Conservative Diary

British history

14 Jun 2012 08:03:55

Enoch Powell, the dazzling man who won only 15 votes in a Tory leadership election

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-06-14 at 08.04.52One of my early duties for the Catholic Herald was to interview the man who had opposed the Pope's visit to Britain, and I thus travelled to South Eaton Place with a degree of trepidation.  Enoch Powell indeed turned out to be as terrifying as he was courteous, but this was as much as consequence of my journalistic incompetence as his frightening learning.  The subject was his recently-published work on the origin of the gospels.  Hunched, taut, and fixed in his chair, his brilliant blue eyes gazing into the void, Mr Powell told me that St Matthew's Gospel is written in code: "a very dangerous conclusion to draw".

Drawing my attention to Matthew  9:10-13 ("But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless"), he explained that mercy is the mercy offered to the gentiles, while sacrifice is the sacrifice of the Jewish temple.  It was at roughly this point that the batteries in my tape recorder ran out.  I told Mr Powell that this had happened and, after I changed the batteries, he took off exactly where he had left off, finishing with the words: "that was the sentence I had attempted to project before you told me that your batteries had failed, though how you knew that was so is a mystery to me."

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25 Jan 2012 18:38:50

David Cameron tells the European Court of Human Rights to return to its founding principles

By Matthew Barrett
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CAMERON-PENSIVEDavid Cameron's speech to the Council of Europe today sought to make the case for reform of the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR, Mr Cameron said, has become too active in meddling with the affairs of national governments - behaviour which is now undermining not just the ECHR, but the cause of "human rights" in general. 

Mr Cameron first put "human rights" in the context of British (and English) liberty:

"Human rights is a cause that runs deep in the British heart and long in British history. In the thirteenth century, the Magna Carta set down specific rights for citizens, including the right to freedom from unlawful detention. In the seventeenth century, the Petition of Right gave new authority to Parliament; and the Bill of Rights set limits on the power of the monarchy. ... It was that same spirit... that drove the battle against tyranny in two World Wars and that inspired Winston Churchill to promise that the end of the "world struggle" would see the "enthronement of human rights"."

Mr Cameron also noted that modern British foreign policy (Libya, Iran sanctions, engagement in the UN, empowering women in Afghanistan, etc) has shown "if called to defend [a belief in human rights] with action, we act."

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17 Dec 2011 11:32:20

Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive

By Matthew Barrett
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Dole Queues and Demons"Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive", a new book written by Stuart Ball, a Reader in Modern History at the University of Leicester, was released this month. The book contains nearly 200 of the 650 election campaign posters in the vast Conservative Party Archive, which is contained in the Bodleian Library - the main research library at the University of Oxford. Many of the posters have never been shown in print. 

"Dole Queues and Demons" provides a guide to the political issues and electoral strategies of the Party throughout the twentieth century, and up to the present state of affairs.

Housewife Bbc












Right-hand poster from 1958, left-hand poster from 1952.

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29 Aug 2011 14:30:58

The Iron Lady: A series of interviews with Charles Moore about Baroness Thatcher

By Matthew Barrett
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It's the August Bank holiday, and what better way of enjoying politics this afternoon than watching this set of videos of the peerless Charles Moore discussing Lady Thatcher - whose authorised biography Moore is writing. He is interviewed by Peter Robinson, of Stanford University's Hoover Institution:

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5 Oct 2010 12:41:20

Michael Gove: Pupils will learn our island story

By Paul Goodman

GOVE MICHAEL RED TIE Nothing to date today to match yesterday's Child Benefit drama, or the big centre-piece of George Osborne's speech.

But two announcements - from Andrew Lansley in this morning's Health debate, and from Michael Gove in the Education debate that followed.

Lansley told the conference that £70 billion will be spent on "re-enablement packages" - help designed to help people settle back in to their homes after leaving hospital.

Gove said that no pupil will leave school without learning "our island story" - narrative British history.

