Alastair continues his examination of the best sources to understand Churchill the man over Churchill the public myth. He continues this week looking at Churchill’s reputation as a boorish war leader with a penchant for expeditions over expediency. Is it justified?Read More Remember the man, not the myth: Churchill as a military leader – Part 2
“For Machiavelli, the people are the moral universalism at the heart of The Prince. Across 26 chapters, he directs princes to pay their attention to the limits and tolerances of the populace. Whether in hereditary, mixed, ecclesiastical or new principalities, Machiavelli attempts to achieve a delicate balance of protecting the people, protecting the prince and protecting them both from the other.”Read More Machiavelli was a striking moralist
“What is beyond doubt is Churchill’s chief commitment to the preservation of human life. It is easy to get bogged down in what he did or did not think about institutions such as the Council of Europe or the creation of the European Economic Community. These are fads, topical because they are today’s challenges. What is neglected, criminally so, is the motivation of a man remembered for war but who lived for peace.”Read More Churchill was a peacemaker, not just a warrior
Alastair begins a new series examining ‘the real’ sources of information about Churchill, distilling what’s real from anecdote and discussing the best sources for you to appreciate the military, political and human man behind the legend.Read More Remember Churchill the man, not the myth: Debunking the cult of Churchill – Part 1
Was the Catalan vote for independence illegal? Yes. It’s that simple. The 1978 Spanish Constitution, agreed across the country in the years following General Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, makes two explicit provisions regarding Spain’s unity. The first is that “the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation”. Secondly, “political […]Read More Why history matters to Catalonia
SCOTS are famous for many things, but trying to kill Franco isn’t typically one of them. Nevertheless, on 11 August 1964, an 18-year-old anarchist by the name of Stuart Christie was arrested in Madrid attempting to do just that. To make matters worse, not only was he carrying a kilo of explosives, but they were […]Read More The Scot who nearly killed Franco
IRREDENTISM is any political or popular movement intended to reclaim and reoccupy an area that the movement’s members consider “lost” or “unredeemed”. Most people know the concept, but not the word. It matters because it explains most, if not all, of the current Brexit debate. The Balkans is the textbook example of the topic. Ideas […]Read More Why irredentism explains Brexit
The Spanish Civil War is widely considered a prelude to the Second World War. All the central powers were peripherally involved, and Spain owed a debt of $212 million for supplies given by Nazi Germany to General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists. As such, there was a fear that Spain might come out on the side of […]Read More When Churchill bribed Franco
HIROSHIMA and Nagasaki: the only two occasions in history when nuclear weapons were used in combat. But who remembers the time America accidentally bombed Spain? The 1966 Palomares B-52 crash occurred on 17 January when an American bomber collided with a refuelling tanker over the Mediterranean Sea, killing seven of the 11 crew members. The aircraft carried four […]Read More A street called 17 January 1966
“Empire 2.0” is the Brexit plan now being touted by the UK Government. The term was coined by sceptical officials, worried about the importance given by ministers to creating an African free trade area ahead of Brexit negotiations with Europe. Some are holding the comment up as everything right about the promise of Brexit. Yet […]Read More Did the sun really set on the British Empire?
