A patriotic plea to David Cameron
I don't know if you've seen it but there's a very depressing survey reported in today's Daily Mail. This graphic captures the ignorance of undergraduates about their nation's history:
Michael Gove is quoted in the report as saying that he wants to "completely overhaul" the schools curriculum to restore a focus on knowledge and ensure pupils are given a proper grounding in science, maths, British history and literature (more background here). I really, really hope so. It's difficult to love a country that you know little about - particularly if alternative histories (imperial guilt etc) grow up to fill the vacuum. My second exhibit is the video below. In the video Diane Leech explains why she voted for the BNP in last month's elections. She struck me as a very decent person - sending provisions to our troops abroad and desperate to vote for a party that wanted to celebrate not just British history but also St George's Day and Christmas Day (rather than, I presume, some politically correct 'Winterval').
How did it come to pass that Diane Leech and so many other voters decided that the BNP was the only party that loves this country? Boris Johnson has, of course, celebrated St George's Day in style. Michael Gove is asserting a real interest in the teaching of our nation's history. The Union Flag is now on all Tory election literature. Thanks for that and thanks for signing your pact with the Ulster Unionists that has made the Conservatives the only truly national party. I really think that one of the high points of your leadership. Liam Fox wants to renew the Military Covenant. I'm convinced there's a big theme here that the party is underplaying. Just because Gordon Brown has used Britishness in a cynical way does not mean that there isn't something real here. I'd love to see patriotism as a big part of our manifesto and a big theme of our Manchester Party Conference. Could you make it happen? And there's nothing more important within this narrative than teaching history. Let me repeat (once more!) Iain Duncan Smith's words (from March this year) which I think summarise what should be the Tory mission for the next decade:
They were necessary things to have done and I don’t say that lightly. They saved Britain from terminal economic decline. But somehow they didn’t create a nation that was quite at ease with itself. Margaret Thatcher knew that herself and used her memoirs to regret that she hadn’t been able to initiate ‘Social Thatcherism’.
As we rebuild our economies from today’s tough times we are going to need simpler taxes and open markets but the lesson of the 1980s is that those things won’t be enough.
When the next period of conservative government ends I want the British people to remember us for other things too. For helping parents to stay together and to spend more time with their children. For a nation where every one has a second chance. For building schools that reinforce the values of the home. For respecting and nurturing the skill of craftsmen. For protecting woodland and other habitats of rich natural beauty. For helping a new generation to understand their country’s history.
That’s the conservatism that will help make my country strong and contented again."
Thanks for reading this.