Most of the reactions to the death of Tony Benn have focused on the man who turned left in the 1970s, embraced union militancy and became ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’. That was, however, Benn Mark II, arguably the less interesting version, and certainly the one less relevant to our own times, when the parties are desperately seeking to regain a connection with the people.
A while back I wrote a book about how Labour responded to the many cultural changes generated in the 1960s. In that decade Benn emerged as one of the party’s few leading figures who tried to seriously think though how the party might engage with at least some of them.
Benn Mark I was a fairly conventional politician. In the 1950s he was something of a revisionist and in the 1960s an enthusiastic if idiosyncratic member of Harold Wilson’s inner circle.
Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove recently grabbed the headlines by claiming Britons mistakenly think the 1914-18 conflict a ‘misbegotten shambles’ partly because that’s what Blackadder told them it was. To rather less fanfare, last autumn Defence minister Andrew Murrison and Jeremy Paxman said very much the same thing. And before Gove turned the issue into a party spat, Dan Jarvis, Labour’s shadow Justice minister, argued Blackadder promoted an erroneous ‘pointless futility’ narrative about the war.
Blackadder is not alone in constituting that which Gove described as the ‘fictional prism’ through
On Twitter recently, Ben Page of Ipsos MORI compared levels of public trust in judges, civil servants and politicians in 1983 and 2013, findings that form part of his organisation's ongoing survey of popular trust in various professions' ability to tell the truth.
As you can see below, he points out that judges are slightly more trusted today while politicians still lurk at a very low level indeed.
But something remarkable has happened to trust in civil servants: it has more than doubled.
During an email exchange with Richard Kelly, Head of Politics at Manchester Grammar School and author of a highly regarded study of how Conservative Party conferences actually work, recalled:
Back in 1979, when I was campaigning for the Tories, I remember talking to some party officials about their attempt to sell Margaret Thatcher to a society still unaccustomed to women at the top. They told me that, though Gordon Reece et al had helped, the biggest helping hand had come from the popular TV series The Good Life, and one of its central characters, Margo Leadbeater.
Penelope Keith's portrayal of this quintessential suburban Conservative, who managed to be
I recently spotted this wine bar in what is now called the 'Northern Quarter' in Manchester city centre. A hundred years ago - in fact ten years ago - the area would have been known as Ancoats, one of the poorest parts of the city and bordering on Angel Meadow - whose name at the time was ironic given the terrible conditions found there - but whose name has been retained by developers presumably because they associate it with that Robbie Williams song.
I didn't go in the bar as I had something else to do but apparently it's not bad. If do patronise the place
If anybody still thought British history wasn’t a heavily politicised subject then the current skirmishing between some of our leading political figures over the meaning of World War One should have disabused them of that.
Admittedly no expert in the 1914-18 conflict, I have however written about Britain during the Second World War and have been fascinated by how members of our political class are trying to gain advantage as the country prepares to commemorate the centenary of what used to be called the Great War.
These political manoeuvres began during Radio 4’s Start the Week on 30th December. On the programme Michael Gove, the Conservative Education Secretary, discussed the teaching of British history in schools with a variety of historians. The discussion was fairly anodyne: nobody appeared
As part of the Picturing Politics series hosted by the University of Nottingham's School of Politics and IR I discussed the rise of the party leader and the influence party leaders now hold over their party’s fate.
I examined this phenomenon using the example of the 1997 Labour manifesto – which featured a close-up of Tony Blair’s face on its cover – and looked at the effect this focus on Blair had on the Labour Party. The podcast is available here.
George Arliss is a long forgotten figure. But in the 1930s he meant a lot to British movie audiences, so much in fact one poll made him the most popular film star of 1934, knocking Clark Gable into second place. Arliss was, however, an unlikely star – in his sixties, he had a stoop and bad teeth – but his screen persona clearly resonated with cinema audiences.
Thanks to the 1929 Hollywood movie Disraeli, Arliss was a transatlantic star. It won him an Oscar