Christopher Nolan’s latest epic is just that. It’s a self-contained piece of cinematography the likes of which audiences have not seen in decades. From flawless direction to edge-of-your-seat suspense, it’s not so much a film as an experience. And it can only be enjoyed at the cinema. A lot has been made of Dunkirk’s cinematic […]Read More Read this before you see Dunkirk
Gibraltar is only a bugbear to Spanish people when it’s mentioned. It seldom is. How many times do you recall outrage and protests outside the U.K embassy in Madrid? No. One must be careful to avoid thinking the Spanish see Gibraltar as some kind of occupation. It’s neither a nightmare of history or a daily […]Read More Gibraltar doesn’t, shouldn’t and won’t bother the Spanish
‘Today, in our interconnected, globalised and culturally internationalist world, it’s a macabre, but easy temptation, to look around and imagine which artists will generate the same shockwaves when they die. Who will, for the twenty-somethings of today, be the ‘legends’ that receive posthumous awards and extensive media coverage lavishing praise or skewering with retrospectives?’Read More Why there will be no more en masse mourning of celebrities in the future
‘Western civilisation is more connected than ever, yet the ability of populations to discern fact from fiction and to decide which is an outright lie has declined. In the case of Trump, what is curious, is the presumption that politicians and leaders will lie seems to have reached a satirical impasse. There’s the cliche that politicians or someone in public life will lie but surely they can’t lie that much. There is an implicit presumption and trust that they could never go that far and it has allowed, with the absence of historical knowledge, deception, and hyperbole to become commonplace.’Read More The Alhambra, populism and the dangers of an ignorant population
‘With no loss of irony, Brexit doesn’t pose the biggest risk to the UK. Here and now, quietly under siege, is the constitutional settlement which has governed the United Kingdom together for more than 300 years.’Read More We didn’t have a revolution, we have a threat to our form of government from within
“Whether it was his contradictory views on the morality of war, history or Britain’s relationship with Europe, Churchill left behind a legacy and body of work which is wide open to interpretation.”Read More Would Churchill have voted for Brexit?
“Subconsciously the British will always believe that Europe owes us one and that they’ve always been ungrateful.”Read More The UK’s WW2 obsession tells you everything you need to know about our relationship with Europe
For a real insight into the British attitude toward Europe in the months ahead, it’s the Eurovision which is the most indicative of British feelings to our continental neighbours. We participate, we watch and chortle at the perceived weirdness and the stereotypes of other cultures but we never truly engage in it. We’re sort of just there, awkwardly caught off guard as if we’re at a party where we don’t really know many people and are half-heartedly dancing until our real friends arrive.Read More History is written by the victors, so how will we remember the EU?
Despite suggesting that morality is intrinsic to human nature, Morgenthau acknowledges that there are serious questions as to how to “build a bridge between ethics and politics (Morgenthau 1960: 6). Indeed, even though he acknowledges a moral element to man’s character that moves beyond the pastiche of ‘power, power and power’ that he is famed for, there is an inconsistency at the heart of his moral thinking.Read More Reconciling Realism and Human Rights
Cecil the lion proved the point. The tragedy of a great beast being slain for sport is not lost on me in a world where extinction for most creatures beckons in the near future. It was quite right for their to be a shocked global outcry, particularly on social media, at something so garish. Yet the event unified people in such a wisdom of crowds type way as to beg the question why we’re not like this about the daily human travesties that occur every day all over the world. Have we become so used to hearing of famines, murder, rape, genocides, female genital mutilation and terrorism that we’ve accepted it as a fact of life? Even if these are facts of our global civilisation that may well be perennial, have we really lost our ability to care and our desire to see change?Read More Cecil the lion exposes our ignorance about the human condition
I’m being facetious, but there’s a point: ‘one nation’ is a loaded phrase. You hear it and think unity. In fact it’s a merely a premise to view the society through rather than a complete argument in itself. It is neither wholly conservative nor completely radical and it’s rooted in a philosophical rather ideologically disposition.Read More One nation conservatism is a way of seeing the world
Funny thing: I drafted the below article when sitting at 6am in a airport waiting to move to Spain. It was one of several. To borrow from Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’, in all that excitement, I kind of lost track and forgot all about it. Unearthed, here it is. Maybe it will be relevant again if there’s another Scottish Referendum. In which case ignore this preamble.
Since coming to power in 2007, the SNP has placed great emphasis on quality primary education as a defining factor in shaping the lifelong prospects of children. Yet in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, it’s a curious anomaly that neither the Better Together or Yes Campaign have challenged for their advantage the widespread assumption that Scottish education has always been run by Westminster.Read More Devolution and the myth of Westminster control?
Of all the changes across her sixty-two year reign, none can be starker to Queen Elizabeth II than Britain’s diminished geographical presence in the world. But does the verdict of Dean Acheson, former US Secretary of State, still stand – is the UK still seeking a role after losing an empire?Read More Monarchy and Soft Power: The triumph of Britain without empire?