He will instruct the National Curriculum review to ensure that narrative British history is "put back at the heart of the school curriculum".  Simon Schama, the historian, has agreed to advise the review.

Gove said -

“One of the under-appreciated tragedies of our time has been the sundering of our society from its past. Children are growing up ignorant of one of the most inspiring stories I know – the history of our United Kingdom. Our history has moments of pride, and shame, but unless we fully understand the struggles of the past we will not properly value the liberties of the present.

“The current approach we have to history denies children the opportunity to hear our island story. Children are given a mix of topics at primary, a cursory run through Henry the Eighth and Hitler at secondary and many give up the subject at 14, without knowing how the vivid episodes of our past become a connected narrative. This trashing of our past has to stop.

“We are delighted to announce today that Professor Simon Schama has agreed to advise us on how we can put British history at the heart of a revived national curriculum.”

Tim originally floated this idea in his Shoestring Manifesto over a year ago, writing -  "We should commit to transform the teaching of history in Britain's schools.  Perhaps Ministers are looking at the rest of it.

Memorable speeches from the teachers and educationalists in the Education debate, by the way.  Coal-face descriptions of Labour's culture of low expectations.  Now on to Iain Duncan Smith this afternoon.

9 Sep 2010 07:32:12

Tim Loughton restores the Queen's portrait at the Department for Education

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-09-09 at 06.54.27 Jonathan reported recently that at the insistence of Eric Pickles a portrait of the Queen has been installed at the DCLG.

I can now report similar good news from the Department for Education.

Tim Loughton, the Education Minister, spotted recently that it displayed no picture of the Queen.  Having made a few enquiries, he discovered that one had once been in place  - but was removed roughly seven years ago (under a Labour Government, needless to say).

It was removed at the instigation of a civil servant, I gather.  History records that from 24 October 2002 to 15 December 2004 the Education Secretary was Charles Clarke.  His predecessor was Estelle Morris; his successor Ruth Kelly.

At any rate, a decision has been taken to restore the portrait and an unveiling is "imminent".  The cost of the move is apparently a princely £199.

26 May 2009 08:46:51

Michael Gove wants to reverse the decline and fall of the teaching of British history

New statistics reveal that five million pupils of school leaving age have missed out on studying GCSE history since Labour came to power.  The percentage sitting GCSE history has dropped from 35.4% to 31.0% since New Labour came to power.

GOVE MICHAEL NW Michael Gove commented:

“The number of children studying history beyond fourteen has fallen to less than one pupil in three. The Government’s league tables encourage schools to push pupils away from harder subjects, even if they are of more long term value. The Government’s new curriculum will further water down history at primary schools, as well as removing science from the core curriculum. All these reforms take us completely in the wrong direction.”

David Cameron has already complained about the "Tapas" approach to history teaching where children are given bite-sized and disconnected instruction on isolated events and no narrative.  Michael Gove worries about a "new dark ages of British history" with, for example, the Glorious Revolution going untaught.  He fears that there is little knowledge of the nation's island story but a narrow focus on a few important chapters such as Tudors and Stuarts and World War II.

The Conservatives aim to overhaul the history curriculum from ages 11 to 14 and the history GCSE so that pupils get a much fuller picture of British history.  Schools minister Nick Gibb is looking at the primary syllabus and Tory candidate Stephen Mastin has brought together a group of history teachers to advise the frontbench education team on next steps.

Speaking to me yesterday Michael Gove paid tribute to the role of broadcasters in informing children and the wider nation about British history.  Mentioning Simon Schama, Tristram Hunt and Andrew Roberts, Channel 4, he said, was doing a good job at bringing history to life and he paid particular tribute to two recent films on 1066.  They were "accessible and real," he said. 

Three years ago, ConservativeHome readers voted to make British History compulsory at GCSE.

Tim Montgomerie

4 May 2009 19:47:42

British history

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