Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Top 50 Political Myths

My colleagues at Total Politics are in the process of compiling a Top 50 Political Myths List - things like Jim Callaghan never really saying "Crisis, what crisis?". On the basis that 160,000 brains are better than theirs, they have asked me to ask you to nominate your own most notorious political myths to see if they have missed out anything blindingly obvious.

On your marks, get set...


Goodnight Vienna said...

Thatcher: Never said, "There is no such thing as society."

Archie said...

William Hague speaking at the Tory conference when he was a teenager. He was 23.

Anonymous said...

The claim that Broadland is a completely different seat from the current Norwich North.

Archie said...

Blair and Brown did the 1994 leadership deal "over a meal" at Granita. Brown insisted on bringing his own sandwiches.

Anonymous said...

No More Boom & Bust - one of the five million lies from "Gobber"

IanVisits said...

@Goodnight Vienna

Sorry, but she did say that - although the quote is often used out of context as she was talking about the general trend to blame "society" for ailments almost as if it was a single entity that could be held responsible.

But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

Myth: Margaret Thatcher was unpopular.

Anonymous said...

Myth: Thatcher was a good Prime Minister

Tamsin Williams said...

It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in!

IanVisits said...

Any man who finds himself on a bus after the age of 30 can count himself a failure.

Attributed to Margaret Thatcher, but actually said by Loeila, Duchess of Westminster.

John said...

Vienna, she did though! She set it in context, but she still said those exact words.

My vote: That Michael Foot wore a donkey jacket.

The we voted to join the EU (dunno but a lot of people seem to believe these, even though at best some people still alive voted not to leave the EEC)

Grant T said...


William Hague was 16 when he gave his speech to the Conservative Party Conference.

Unknown said...

That I told David Blunkett at a Labour Party Local Govt Confrence in Edinburgh that he could not come in with his Dog.

Goodnight Vienna said...

Okay, IanVisits - my fault for not saying it was out of context - can't help but feel you're nit-picking though.

unseen said...

The myth that the polls always swing towards the government as an election gets closer?

Or the nasty myths, like that the USA knew about Pearl Harbour in advance.

Thatcher on being a failure if you've been on a bus aged 30.

unseen said...

Practictally anything allegedly said by Winston Churchill to Lady Astor?

Tony Blair's 'whiter than white'?

sockpuppet said...

John Major tucking shirt into underpants. Invented by Alistair Campbell.

But then everyone believed it, which tells you something about public opinion about Major.

neil craig said...

That the miners forced Ted Heath into an election in 1974. Both sides derive satisfaction from this myth but in fact he had less than a year to go, knew that the polls showed him very unpopular & that the only way he could win would be on a "who rules the country" platform. Nearly worked too.

I could also do lots of ones about Yugoslavia about recognition of Bosnia & Hercegovina being done out of good intentions, or western leaders 7 journalists not knowing our allies were (ex-)Nazis punlibly committed to genocide, or the "Srebrenica massacre" being genuine, or the real massacre there, of 3,870 Serbs not being known, or that the KLA were something other than a bunch of Albanian, German & American gangsters hired to commit genocide, or the current Vice President of the US not being known to be a Nazi supporter of a hiolocaust more extensive than Hitler's Jewish one.

On the other hand by myths i think you mean things which have semi-accidentaly accepted not deliberate propaganda - though I think deliberate lies would be more interesting.

Bonetired said...

That Churchill said about Clem Attlee "A modest man, but then he has so much to be modest about"

Churchill denied it vehemently.

sockpuppet said...

oh, yes, and the Driberg / Nye Bevan story: "tell me a story, Tom, tell me a story".

Although no-one knows if that was myth or not.

BJ said...

Mandelson asking for fish and chips in Hartlepool, seeing mushy peas and asking if they were guacamole. This was made up by Neil Kinnock, I think.

IanVisits said...

That the British Parliament is the "Mother of Parliaments".

More a misquote than a myth, as the original quote, attributed to John Bright, who remarked in 1865 that "England is the Mother of Parliaments" when debating increased voting rights for the electorate.

(as an aside, I have often wondered who the Father was)

Anonymous said...

Surely the biggest myth is -

"The heart is on the Left".

It's anything but.

