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Showing posts with label Michael Gove. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Gove. Show all posts

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Defence of the Union by Darling’s ‘love bombs’

Alistair Darling (who is not my darling) is now the darling of the Scottish Tories. Leaving aside his unionist views, he has a family connection that will please the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party – his great-uncle was Sir William Darling, Tory MP for Edinburgh South.

And his new Tory fans undoubtedly smiled conspiratorially in the Stirling bars and whispered “Isn’t Alistair a darling, darling? Did you know that, before he joined Labour when he was 23 years-old back in 1977,  he was - believe it or not, darling - a Trot and supported the International Marxist Group! But class will out – Sir William’s genes will win through – Alistair will find his way back to true-blue unionism after this independence nonsense is buried with a stake through its heart. I mean, look at all the lovely money he makes on the lecture circuit – and to whom he lectures, darling!”

Among Alistair’s ideas for saving the remnants of the British Empire from final dissolution is urging Scots relatives of members of the Scottish electorate living in the rest of the UK to ‘love bomb’ family members eligible to vote in the referendum with phone calls, emails, letters urging them not to vote for the independence of their country, Scotland.

This fits neatly with the orchestrated attempts to paint England, Wales and Northern Ireland as ‘foreign’ countries after independence, with relatives staring in horror at each other as ‘foreigners’ over border posts manned by stern-faced, kilted and claymored border guards. This shameful, pejorative exploitation of the terms ‘foreign’, ‘foreigners’ and ‘foreign country’ is bordering on racism in its use of language, a usage now spreading like a virulent virus across Labour, Tories and LibDems. UKIP is already fatally infected, and the even more extreme parties are pustulating.

Like many Scot, I have relatives outside of Scotland – three in England, several in the Republic of Ireland, America and Canada. In the strange minds of the unionists purveying this pernicious rubbish – Gove, Brown, Darling, Goldie et al – those in England are in danger of becoming ‘foreigners’, and those elsewhere in the great Scottish diaspora, living in proudly and fully  independent countries which long since freed themselves from the British Empire, are already ‘foreigners’ in a ‘foreign’ country.

I know what my Irish, American and Canadian relatives would think of this infantile yet dangerous rubbish. I also know what my immediate, close family in England think. I don’t expect a missive from any of them soon urging me to save the Union and vote NO, nor do any of them want, or think they are entitled to a voice in the Scottish referendum.

But if they wrote to me at all on this subject, I think they would write in the same terms as any other family members living in England would to their loved ones in Scotland about their vote, so I offer this composite letter, which I feel might come from a great many in similar circumstances. (I accept that some expatriate Scots, or those of Scots descent, might well write a Darlingesque letter.)

Dear ( ……)

The sun is shining here, a fine English early summer’s day at last. I love it here – vibrant community life, wonderful, welcoming pubs and great neighbours. We have a local election coming up for the Council, and I’m off to do my bit for my local candidate. And I’m thinking hard about how I’ll vote in the General Election in 2015, which doesn’t seem so far off now!

How are things with the referendum debate going up there? We get some idea occasionally from television and the press, but most of the time people around here are focused on local affairs and politics, as am I.

I wish you well with whatever decision you make – it’s for Scots resident in Scotland to make, and nobody else, and whatever the outcome, I tell all my English friends, colleagues and neighbours  that England and Scotland will still live happily together as they have always done, with shared interests and ties of kinship.  And nae border posts!

Looking forward to seeing you soon …

love,

(…..)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Eejits out in force today–Herald Letters and Starkey

I mentioned in my last blog that among the most ridiculous suggestions by unionists as they tramped their sour grapes after the May election results –still advanced by a few eejits - was that the SNP didn’t have a mandate, despite the landslide vote, because of the turnout. Right on cue, we have in Herald Letters today one FG Hay from Largs, whose favourite word seems to be gullibility. And there’s a bit more name-calling, in best unionist speak from two others.

But they’re more than balanced out by the Rev. Archie Black, who offers some calm facts about the Union, the UK, independence and Europe.

