Bill Cash revealed yesterday that an unnamed senior Conservative member of the current cabinet dissuaded his parliamentary colleagues from celebrating this year’s centenary of the merger, out of respect for the feelings of his Liberal Democrat colleagues!
This demonstrates a remarkably high degree of historical knowledge and sensitivity on the part of at least one Conservative cabinet minister. William Hague (who is a published historian) or David Cameron (who studied under Professor Vernon Bogdanor) would be my prime suspects, but, despite my questioning, Bill Cash remained tight-lipped over the learned and tactful cabinet minister’s identity.
However, I am not at all sure that any Liberal Democrats would have been the least bit offended, had the celebrations gone ahead. I am also intrigued about the form that these cancelled festivities would have taken!
One thing that distinguishes the Liberal Democrats from the other parties is that they are generally aware of their party’s history and willing to acknowledge past embarrassments, splits and mistakes (Nick Clegg’s video could be seen as a recent example of this).
In general, the Conservatives also tend to be fairly relaxed about their party’s history, so this revelation shows a surprising underlying coyness.
On the other hand, the Labour Party, whose electoral record is undeniably superior to that of the Liberals over the last century, still tends to be rather cagey about many aspects of its history – see my post about Ramsay MacDonald, first Labour prime minister who was thrown out of the Labour Party.
We should have nothing to fear from the past, except repetition – which could be either boring or dangerous.