As I write this we are currently six days into the centenary year of 2014. Six days into what will be four years of (hopefully) respectful, considered and thoughtful remembrance of, and teaching about, the First World War.
Yet someone has forgotten to tell our politicians what the Centenary years should be used for. Just two days into the year Mr Michael Gove wrote a lovely little article entitled ‘Why does the Left insist on belittling true British heroes?‘ which basically blamed left wing academics and TV series such as Blackadder Goes Forth for spreading myths about the true stories of the war. Not surprisingly, the chaps in the Labour party had a go right back at Mr Gove in The Guardian, with Tristram Hunt accusing Gove of tawdry-ness and going to great pains to prove (using history no less) that his left wing ancestors did indeed play a significant part in the war and needed no lessons on “the virtues of patriotism, honour and courage”
Today, Boris Johnson got stuck in demanding that Tristram Hunt resign for his comments. His article, in todays Daily Telegraph is entitled ‘Germany started the Great War, but the Left can’t bear to say so‘ and starts thus: ‘One of the reasons I am a Conservative is that, in the end, I just can’t stand the intellectual dishonesty of the Left’.
What are our politicians playing at?
We (and I include politicians, journalists, historians, academics, authors, broadcasters and parents in this ‘we’) have a huge opportunity to honour, respect and remember the suffering and loss of millions of men and women on all sides and (more importantly) to try to educate and inspire our kids, the next generation, to go and find out more about this conflict on their own, to help them understand why it happened in the first place and why episodes like this should never happen again.
What we don’t need are the pig headed, self centred, arrogant and obnoxious political class using this Centenary to score political points over each other. So, to Gove, Johnson Hunt and the rest of them, I offer up this single plea:
If you haven’t got anything constructive to say – keep your noses out and your mouths shut.