To Be Lived In Or Learned From…?

12 05 2009

As a historian, this question is one which poses problems. In essence the answer is simple, learn from the mistakes, but never repeat them. In the real world though this is somewhat more difficult to achieve. Instead the solution seems to be to live in the past, using it as a justification for the now, when, in reality, it is far from any such thing.

As someone who not long ago finished university, I still have friends who are currently plodding their way through another set of exams. It is for this reason that I make no apologies in the two cases in point which I wish to use to illustrate my point.

The first comes from the Birmingham University Conservative Future blog, which can be found here. The people over on this blog, of whom, I will admit, I either do not know, or know by name or sight alone; write about, naturally enough things pertaining to the Conservative way of thinking. The trouble is, this invariably leads back to a certain individual, whose shadow sits long on the political landscape. Margaret Thatcher is a name which is as synonymous with political divisions as it is with miners, or the Falklands. Those over on BUCF, perhaps unsurprisingly, seem to write about her and her legacy, with almost metronomic regularity.

Now I do not have a problem with posts about her in small doses, she did divide the nation with her actions. However, the regularity with which she is held up and talked about by those on the site is, for want of a better word, boring. Perhaps more valuable would be a stringent analysis of why the Conservatives, despite Brown’s continuing failings, are failing to impress as the other option. I still see the Conservatives winning the next general election, but smaller groups such as UKIP, the BNP, the Green Party etc will be much better represented than ever before, and I think, certainly in the case of the BNP, this is a political failing of the mainstream parties. For now, the Conservatives seem to be content to ride on the wave of Labour’s self-destruction to the election. This is reflected in the blogging of the folk on BUCF, which seems, to my mind at least, to ignore the larger political issues of the moment in exchange for Labour bashing (which, as fun as it may seem, is counter-productive in the long run).

All of which leads my nicely onto the next problem. Hopping over the political spectrum to the folk at Birmingham University Labour Students, I find a similar problem. They too are stuck lauding over past success in exchange for neglect of current predicaments. In their case, the past success is much more recent, but still, to my mind, is barely enough to hang their hopes on. The minimum wage, undoubtedly a good thing, seems to be left high and dry as the one thing that Labour now really has left following twelve years of government. Their record on child poverty is in tatters, unemployment is now no better, legacies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Ireland have all been left, but we wait to see how soon these may fall apart in volatile areas of the world. It is entirely questionable as to whether healthcare has improved all that much, and whilst there are some shining lights in education, there are really not that many. There was a general enjoyment of success whilst Britain was riding a wave of optimism and big spending in the early years of the government, but this has spectacularly fizzled out as we have hit the ‘bust’ section of the cycle. Labour too has had the misfortune of being the party in power at a stage where increased litigation has forced in the country down a route of increased bureaucracy, something the wider public seems to be growing increasingly frustrated with. All of which inevitably spell curtains for the party as the British government, and this is before we hit the media problems which have dogged the party in recent times. Those on the blog though seem to be ignoring the problems. There is rarely any comment about negative Labour headlines, something I feel is to the detriment of themselves and their readership.

Perhaps it is me, floating around in my idealistic bubble, but I think I would prefer to discuss the problems, agree that there are some, and work out what the party can be doing to overcome these problems. I feel that public acceptance of the problems would be a start, and is certainly better than anonymity. Both sides at the ‘grass-roots’ level of the party perhaps have to move out of the realm of comfort blogging and start considering the bigger issues, which, sooner rather than later one would guess, will become their problems.




3 responses

12 05 2009

Labour have achieved more than we tend to give them credit for. EMA meant that I could go back to college and prepare for university, instead of being stuck in a job I hated. I would never have that opportunity under a Tory government.
But I totally understand where you’re coming from in this entry.

12 05 2009

Naturally we disagree with you. We do indeed write about Thatcher alot however you have to remember that we are first and foremost a conservative blog whose prime readership is intended to be university conservatives. Our membership currently has a large number who would prefer to call themselves Thatcherites than Conservatives. Thus we do tend to blog about her frequently. However we are renowed for commenting on a wide range of issues which is why we sustain such a high readership (on average over 500 a day) Admittedly the posts about Thatcher have come thick and fast lately however this has been due to Thatchers 30th Anniversary which we were never going to ignore. Margaret Thatcher is a fascinating individual, she transformed not just one party but two. So I advise ‘futile democracy’ above that any praise for Thatcher-lite New Labour is indeed praise for Thatcher herself. She changed the face of this nation and for that she commands respect and demands attention.

12 05 2009

I had no doubt that you would disagree with me.
I don’t disagree with you about Thatcher “changing the face of the nation”. Obviously she did. Nor do I want this to be about her. Disraeli and Gladstone changed the face of a nation too, how far do you want to go back? Personally I find Disraeli to be a much more interesting character too, but I’m not going to write posts about him with anywhere near the same frequency as you guys do about Thatcher. You do write about other things, this is true, perhaps it is just my perception that you keep coming back to her.
I do find it curious that you would claim that your membership is more “Thatcherite” than “Conservative”, especially given your membership did not directly experience Thatcher. I’m not saying this is either a good or a bad thing, it’s just curious.

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