Anonymous said...

Brown and Blair did NOT do the deal at Granita.

I know exactly where it happened but it involves a relative who gave the use of his office for the meeting - ABSOLUTE FACT NO BULLSHIT,on my whole family's life.

And it's about 248 miles north of London.

Blair's agent will confirm this.

Andrew Kennedy said...

I have two favourites. I hope they are true, they deserve to be:

No 1.
Geoffrey Dickens MP (Littleborough & Saddleworth) was opening a Summer Fete in his constituency. He was approached by the ugliest woman he had ever seen who asked for a signed photo as she was a great supporter. GD, flattered by the request, asked the woman to write to him at the HoC as a reminder. He informed his secretary about the incident and asked her to look-out for the letter. Five days later the letter arrived in his post. Underneath the constituents signature was "Horseface" in brackets. Dickens assumed the constituent recognised she was ugly and used "horseface" as a nickname to deflect. Thinking he was going along with the joke he wrote "Dear Horseface, it was good to meet you last Saturday and thank you for your support". The following day his HoC secretary asked "did you send off the photograph to your constituent? I wrote "horseface" on the bottom to remind you it was the ugly one you told me about."

No 2.
Neil Hamilton had arranged to meet two Association stalwarts for PMQs followed by tea. They agreed meet in the Central Lobby just before 2pm (in old days before PMQs was moved to noon). Just as the Speaker's procession walked through the two constituents spotted Neil Hamilton across the Lobby ad shouted "Neil, Neil" at which point the American and Japanese tourists got down on their knees thinking it was an instruction.

Not sure if either is true (I have actually heard two other Neil's telling the second story and claiming ownership) but both are great value.

mwaller said...

That Stanley Baldwin coined the phrase, about the press, "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot". It was actually first from Rudyard Kipling, who I believe was his cousin.

Anonymous said...

The BNP are left wing is an amazing myth.

AK said...

Oops, incorrect apostrophe in Neils. I thought I should correct the error before the pedants move in for the kill!

Anonymous said...

That Labour only briefly had one £1m donation from Bernie Ecclestone.

They got one before the '97 election, then asked for and were offered another. When it came to light, Blair claimed they had "returned the money". In fact, they never got the second donation and had to return the first one.

All under the category of "Blair - pretty straight kinda guy".

DespairingLiberal said...

That Margaret Thatcher turned round the UK economy. She did not. It was North Sea Oil.

Lewis Baston said...

Most comments so far are spin, tedious propaganda points or myths themselves. In the spirit of the question:

The belief exists, and I've heard this said by intelligent but non-political people, that there is a rule that Catholics aren't allowed to be Prime Minister. Hasn't been true for best part of 200 years.

Duncan Sandys was the 'headless man' in the 1963 Argyll divorce photos (although, as he said, he 'could have been' as he had done the same thing).

Macmillan resigned because of the Profumo affair. Not true - he resigned months later because of a medical diagnosis.

Stuff about 1980s Labour councils banning black bin liners etc - completely untrue.

'Ethical foreign policy' - what was actually said by Robin Cook in 1997 was that there should be an 'ethical dimension to foreign policy'.

More contentiously, that the Sheffield Rally lost Labour the 1992 election.

That Labour ran an unprecedentedly efficient and slick election campaign in 1964. Untrue - it was a mess, and the campaign in 1959 was much more professional. Likewise, that the Conservative campaign in 1979 was devastatingly effective because of Saatchi & Saatchi - it wasn't that great a campaign, and Labour made up ground in the campaign period.

That Basildon swung to the Conservatives in 1992. It didn't, it just swung to Labour by a grossly insufficient amount.

Lots of myths about the alleged evils of proportional representation, but I won't start on that.

Anonymous said...

That the intervention of George Osborne, David Cameron or anyone at CCHQ was 'critical' or 'the reason' why Boris won London.

He did it through hard work, a brilliant electoral strategy as divised by Crosby et al and the right timing politically.

It infuriates the hell out of me when Central Office is given or tries to take credit for that campaign...

Paul Linford said...

BJ's already mentioned the most obvious New Labour myth - Mandelson and the mushy peas.

