‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Bill Cash reveals cabinet sensitivity over 100 year celebration

The Liberal Unionists, opposed to Home Rule for Ireland, split from the Liberal Party in 1886. One hundred years ago - in 1912 - the remaining Liberal Unionists merged with the Conservative Party. 

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.

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