaps best remembered by Liberal Democrats, however, as the editor of The Unservile State – a 1957 volume billed as ‘the first full-scale study of the attitudes and policies of contemporary British Liberalism since the famous Yellow Book’ of 1928.

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Michael Moore reselected for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Michael Moore MP with apprentices Cameron Collins and Mark Tully at Mainetti 30 08 1349 years ago today, the Liberal Party created a political earthquake in the Borders when David Steel won the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election as the Liberal Democrat History Group remembers:

In the winter of 1963-64 a vacancy arose for a Liberal candidate in the much more winnable Scottish Border seat of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, whose Conservative incumbent, C. E. M. Donaldson, was elderly and ailing. Steel jumped at the chance to move and in January 1964 was adopted as the Liberal candidate. He failed to win the seat from the Conservatives at the general election of that year, but nonetheless moved his home to the Borders and took a short-lived job in television with the BBC. The death of Donaldson in December 1964 gave him his opportunity. Steel won the byelection in March of the following year with a handsome majority. He held the constituency (subsequently re-drawn and re-named Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) at the eight general elections from 1966 to 1992 before bequeathing the seat in 1997 to Michael Moore (q.v.) after more than thirty years in Parliament.

Twenty years after the by-election, David Steel announced he was stepping down as MP and Michael Moore was selected to fight the seat which he won in 1997.

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Five stories from five years – March 24th

Time, I think, to revive that part of the old Friday Five where we looked at what we were writing about on this day in previous years. Here are five posts from March 24th.

First up, a little Boris related schadenfreude from 2013: Boris has a right Mair in live BBC interview.

For most of the 10 minutes — and perhaps for the first time ever — Boris looked as if he would rather be anywhere else than beneath the glare of the TV lights. This was his reckoning, and he looked winded, lumbering like a past-his-prime former heavyweight champion. Only

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Opinion: A letter to Michael Gove

Dear Michael,

I hope this finds you well.

A confession.

Unlike Paxman, I’m a fan.

You’re an unusual Tory with unusual origins. And your passion to change education is laudable.

The 1960s Crosland reforms, implemented by your mentor Mrs Thatcher, were supposed to promote social mobility. The reality is mixed. Overall literacy and numeracy have improved. Higher education has become more accessible across class, gender and race.

But this has come at a cost. Some think general mediocrity is better than a few attaining excellence while the majority attain little. I think it’s still mediocrity. Employers lament school-leavers’ inadequate skills. Our performance in the Pisa education …

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Opinion: Politicians should keep out of history debates

Michael GoveMichael Gove’s intervention into the complex historical debate over the First World War was as bizarre as it was ignorant. Gove attacked ‘left wing historians’ for promoting the Blackadder (a satirical sitcom, not, unless I am mistaken, a documentary) viewpoint that thousands of young Brits were consigned to an early grave by an out of touch elite. The issue with Gove’s comments weren’t his interpretation of history, which is certainly arguable, but the idea that history and commemoration should be used to score political points.

It is the diversity of opinions and interpretations within historical scholarship which makes it such an interesting and enriching subject. One does not have to be a Marxist politically to appreciate the contribution Marxist historians have made to historical study, rather, these historians make up a small part of a multiplicity of opinions based on rigorous historical research.

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Opinion: Thanks to Simon Hughes and Liberal Democrat Voice for helping get Florence Nightingale back in history lessons

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has announced that Florence Nightingale will remain in the National Curriculum after all, reversing a decision earlier this year to boot her out.

I want to offer my hanks to Liberal Democrat Voice for letting me state my reasons why Nightingale should stay in earlier this year. Thanks also to Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, for his efforts in getting the decision re-examined. Liberal Democrats can take a particular pleasure in seeing a fellow Liberal re-instated. Florence Nightingale was a lifelong Liberal supporter, at a time when political allegiances were …

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Our politicians should be dull, worthy and never seen wearing a leopard print bra

Nelson TorsoWriting in today’s Daily Mail, Dominic Sandbrook rages against the cult of celebrity and declares that “the lines between politics and show business have become dangerously blurred.” Is he right?

Today is Trafalgar Day, a celebration of the victory of our nation’s greatest celebrities, Horatio Nelson. Many may be surprised to hear Nelson described as a celebrity rather than a hero, but a celebrity he was, and he so knew it.

When, on 14 September 1805, Nelson arrived at Portsmouth to board the Victory, he could not make his way to the ship due to the pressure of crowds who wanted to cheer off their national hero. Nelson did not misjudge his own fame. He was loved by the nation and he loved their adulation. He told Thomas Hardy as he left English soil for the last time:

I had their huzzas before, I have their hearts now.

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  • User AvatarPhil Wainewright 27th May - 12:12am
    Thank you Katherine for a bit of honest passion. It's a welcome antidote to the evidence-based pragmatism that LibDems feel obliged to practise. For goodness...
  • User AvatarMatt (Bristol) 27th May - 12:11am
    TCO, I agree that there is incoherent anger and rage. There is also focused, rational, well-articulated anger. And that should go hand-in-hand with clear policy-making....
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 27th May - 12:10am
    @ Glen, I find them refreshing.
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 27th May - 12:08am
    @ Stuart, I watch iplayer rather than the television. Whereas, my husband and I used to check the Sunday Times TV guide and decide on...
  • User AvatarGlenn 27th May - 12:08am
    Jane, Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 27th May - 12:00am
    ... grandfather.