Friday 3 January 2014

Gove Great War Strawman Fail

Michael “Oiky” Gove has been given houseroom by the Daily Mail – not that the proud organ of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre supports the Tory Party, you understand – to erect the most magnificent of strawmen, as he thunders “Why does the Left insist on belittling true British heroes?” on the subject of The Great War. He asserts “history is enjoying a renaissance in Britain”. But what kind of history?
Yes, your strawman

We don’t have to wait long to find out: “The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths”. Really?

So, unthinking people of the UK, you’ve all been looking at World War 1 through just those prisms, yes? Well, no: and no amount of revisionism and excuse-making will change the sad facts. This was the last war where the ruling classes instructed the lower orders to toddle off and do their dirty work for them. And our supposedly greatest commander, Douglas Haig, was appallingly incompetent.

Douglas Haig, held up as a crude butcher, has been seen in a new light thanks to Professor Gary Sheffield, of Wolverhampton University, who depicts him as a patriotic leader grappling honestly with the new complexities of industrial warfare”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. Haig’s portrayal of warfare as a game of draughts (checkers if you like) is well known.

He advanced this idea to David Lloyd George, telling of trading off draughts one for another, but starting with more of them, and thus winning. The sheer callousness of Haig’s explanation for his tactics led Lloyd George to swear that he could not look again at a checkerboard without wincing at the thought of lives being wasted. And Haig could have learned about “industrial warfare” rather faster than he did.

It should have taken no longer than one cavalry charge, or advance of infantry, against nests of machine guns, to teach Haig the lesson he took so long to grasp. It is also a cheap and crude shot for Gove to bluster “Britain’s role in the world has also been marked by nobility and courage” and then pretend that the films and TV series he cites deride or question that in any way.

Michael Gove wants to portray his own world of binary right and wrong, where the dastardly Boche were to blame and the plucky Allies resisted and overcame them. The reality, a war that need never have happened had all our leaders stopped for a moment and engaged brain beforehand, is lost to him. And it will not be brought back by clinging onto his own convenient version of history.

World War 1 was summed up in four words by Harry Patch: It Wasn’t Worth It.


  1. I followed the link and looked at Gove's article. What a complete and utter shitbag he is. He failed miserably as the best rated comments are the ones that deride him and any that have supported his view have been voted down.

  2. perhaps Gove, and 95% of the rest of Britain, should watch this.

    This whole 2014 CELEBRATION is a crude stunt by the Tories to show they can wave the flag hardest just before a general election. Germany is no more to blame than Britain, this was a local dispute that both countries should have stayed out of. And everyone forgets that Serbia (who started it) got everything they set out for and were still causing trouble over 80 years later. Dare we mention the name of the British PM who stood up to them in the end?

  3. I left a comment on the DM site, pointing out what an opportunistic little bastard he is. It got published but was taken down after a few hrs, along with a number of others similarly critical.

    The DM's efforts to shore up this Great White Hope for the British Right are getting ever more desperate.

  4. "Oh, what a lovely war!" was partly inspired by the book "The Donkeys" (1961) by Alan Clark. Clark was not left-wing: far from it. It isn't really a left v right issue: WW1 was horrific and there has been a great deal of debate about how the war could have been avoided and how the slaughter could have been avoided.

    Such a debate is inevitable on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. It is typical of people like Gove that he sees this debate as belittling heroes, rather than an attempt to understand why so many of them died.


  5. Blackadder, so appallingly revisionist and subversive that in 2013 Rowan Akinson was awarded the CBE and Tony Robinson is a Sir...