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Andrew Lilico

Graeme - What did you think of Simon Scharma's use in the last episode of "A History Of Britain" of Orwell and Churchill as the motifs of the twentieth century, unlikely allies who nonetheless represented a bringing-together of two key strands in British history - freedom and social justice - along with an understanding of history itself as the ultimate reservoir of liberty?

Graeme The Insomniac

This sentence in the second last paragraph should be in italics, to show that it's a quotation from the novel:

"I would have described him as a conventional Anglican. I suspect that he used the offices of his religion as a reminder of the fundamental decencies, an affirmation of identity, a brief breathing space when he could think without fear of interruption."


It seems that blindly sucking up to oppressive regimes in other countries is a habit among certain commentators on the left, Orwell and Cohen being exceptions here. Although not an exclusive habit of the left (it's something the West did during the Cold War as well), it does seem to be something they are historically more inclined to do.

Truth can be a difficult concept sometimes, especially when it's the truth about a regime or an individual apparently on a similar politcal wavelength as oneself.

The concept of individual freedom, which Orwell championed (especially after viewing the oppressive nature of Stalin's NKVD against people who were supposedly on 'their' side at first hand during the Spanish Civil War) is a central tennet of conservatism, but it's not exclusive TO conservatism. It's something that people across the political spectrum can buy into should they wish.

It would be interesting to know what your average Blair(Tony, not Eric)-Brown supporter makes of Orwell these days.

Simon Newman

When it comes to the forces of liberty today, few in number as they may be, they seem as likely to call themselves Marxists or social conservatives as liberals.

Spiked! Liberties, the heir of Living Marxism magazine ( http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/ ) sits alongside The American Conservative (http://www.amconmag.com/ ), a paleocon magazine, in the camp of the saints, to such an extent that Spiked's editor Brendan O'Neill wrote a piece for Amcon recently that seemed not at at all out of place - see http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_07_16/feature.html

Notably this article concerned the Bosnian war, when liberal-left do-gooders, hawkish neocons and Islamists came together in righteous fervour and laid the seeds for the tragic world in which we now dwell.

Paul Oakley

A love of Orwell's work is in part a ringing endorsement of the old-style English Literature syllabus. Most of us over a certain age were hooked after having been initially forced to read "Animal Farm" and "1984".

And it's not just rightwingers of course. The bookshelves of my old lefty schoolmate Pete are groaning with rubbish by Gramsci and Chomsky but we have the Orwell section in common.

Part of the appeal is of course that he commented on all of the issues which have shaped the world we see today, from the pressures leading to the welfare state; to the end of Empire; to the fears of the aspirant middle classes.

Shall we clog up this thread with favourite quotes? This from his Observer review of "The Road to Serfdom":

"In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often - at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough - that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of."

Ash Faulkner

What's Left? is a fantastic book, Cohen brilliantly shows how nihilistic the left has come post-Berlin Wall.

John Reeks

I think British conservatism has always been about a certain idea of Britain which stands quite apart from day to day politics. To a certain extent, I think all of us in this party are nostalgic romantics, and Orwell satisfies this craving we have, certainly in 1984 where his idea of Britain (well, England I suppose) is turned completely on its head. There's nothing wrong with that I tend to think, which is why I tend to disagree with others in the party who think we should be all about 'getting things done'. David Cameron satisfies my desire to see that type of romanticism at the very top, a commitment to freedom (already proved) and social responsibility. We need to be the history party. We need a narrative, just like Simon Schama creates in his History of Britain. Orwell is part of that narrative, he is quintessentially British (well, once again, English I suppose). Re: Sidney and Beatrice Webb their naivety was indeed astounding - Andre Gide was another Communist who visited the USSR and was treated in luxury, but despaired at the apparent failure of Communism, subsequently turning his back on the French PCF. He is well worth a read actually for all lovers of freedom combined with a commitment to social justice. The Webbs bought it hook line and sinker.