Here's another. It was widely put about after the Granita 'pact' that Blair had eaten rabbit, and this was even depicted in the Sheen-Morrissey screen version of the incident. But it was almost certainly made up by the Brown camp to make Blair look like an effete Islington-dwelling ponce.

DespairingLiberal said...

Anon 6:17 - "that BNP is leftwing" - this myth is quite cynically and deliberately smear-circulated by Melanie Phillips, Tim Montgomerie and (recently) Iain Dale.

This particular piece of New Right agitprop is copied from the American New Right who frequently claim that Hitler was a leftwinger. The fact that Hitler locked up, intimidated and murdered hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, social democrats and communists does not seem to intrude on this wierdly altered perception of reality.

It is a vicious and sinister slander because it combines a knowledge that many of it's receiving audience have a profound ignorance of the facts with a profound cynicism to it's likely side effects.

Paul Linford said...

And here's a Tory one: Did anyone ever actually say that making love to Nicholas Soames was "like having a large wardrobe fall on top of you with a very small key," or was it made up by a bunch of journalists in Strangers after a long lunchtime sesh?

DespairingLiberal said...

That Britain was forced to go cap in hand to the IMF under Dennis Healey. It was not forced. Healey decided to because he had out of date figures - it was later revealed that he need not have done so.

That Britain has worse indebtedness than other countries. Compared to GNP and PPP GDP, it is quite well down the table and stronger than many EU and developed countries. Compared to foreign-owned assets (the equivalent of comparing how much you owe to how much you own), the UK is in the better half of the indebtedness table.

Salmondnet said...

That the introduction of the poll tax in Scotland was an experiment.

BOF2BS said...

Yo v's Yeah Blair by Bush - Personally I prefer the Yo!

Josh said...

Hitler being a right winger

Gerry57 said...

Myth: Gordon Brown was a great Chancellor of the Exchequer

Lee Waters said...

Rhodri Morgan never said he wanted to create 'clear red water' between Wales and Westminster. In his speech to Swansea University he said the Guradian had described his approach in that way, but he didn't say it directly himself

Bill Quango MP said...

That Winston Churchill planned Gallipoli.
As First Lord of the Admiralty he proposed the Royal Naval action to force the straits. The navy failed and the army was sent in. It wasn't Winston's plan but he was for ever associated with the terrible failure that followed.

Steve H said...

That Tebbit said "Get on your bike".

Trend Shed said...

I don't know any myths, but this prompted me to remember a series of true and trivial political things .. maybe Total Politics would like to compile a list of inane political trivia too, a bit like a 'trivial political Schotts Almanac'.

Here are my 4 trivial facts:

1. My mum accidently elbowed John Major in the balls whilst he was cheering his son at a cubs swimming gala.

2. Whilst in the Air Cadets, I inadvertently led a chorus of jeering which ruined a photo shoot near Portsmouth for "some bloke off of Spitting Image" - who turned out to be a very annoyed Dr David Owen.

3. John Redwood insisted in shaking my hand during the 1992 election campaign, even though I pointed out to him that I was a fish monger and my hands were totally covered in very fresh trout blood.

4. I was part at the House of Lords when my host Lord (he shall remain nameless) - took the piss out of Douglas Hurd just as he was walking around the corner into earshot.

gordon-bennett said...


In its 1933 manifesto hitler's party, the national SOCIALISTS, declared:

"We are socialists and mortal enemies of the Capitalist system".

Couldn't be clearer.

Anonymous said...

The BNP are right wing is an amazing myth.

Anonymous said...

Going back somewhat further, Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake" during the French revolution.

Doubting Richard said...

More Thatcher Myths (a whole 50 could be found of her if you need them):

That she said that anyone over 30 on a bus was a failure.

That she was unpleasant to work for. Apparently she was utterly cahrming and caring towards staff.

That she destroyed British manufacturing industry.

James Dowden said...

Well, the whole left-right thing is silly -- and ultimately meaningless -- anyway. It's perfectly easy to define right-wing as paternalistic fools, which rather fits the Labour Party and the BNP. Or you can define left-wing in social narrative terms, and once more you have Labour and the BNP. But whatever these assorted Socialists and Corporatists are, we've seen in Soviet Russia that they are most keen when imprisoning, killing, and exiling their own.