Dr. David Starkey, the British Empire personified as spluttering indignation, was accused by some academics of politicising a debate on the teaching of history in schools. The Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, Richard Evans suggested that Starkey and his enthusiastic fan Michael Gove were “advocating myth and memory rote learning … to feed children self-congratulatory narrow myths of history”.

Starkey also appears to believe that most of Britain is “mono-culture” and a lot of it, especially where he comes from, is “absolutely and unmitigatingly white”.

I can’t imagine you living anywhere else, Dr. Starkey, given your views. It’s a pity Niall Ferguson has gone back to America in the huff, and can’t help, but take heart – you still have Andrew Roberts

A valuable mind-cleanser after listening to Starkey, Roberts or Ferguson is always Norman Davies, historian and author of The Isles, and fortuitously his new book Vanished Kingdoms arrived today with a satisfying thud.

A quote from the early pages already says a great deal – I’m just getting into it now …

“ … the British risk falling into a state of self-delusion which tells them that their condition is still as fine, that their institutions are above compare, that their country is somehow eternal. The English, in particular are blissfully unaware that the disintegration of the United Kingdom began in 1922 and will probably continue; they are less aware of complex identities than are the Welsh, the Scots or the Irish. Hence, if the end does come, it will come as a surprise.”

But not to Dr. Starkey or Michael Gove – that’s what prompts them to ever greater flights of rhetoric. Rule Britannia – while you can …

Monday, 28 February 2011

Don’t turn our schools into Gove’s military boot camps

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama Teachers- for God's sake don't let this happen to the children in your care. In loco parentis - but Tory Gove is going loco ...

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama You might know it - these ideas originate in violence-obsessed, gun-obsessed America. Don't import the worst of US practice here.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama This Tory-led coalition is heading towards military totalitarianism. Tories=death for the children of the poor and underprivileged

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama What can a soldier do that a properly-trained teacher can't? Train the teachers better - don't bring in the military. Resist this.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama Something has to be done about lack of classroom control - but not this ....

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama Teachers - if you have any pride left in your profession, resist this with all your might. A recuitment programme for the Army?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#Panorama As the UK wasn't sufficiently obsessed with the military, weapons, war and death, now we are to turn our schools into boot camps.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

1066 and all that – or maybe 1707 and a’ that …

I remember history as it was taught in Scottish schools in the 1940s and very early 1950s. It glorified Empire and reduced Scottish history to a footnote in that empire, sentimentalising and trivialising, when not actively distorting the real story of my country. It glossed over or concealed the appalling history of religious persecution perpetrated by both Catholics and Protestants on each other and any other faith that challenged their dogmas.

I was well into adulthood before I began to recognise it for what it was - a grossly distorted and biased viewpoint that had passed for an objective record of my world and my country, Scotland. But I am now alive to the fact that history has never been wholly objective, and even the historian who strives for that elusive objectivity is a creature of his or her time, and the grand narratives that exist in that time.

Much more insidious, however, is the historian with an agenda, driven by personal political beliefs, perhaps acting as the tool of a political establishment with a vested interest in presenting a grand narrative that supports its power objectives and strategy, and sanitises the ugly aspects of its past.

History is written by the victors, or at least by those currently holding the reins of power.

So it was with deep suspicion that I read of an initiative, admirable in itself, by Lord Wilson, a former Cabinet secretary and himself a historian, to create “a more methodological and chronological approach to history”, not because I doubted Lord Wilson’s motives – but because he was presenting this to government with a view to revising the national curriculum and that his presentation was to Michael Gove, who has stated that he would like the historian Niall Ferguson to play a key role in changing the history curriculum.

I leave you to judge whether you want either Michael Gove or Niall Ferguson to have a key role in shaping what is presented as history in our schools. I am deeply unhappy about the prospect of either of them in this role. There may be little one can do about Michael Gove – he is, after all, Schools Secretary in the new coalition government – but I hope a historian other than Niall Ferguson can be found to drive the initiative, just so long as it isn’t Andrew Roberts or David Starkey.