There's the recognition of the evils of totalitarianism and big government of course. But I also think part of the reason conservatives love Orwell is that he did so little to advance socialism or left-wing ideas. Can anyone name a profound thing he wrote, still remembered today, that actually supports the left's worldview? I read 'Down and Out in Paris and London' recently, and loved it, reading it slowly to savour the experience. But at times I cringed in embarrassed for Orwell, as when he wrote casually and in passing of how the Bolsheviks represented the lesser of two evils in 1917, or of the inefficiencies of the market economy compared to state planning. He didn't even make arguments in favour of these views, perhaps because he was so prey to the conventional wisdom of the day he didn't think anyone would dispute it. Now, of course, there's almost no one alive so wrong-headed on these issues.

In very crude summary, then: where Orwell was left-wing, he has been proved wrong, and where he was right-wing, he has been proved right. What's not for a conservative to like there!

Tony Makara

George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' could have been written about Labour. During all their years of opposition Labour portrayed themselves as the party of the oppressed and saviours of the poor. Yet from the moment Labour came into power they have enjoyed having the whip hand over the poor, most particularly in their relations towards the unemployed. Those unfortunate enough to be long-term unemployed are forced, human-trafficking syle, into 'Work Experience' for 30 hours a week with only an extra 15 pounds pay on top of their legal entitlement to benefits. In real terms the unemployed are therefore forced to work a 30 hour week for 50pence an hour, rates lower than child labour in the third world. Lower than the rates paid to a paper boy. The Labour party, the one-time friend of the poor, champion of the oppressed has become the type of political chameleon that George Orwell warned us of.


"Graeme - What did you think of Simon Scharma's use in the last episode of "A History Of Britain" of Orwell and Churchill as the motifs of the twentieth century,"

I would n't pretend to be Graeme, but in answer to your question: Scharma's version of history was entertaining until it reached the Empire and India; it then became obvious why Scharma had been employed at the BBC. I remember watching him appearing before an invited audience expounding his views on history. As I recall he was uncomplimentary to the Conservative Party; he made great play on how Churchill was defeated in 1945 by the electorate wanting a new order. He thereafter made no mention of Churchill regaining power and being voted back in in 1950. By now I had had enough of Scharma's version of history and turned the BBC programme off. I can't remember now exactly the words, but I believe that Scharma dwelt lovingly on the fact that Orwell, an army officer, hated the Empire and was a socialist. Say no more. Scharma appeared to be a typical academic - a Leftie

Bob B

The North-Side divide has recently been in the news again - see, for example, the Financial Times, a previous employer of Ed Balls, now a cabinet minister:

Try George Orwell on his perception of the north-south divide, written in 1936:

Sadly, so much of that still holds true, 70 years on.

Remember Blair's clarion call in 1997: Education, Education, Education?

Ten years later, we have:

"Only 50 per cent of 19 to 21-year-olds achieve 'Level 2+ qualifications' or higher - five GCSEs or their vocational equivalent (NVQ 2) [in Britain]. In Germany the figure is more than 60 per cent, in France more than 70 per cent."

- One in ten 16- to 18-year-olds is not in education, employment or training [NEETs], the same as a decade ago.

- The proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training is highest in the North East of England and in Scotland.

- More 16-year-old girls than boys continue in full-time education: 78% compared to 69% in 2004.

- The proportion of White 16-year-olds who do not continue in full time education is higher than that for any ethnic minority, but many are undertaking some form of training.

Only half of those on apprenticeships in England finish them, the chief inspector of adult education has found.

"The government is concerned about a growing gender gap in higher education, after 22,500 more young women than men won places at university last year."

The way of the future for the NEETs?

"A secondary school which has opened an on-site call centre where pupils can practise selling mobile phone contracts and answering customer complaints has been criticised for lowering children's expectations. . . "

As for George Orwell, in "North and South" he wrote:

"The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly."



The answer to the question is simple. George Orwell was an Old Etonian socialist whose real surname was Blair. That why the Cameroons love him.

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