And my vote's for the Donkey Jacket myth. With an honourable mention for "Madam, you're ugly! But I shall be sober in the morning." (If only Winston *had* said it!)

Tweedledum said...

The Reichstag Fire: was it

(a) set by the mentally ill Van der Lubbe, acting alone
(b) a Communist conspiracy
(c) a Nazi conspiracy?

Still undecided: the Nazis had the most to gain from it, but maybe they just got lucky with Van der Lubbe.

Plus many events involving the Kennedy family.

Old Blue Eyes said...

That Tony Blair is a straight kind of guy. He's a crooked bastard

LDS said...

David Cameron didn't use the phrase "hug a hoodie"

King Athelstan said...

Those 15 percent interest rates after black Wednesday, (Gordon Brown and acolytes ad nauseam since 1997.)In fact the full increase was never implemented on the day, never mind that interest rates were reset before close of trading when Britain withdrew from the ERM. Nobody ever pulls the lying shit up on this no matter how many times he does it. (I've never heard John Major refer to European problems that started in Germany either.)

Anonymous said...

That Chris Smith is a top.

El Sid said...

...that Thatcher uniquely devastated the coal industry. In fact it declined more in the 11 years before and after her, and under Labour between 1997-2008 :

...that Thatcher benefited uniquely from North Sea oil. The all-time monthly peak in production happened in something like October 1998 (I forget exactly - the stats are buried in the old BERR site). Gordon's tax revenues from the North Sea have been about the same as Thatcher's, about £70bn in round terms.

...that interest rates hit 15% during the ERM crisis of 1992 - they were agreed after market hours on 16 September but never implemented as we left the ERM before the markets reopened.

From memory there's a similar myth connected with leaving the gold standard at the start of WWI.

Talking of which - Keynes never said gold was a barbarous relic, in the Tract on Monetary Reform he said "In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic."

El Sid said...

Heh - snap KA on the 15% thing. Blogger didn't want to accept my post earlier, I would have been before you otherwise. :-)

Quite right on the hug-a-hoodie thing LDS, that was Tony McNulty's comment on Cameron's speech : "Sending out this hug-a-hoodie message just addresses one part of that, and it's for today's headlines."

DDIM 'n HOFFI said...

Enoch Powell was wrong.

Janis B. said...

Latvians hold Hitler's Waffen SS in high regard :)

Anonymous said...

That the Lib Dems are liberal or democratic.

David Boothroyd said...

Serious commentators have come up with most of the good ones. The fact that George W. Bush did not say "Yo, Blair" but "Yeah, Blair" (and that using surnames only is how to refer to equals who are close friends in Texas) is a good one. Andrew Kennedy's two stories have been applied to many different MPs over the decades and are both apocryphal.

Thatcher did say "There is no such thing as society" but in context it meant something different from what appears from the words themselves.

Herbert Morrison never said "We are going to build the Tories out of London" (no source has been found) and certainly never did it because he believed in building out-county estates.

Anonymous said...

That Vince Cable is an economic guru who foresaw the exact cause of the banking crisis and recession.

Unknown said...

Not quite a myth but that picture of John Major at a dinner with his head in his hands was used to portray him despairing when in actual fact he was laughing at the time.

Components of Independence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

1. David Cameron in fact has no aristocratic blood. He was a scholarship pupil at Eton.

2. Gordon Brown's father was, in fact, George Brown. This was especially convenient when labelling luggage.

3. Maggie Thatcher was half-American, being Winston Churchill's second cousin. At the age of 21 she had to choose her nationality and decided there was no chance of a female President of the USA so decided to be British.

4. The EU is merely a puffed-up gentlemen's club on the in St James. It is, however, very exclusive: you have to have been an EU premier to be a member.

5. MPs' expenses exceed even Fred the Shred's pension payment. However, the corporate expense tab on the 2nd day of Wimbledon exceeds the combined total of MPs' expenses, both legitimate and bogus.

6. MPs' vote are weighted, according to their length of service and overall majority.

7. The Scottish National Party is, in fact, a party. Many view it as socialist when it is merely social.

I will send the other 43 myths tomorrow.

Components of Independence said...

