Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Trench Foot in Mouth - The First Casualty of the WW1 Commemorations?

I don't know if it was the "F Whizzbang" in the title or a desire to find out what the AB was, but the previous article Sorry, But This Takes the Fucking Biscuit AB has been the runaway most read article in this rather young blog (I started it on 6 May 2013).  I realised I had been remiss in not including a link to an open letter I had signed calling on the UK Government to use the anniversary (and presumably a majority of the £55M budget) for the promotion of peace and international co-operation.

I set about Google to find the site for the open letter and alighted on Matthew Norman's article from 11th June 2013 on The Independent website It's time to commemorate the First World War, but don't let's be beastly to the Germans, says Ms Miller. The article is worth a read but I'll quote what's of relevance to my point here: 
"As skirmishing over the approaching centenary of the First World War begins, we turn for guidance to the leading British historian of the day. I refer not to Dr David Starkey, the headline-grabbing Niall Ferguson, or the KFC heir Andrew Roberts. Splendid as the above are, none compares in scholarship and intellect to Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
"Ms Miller may have no interest in culture, know little of the workings of the media, and not be especially interested in sport. We all have our blind spots, and Ms Miller’s should be set against the brilliance of her insight into the First World War, the commemoration of which she will oversee if she somehow survives the next reshuffle.
"The thing about the war that ravaged this continent from 1914-1918, she observed this week with the sort of carefully weighted analysis to which Twitter is so ideally suited, is that it “ensured Europe could continue to be a set of countries which were strong”."
I had missed the edition of the Today programme on which she said this, but Andy McSmith's Diary, once again in The Independent, furnished more details.
"The Government wants to honour those who died in the conflict without making a judgement on why that war began – which meant that the minister had to improvise when asked about what it was all about. “At that point in Britain’s history,” she said, “it was important that there was a war that ensured that Europe could continue to be a set of countries which were strong and which could be working together."

"Oh dear! Does she really think the Third Reich, the USSR, and the other products of the great war were being strong and “working together”?"
As most of her functions in the UK Government are devolved, I'd taken no previous interest in Maria Miller, or her UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Going by the middle paragraph on the quote from Matthew Norman above, it would seem she has not been universally respected in her role.

If she is indeed struggling with her briefs of culture, media and sport, one can understand her being a tad flustered on BBC Radio 4's early morning flagship radio programme when being confronted with history and war.  That she should fall back on the language of her initial brief on being appointed to head up the WW1 commemorations is entirely understandable on being asked "What's it all about?".

Although I'm only an avid reader of history, I'm at a loss from my reading on the First World War and the consequential Russian Revolution, Second World War, Soviet Union and Cold War to think where she might have come across notions of Strength and Togetherness as being the central themes.  

I wonder what briefing she might have been given as to "What's it all about?" that made her answer with  "countries which were strong and which could be working together" in defending the UK's first ever major commemoration of the start of a war?

The link to the open letter I referred to at the start of this article is here if you wish to append your signature.

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