Michael Gove launches extraordinary attack on 'leftwing myths' about WW1
It was always going to be interesting to see how politicians would try and use the 100 year anniversary of the First World War’s outbreak for their own ends. And a mere four days into the year, the Education Secretary Michael Gove has covered himself in anything but glory. He has written an extraordinary piece of jingoism crticising anyone who dares question the justness of World War 1 and the competence of the political leaders who executed it
Gove took to the pages of the Daily Mail to rail against the ‘left wing myths’ peddled by the likes of Blackadder. His reactionary interpretation of The Great War as a ‘just war’ in which apparently the death of 37 million people was necessitated by the pressing need to ‘resist pitiless German expansionism’ may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many, but one cannot deny him an opinion. Alas, the Education Secretary seems unwilling to accept alternative views, despite them being blindingly obvious and despite the fact that education is supposed to be about weighing interpretations rather than teaching a specific line of understanding. For an Education Secretary to rubbish a historical perspective seems extraordinarily tawdry. And to blame Germany entirely rather than the perilous complexities of European politics, let alone the British desire to retain imperial and naval dominance seems irredeemably facile.
“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” wrote Gove.
He has been pilloried for his comments, not least because the First World War was most certainly ‘a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite’.
Gove then wheeled out a familiar refrain from recent wars as he claimed that those who took issue with the war itself were denigrating the "patriotism, honour and courage" of those who served and died. The tragedy of the Great War, distilled by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon was the systematic murder of those patriotic, honourable and courageous men by their political leaders.
Indeed Gove may want to tread carefully before comparisons start to be drawn between the modern ‘We’re all in this together’ and the infinitely more destructive version of 1914.