Last week Michael Gove rekindled the debate on British values by demanding that they should be taught in Britain’s schools. Gove’s broadside against the dangers of Islamic extremism taking a hold of our education system was backed by the Prime Minister, who rallied to his Education Secretary’s side, claiming that the incorporation of British values into the school curriculum was likely to have the “overwhelming support” of the country. The Prime Minister went on to give his own view of what these values are, citing freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility, and a respect for British institutions.
Michael Gove’s recent assault, in the form of an article in the Daily Mail, alleges that the myths of the First World War continue to be perpetuated by an unholy alliance of left-wing academics and television sit-coms. The Education Secretary accused his ideological opponents of failing to recognise that the conflict was a ‘just war’, fought in defence of ‘Britain’s special tradition of liberty’. Since the piece went to press, the myriad problems inherent in Gove’s characterisation have been dissected at great length – including an excellent assessment by Marc-William Palen in this very blog. Yet while we might take particular exception to the tone and context of the Education Secretary’s position, such attempts to deploy the rhetoric of justice and liberty in defence of conflict are nothing new. Indeed, from my own research on the Liberal Party and the outbreak of the 1899-1902 South African War, I would suggest that Gove is merely rehashing the language and rhetoric of pro-war Liberals at the turn of the century. Continue reading “Echoes of Britain’s Wartime Past: Gove’s Timeless Rhetoric of Justice and Liberty”→