Tag Archives: international co-operation

Identifying the Party’s International Priorities

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Over the weekend the new Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) met to discuss its priorities and strategy for the next three years.

The Committee’s prime purpose is managing the Party’s relations with like-minded parties, individuals and institutions in other countries, not least through our membership of the European (ALDE) and global (Liberal International – LI) Liberal families.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

William Wallace writes….Britain’s security depends on our co-operation with others

Remembering the First World War is a very immediate emotion for me.  I was the youngest child of a late family.  My father had been born in 1899.  He joined up in mid-1917, and went out in a reinforcement draft to the Highland Division on the Western front in late March 1918, just as the great German attack got under way.  As others died and he survived he rapidly rose from lance-corporal to staff sergeant.  When at last in his 80s he began to talk about his experiences, he told me that at one point he was second in command of the remnants of his battalion, since only one officer was left.  When he told me what he had been through, I wondered if he was exaggerating.  Now that I have read the histories of the Highland Division and of the Gordon Highlanders in the First World War, and checked the place-names he gave me against these records, I know that it was as awful as he said.

But I want to focus on how well we have commemorated the centenary of the first global war, and what lessons we should take from this for the approach to future commemorations, including those for the centenary of the Second World War in 20 years’ time.  I was on the government’s Advisory Group for the Commemoration of World War One from the beginning.  I saw the early exchanges in Whitehall about the approach to take, and I was the first British minister to talk to the German foreign office about how we might work with them to remember together

History, as we all know, is a constant battle over preferred narratives.  As a nation, the British are deeply divided, even confused, about which historical narratives we prefer.  I recall seeing an early memorandum to the then-Prime Minister, in  – it must have been – 2012 which stated that ‘we must ensure, in our approach to the commemoration of World War One, that we do not give support to the myth that European integration is the outcome of the two world wars.’   

The stated purpose of the UK Government’s approach to commemoration of the centenary was educational.  We achieved that aim in engaging our younger generations in discovering the histories of their local communities, and the impact of the loss of life on families throughout Britain.  We have done very well in symbolizing reconciliation with Germany, from the 2014 shared ceremony in St. Symphorien and the shared concerts with the Bundestag Choir in Westminster Hall to the participation of President Steinmeier in the ceremonies of next weekend.  But we have failed in educating them about the wider context of the war, of the extent to which British forces depended on the contributions of allies and of imperial troops.

I recall entering a bookshop in the Yorkshire Dales two years ago, one as well-stocked with volumes on the two world wars as on steam trains and Yorkshire traditions, to find the owner arguing with a visitor about Brexit.  ‘After all, we beat the Germans in two world wars’, he said.  That is, after all, one of the widely-held counter-myths of British history, one propounded by Margaret Thatcher among many others: that Britain stood alone, in two world wars.   I tentatively answered that we’d had a lot of help from others, most of all from the Americans, in both wars – to be challenged that so far as he knew the Americans had not been involved in World War One.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStuart Bourne 26th Feb - 12:37pm
    Thank you for your comments. As I said this lacks details as I tried to keep the article short and sweet. To answer some of...
  • User AvatarNick Barlow 26th Feb - 12:37pm
    Bizarre non-sequitur into Rawls there,Jonny - I thought I was asking pertinent questions that were begged by the initial post. So, let's try an analogy...
  • User Avatarexpats 26th Feb - 12:37pm
    TCO 26th Feb '20 - 11:[email protected] ..Nope. We were talking about “austerity”, not Brexit. Nope; we were talking generally about policies to get elected. It...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 12:20pm
    PS. don't be too dispirited by Nick Barlow's fine example of how to utterly reject hypothetical thought experiments to generate new ideas. It's the same...
  • User AvatarMario Caves 26th Feb - 12:20pm
    We already have ID cards. Most people use them often not for their primary purpose, but to prove who they are in any number of...
  • User AvatarWilliam Wallace 26th Feb - 12:19pm
    The Windrush scandal showed that there are real disadvantages in individual citizens and residents being invisible to the state, and unable to access individual public...