All three of the above have appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, and their views are well represented on YouTube, so if you are unfamiliar with them, short of reading their major works, there is a simple way to get a flavour of what they are all about, and come to your own view about what kind of influence they would exert on the history curriculum – listen to them on YouTube or Question Time extracts. In addition to their academic work posts and published work, they are all also very much media personalities.

So do your homework and make your judgements, and don’t leave it too long – the view of the world, and especially the view of the Union and of Scotland’s place in it presented to a new generation of students will be fundamentally affected by the historian chosen by Michael Gove.

My preference would be for Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies, and I make this judgement based on his total record, but particularly on his massive work The Isles – A History, (1999) a thousand riveting pages of the history of these islands – Britain if you like – which to me represents history as it should have been taught.

The book caught my eye because on the back, among glowing, enthusiastic reviews by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto of the Sunday Times, Noel Malcolm of the Evening Standard, David Marquand of Literary Review, and Linda Colley of The Times Literary Supplement, there was the following -

This is a dangerous book, written at a dangerous time.”

Andrew Roberts, Daily Mail

Anything Andrew Roberts and the Daily Mail were against must be well worth reading was my immediate reaction, and my instinct was right.

I do hope that you discover the book for yourself if you have not already read it. Let me give the following extract as an example of what you will find about Scotland in its fascinating pages.

Pages 444/445 of the chapter The Englished Isles

Unlike Wales and England, Scotland remained a fully independent country throughout the sixteenth century. As yet, she had not entangled herself with England, even in the limited union of crowns that was to occur after Elisabeth’s death. She experienced her own Reformation, which had followed a very different path from England’s and which produced a national church that survives to the present day. She possessed her own legal system which also survives, she had her own Parliament, and her own Estate of Nobles, who ran the Parliament. She had her own monarchy, and a ruling dynasty that had held their throne for twice as long as the Tudors. She had venerable political, social and cultural traditions that were every bit as ancient as those of her English neighbours. Yet none of these topics were destined to find their way into the mainstream of British historiography. When they weren’t forgotten entirely, they would be parked in a closed reservation, only to be visited by Scottish antiquarians, by Presbyterian divines, and by the odd eccentric patriot. The extent of mainstream neglect may be gauged by the fact that the sixteenth century chapter of the recently updated edition of The Oxford History of Britain (1999) does not bother to mention the internal affairs of Scotland once.”

The Isles – a History by Norman Davies (1999)

Norman Davies is an Englishman, born in Bolton, Lancashire. I should perhaps quote Niall Ferguson, a Scot, on this book.

The publication of Norman Davies’s The Isles is a historiographical milestone, the culmination of years of revisionism by a generation of scholars whose common purpose has been to dismantle the “Anglocentric” version of British history.

Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Times

This could be read in isolation as support for Norman Davies, especially since Niall Ferguson can be described also as a revisionist historian, except for the fact that his revisionism attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of  the British Empire. Here is a quote from Johann Hari in 2006 – a fine writer and journalist, and a trenchant critic of the British Empire.

“When I criticised Ferguson for dedicating almost as much space in his revisionist history of Empire to the slaughter of 29 million people as he gives to a description of a statue of the Prince of Wales made out of butter, he responded primarily with personal abuse, comparing me to a children’s writer. He claims that my sources, like Caroline Elkins’ history of British atrocities in Kenya, are “sensationalist” and therefore not worthy of consideration. If that is so, why did Ferguson himself praise Elkins’ “painstaking research”, on the cover of her book no less?

It seems that Ferguson is not only trying to rewrite the history of Empire but also that of his own life. He says, “I pass over the strange charge [by Hari] that I am "court historian for the imperial American hard right". Anyone who has read my book Colossus: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire will know how laughably wide of the mark that is.” Yes, do check his book. The only criticism he has of American empire is that it is insufficiently like the British and suffers from “the absence of a will to power.” Is this really laughably far from my description?”

Keep a close eye on this coalition, on its schools secretary, Michael Gove, his plans to influence the history curriculum in our schools, and his choice of historian to spearhead the initiative. Your children’s view of Scotland in the next decade may depend on your vigilance, and your voice.