Tag Archives: history

Our Liberal “Internationalism”, born in a period of party fragmentation, is now our uniting and unique selling point

When you consult books about Liberal and Liberal Democrat party history about the birth of our “Internationalism”, European “Federalism” and our thesis that stand-alone nationstates (and “narrow nationalism”) become more and more obsolete, you discover a surprising fact.

According to Michael Steed’s chapter “Liberal Tradition” in Don MacIver’s bundle “The Liberal Democrats” (from 1996), it was in the comprehensive policy survey “The Liberal Way” of 1934, that we stated that in future, “narrow nationalist” parties everywhere would face parties, the Liberals firmly among them, supporting the growing, factual interdependence as best policy basis. Philip Kerr, marquis of Lothian, said (1935): “the only final remedy for war is a federation of nations”. But personal guilt about having himself written the War Damages clause in the Versailles Treaty made Kerr become an  advocate of appeasement to Germany, a Liberal dissident, until the Munich Agreement.

Both Chris Cook’s history of the Liberals in 1900-’76, and Robert  Ingham & Duncan Brack’s authoritative bundle “Peace Reform & Liberation” (PRL; 2001) tell that this  “interdependence  makes collectivism better policy”-idea was formulated in a phase of disintegration of the Liberal party (the split about the 1931 National Government; desertions to the National Liberals and Labour; loss of seats).  

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

History doesn’t always have to be written by the victors

On 5th March 1770 outside the customs house on King’s Street, Boston, Private Hugh White was talking to some off-duty comrades when a passing Bostonian made a crack about the British soldier’s commanding officer – prompting Pvt White to clock the civilian across the side of the head. The off-duty soldiers made themselves scarce, leaving the private to deal with the fast-growing ring of angry Bostonians that soon surrounded him. White backed up against the custom house door – gun raised out of fear of what might happen next. The growing crowd heckled him, daring him to shoot.

Up the street, Captain Preston, commander of the custom house garrison, watched events unfold. The Captain was hoping that the situation would resolve itself naturally but soon the church bells started tolling and more men, many armed with clubs, started showing up and Preston knew it was high-time that he went to get his man. He led a corporal and six privates through the crowd, now numbering 300-400 strong, towards Private White but rather than just pulling the soldier out from the situation he ordered his men to form a semi-circle around him while facing the crowd, guns unfortunately loaded.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Political elites and why we think we need them

Scenes Frontispiece

The blessed work of helping the world forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men; and I should imagine that neither Luther nor John Bunyan, for example, would have satisfied the modern demand for an ideal hero, who believes nothing but what is true, feels nothing but what is exalted, and does nothing but what is graceful. George Eliot

The only thing that has kept the race of men from the mad extremes of the convent and the pirate-galley, the night-club and the lethal chamber, has been mysticism — the belief that logic is misleading, and that things are not what they seem.  GK Chesterton

We have been told a lot lately that recent political upheavals represent a revolt against the “club” of “elites” dominating western politics. On reflection, I wonder if it actually meant the opposite: the realisation “elites” are not very elite at all, but in fact every bit as flawed and tangible as ourselves, just as they always were in the days before television. I was thinking this, recently, wandering around the National Portrait Gallery transfixed by the mesmeric eyes of inane bully Henry VIII – and wondering if we have traded these faintly Tory myths, for the more dangerous oil paints of the Spectator butterfly.

George Eliot’s words from the 1850s are a double-edged sword. Writing in “Scenes on clerical life” she pointed out the great secret of progress, and good politics: normal people like ourselves. This is not always easy. It was, I think, one of the great joys of Coalition for many Liberal Democrats, one which we were too slow at times to appreciate, that we were actually changing quite a lot. With hindsight, I wonder if it felt hard to believe the strength of policies like the Pupil Premium and Shared Parental Leave, not because the Tories did it, nor even that Nick Clegg did it, but because we did it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

The founding king of England encouraged an open, outward-looking country

Full marks to Tom Ash. Earlier this week he nailed an historic parallel for Brexit. That was Henry VIII and the reformation.

However, those who favour an open, outward-looking UK, can claim an older, greater precedent than the Brexit-like Henry VIII, who broke with Europe basically because he couldn’t perform in bed sufficiently to produce enough healthy sons. (OK, there’s a bit of historic licence there and I’m being a bit (a lot?) cheeky – apologies – and I also apologise to the Scots, Welsh, Irish and Cornish that this is all about England).

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

Wikipedia “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History

Wikipedia will be holding an “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 24th August. All are welcome.

This edit-a-thon is a collaboration between the Club and the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia), to get better, more in-depth coverage of liberal issues and liberal history in the online encyclopaedia, updating and expanding articles.

Wikipedia is the seventh-most-visited website and the world, and is the first port-of-call for many basic background facts, so the National Liberal Club thought it would be helpful to offer its backing to improve coverage of liberal issues. The NLC will be making its library — full of rare material around liberal history — available for the event.

The NLC is particularly proud to be doing this, as it has long been the spiritual home of Liberals and Liberal Democrats. Founded by Gladstone in 1882, the club provides a sumptuous “home from home” for those interested in liberal politics and the liberal arts: you can read more about it here, on the club’s own Wikipedia page.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Books | Also tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 22nd Jul - 10:45am
    Before any "referendum on the deal" it would be necessary for the 27 to agree that any decision by the British people to support the...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 22nd Jul - 10:19am
    I have no doubt now that it will in the end be considered necessary for the electorate to be given the final say and Vince...
  • User Avatarjayne Mansfield 22nd Jul - 9:57am
    @ Joe Bourke, As wealth becomes ever more concentrated in fewer hands, I find your comments about choice and freedom a sign of the pervasiveness...
  • User AvatarGeoff Reid 22nd Jul - 9:36am
    The blatant incompetence of the people allegedly in charge of exiting from the EU is nothing less than shocking. One of the reasons given for...
  • User AvatarThomas 22nd Jul - 7:40am
    Libdem needs a leader who does not merely aim to become a junior coalition partner but the main party governing alone. The last leader with...
  • User AvatarNick Thornsby 22nd Jul - 7:36am
    Joe Bourke - very well put!