Monday, 17 November 2008

Politicians and Historians

In the past I have had a go at politicians who have had little regard or knowledge of history with the implication that if they were better versed in the subject their decision making would be improved. I need to row back a little on this having listened to a programme on Radio 4 the other morning. As an aside I would mention that if only we had days 30 hours long I would listen a lot more to that particular channel - there is plenty of thought provoking talk on it.

Back to this particular programme, only on for a quarter of an hour, well it was all about the relationship between politicians and historians in this country! I think they described Tony Blair as "tone deaf" when it came to history, something I can well believe but the programme did remark favourably on Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown. In the Thatcher case she called in all the best historians for a meeting at the time when the reunification of Germany was taking place - she was concerned about whether the larger Germany would be some sort of threat. It seems that they were able to calm any fears that she had. Much more recently Gordon Brown assembled a number of historians over the question of 'Britishness', one of his big things at the time but I doubt that is at the front of his mind just now. One other point I"ll mention is the valid comment by Roy Hattersley that one has to be very careful about applying the lessons of history to present day events because the surrounding circumstances can be very different.

It proved to be an interesting 15 minutes of radio encouraging me to reappraise my viewpoint.

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