Some myths I can think of, off the top of my head:

"England subsidises Scotland"

"Labour don't have a majority in England".

"Scotland has higher unemployment than England"

"Scotland has a higher economic inactivity rate than England"

"More Scots work in the public sector than elsewhere in the UK"

"Public spending as a proportion of GDP is higher in Scotland than in England"

Unknown said...

From Michael Crick:

That Jeffrey Archer didn't go to Oxford University - he did.

The Peter Mandelson guacamole/mushy peas story
- Militant were using it years before about various Labour right-wingers in Liverpool.

That Labour won the 1966 election because of England's World Cup victory - the election came first.

That voters deserted Labour in 1951because the Attlee government had run out of steam - Labour's vote actually rose to its highest figure ever.

James Dowden said...

@ Rory

If we're doing John Major:

MYTH: he tucked his shirt into his Y-fronts.

Or is it?

Anonymous said...

NuLab's 'things can only get better'- 1997.

Anonymous said...

No one, so far as I can tell, has ever argued that 'The poverty of my people is the poverty of their ambition'

A great line, variously attributed to PMs, US Presidents, and anyone else you would care to mention.

Likewise 'Events, dear boy, events.'

hatfield girl said...

That the post 1945 Labour government brought in the modern welfare state. Bismarck was the father of the modern welfare state.

Anonymous said...

That Gordon Brown turned around the economy as Chancellor. Growth had recommenced under Major and the economy was growing steadily when Labout won in 1997.

That Brown was Britain's "best ever Chancellor". I forget who coined that phrase. Probably Alastair "I don't drive civil servants to their deaths" Campbell.

The Grim Reaper said...

Gordon Brown and the rocking horse.

Or is that one actually true?

Verity said...

Jimmy Carter came in No 1 in his graduation class at university. That was his claim. He was actually around No 37.

Rebel Saint said...

There's lots of Bush ones that have been propagated by the liberal hegemony of the BBC.

That Bush said, "God told me to go to war with Iraq" is probably the prime one. This is actually a refuted and uncorroborated report by Nabil Shaath whom the Liberals chose to believe over everyone else at the same meeting!

That Bush was uneducated (he was the 1st President to hold a masters degree from Harvard) or a poor politician (you simply don't become President of the USA - twice ... the 2nd time with an increased majority - without quite a lot of political acumen).

expat in NY said...

Another US one is the Kennedy speech with "Ich bin ein Berliner"

Anonymous said...

I have the number one modern political myth:-

"That Tony Blair is a socialist!"

Anonymous said...

"Another US one is the Kennedy speech with "Ich bin ein Berliner""

Since I clearly remembered seeing a film of him saying it, I was rather puzzled by this statement. I looked at the Wikipedia page and sure enough, it states that he used the phrase twice in his speech at the Rathaus (although it was removed when he repeated the speech at the Free University).

The only myth mentioned is that the locals thought he was talking about doughnuts.

However, Ronald Reagan never said "ich bin ein Frankfurter".

Anonymous said...

The Labour Party supports the working classes and cares about equality.

Anonymous said...

Thacher had the undying support and loyalty of the CONSERVATIVE MPs.

Plenty said...

'Events, dear boy, events. Was it actually ever a real phrase?'

Bob Piper said...

That Alan Clark said that Michael Heseltine was the sort of person who had "bought his own furniture".

The quote is actually from Michael Jopling.

Anonymous said...

1. Gordon Brown is an economic genius - 'nuff said

2. John Bercow has undergone a trajectory leftwards journey since marriage - he has always been a real libertarian on social issues since before his marriage

3. Shireen Ritchie was Madonna's mother in law - she was her step mother in law

4. Alan Johnson/Harriet Harman/John Cruddas/Mikey Mouse could lead Labour to victory at the next election - Norfolk and Chance

5. Martin Bell was an independent

davidc said...

'when myth becomes legend, print the legend' - said by the newspaper editor in 'the man who shot liberty valence'

davidc said...

'when legend becomes fact print the legend'

sorry , too early in the morning !

DominicJ said...

"The fact that Hitler locked up, intimidated and murdered hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, social democrats and communists does not seem to intrude on this wierdly altered perception of reality."
So did the USSR, so did China. Its not enough to be a fellow communist, you have to be a fellow communists who believes the blokes with the guns are the right people to be in charge.
Solidarity (poland) wasnt exactly loved by the government was it.

The British National Party believe the state should control the majority of the economy.
The National Socialist German Workers Party believed the state should control the majority of the economy.
New/Old Labour believe the state should control the majority of the economy.

All three also believe it is up to the state to decide what is morally acceptable. They dont agree with each other on what is acceptable, but thwey all agree that it up to the state to make people do what the state thinks is right, wether thats murder jews or love muslims is irrelevent.

The left thinks the state knows whats right, and that it is the duty of the state to make people conform to that view

Ilja Nieuwland said...

Hitler's party being elected with a democratic majority is a persistant one, as well.

Another one is that Napoleon was purportedly very small. At 5'7" he was as tall as most of his contemporaries. This goes in the 'Churchill is an alcoholic' and 'Hitler only has one ball' frame of political propaganda.

David Boothroyd said...

Another good one is that young people in the USA were strongly against the Vietnam war. In fact, opinion polls showed consistently that young people were more likely to support the war than older people.

Michael Crick's comments suggest that if you want to do Archer you could also mention his claim to have been the youngest MP when elected (actually he was the fifth youngest).

Others: Mussolini didn't make the trains run on time, he just told the Italians that he had; Al Gore never said he invented the internet.

Jules Wright said...

Apocryphal or true? I don't know but it's an absolute gem.

Subject: Paddy Ashdown.

Occupation: Royal Marine.

Date: Late 1960s.

Location: Hong Kong.

Target: Denis Healey.

Jist: Ashdown & Co, no fans of Healey, daub "Denis Healey is a Hoon" on conning tower (aka 'sail') of nuclear submarine in large white-painted letters. Healey takes Navy salute in Causeway Bay; nuclear submarine surfaces as part of said salute, slowly revealing antagonistic, witty slogan on sail to all dignatories present. Healey pretends not to notice, but all present know it to be true. Ashdown carpeted by CO barely able to stand he's laughing so much. Story enters regimental legend.

Upshot: Ashdown establishes ultimate cool status with many but goes on to join wrong political party and never sees office.

Unknown said...

The myth that the Speakership rotates between the two main parties. In fact, the Speaker almost always comes from the governing party, except when enough government MPs vote for an opposition MP (Boothroyd, Bercow). Over the last few decades, the Speakership has generally alternated between Conservative and Labour Speakers, but this is simply because of changes of government in between Speaker elections.

TheBoilingFrog said...

That David Mellor never wore a Chelsea kit - made up by Max Clifford

Matty said...


"In its 1933 manifesto hitler's party, the national SOCIALISTS, declared:

"We are socialists and mortal enemies of the Capitalist system".

Couldn't be clearer."

Except that Hitler also actively wooed (and got the support of) much of the German capitalist class and actively exterminated the Strasserist faction of the NSDAP partly because it took the "socialist" part of the party's name seriously.

Lest we forget this was 1933, any party aiming for popular support was wise to declare itself "socialist" and officially back-off from Capitalism: it wasn't a popular system with ordinary people at the time for obvious reasons and Hitler had noted how socialist parties were popular with the German working class whose support he needed.

Hitler certainly wasn't pro-capitalist by modern standards (his economic ideas were very centre-ist, a mixture of private enterprise and state control of major industries) largely because he thought international capital was controlled by a "jewish conspiracy" as he tended to think most things were. But he was opposed to socialist economic ideas (ironically, because he thought socialism was another jewish plot) in practice preferring the standard fascist economic model that emphasised class co-operation rather than class conflict.

The simple historical facts of the matter are that the Nazi's were overwhelmingly a party of the political far-Right. They were nationalistic, militaristic, extremely racist and hostile to all leftism from liberalism to communism. They drew early admiration from conservatives (notably and infamously the publishers of the Daily Mail) who were more than capable of noticing if they were a "leftwing" movement, certainly more than someone at a distance of 60 years after the event, who only backed off when it became clear they were a threat to Britain. When the Nazis made allies they made them with rightwingers - Franco, Imperial Japan, Marshall Petain, Horthy etc etc. Their only "alliance" with the Left was the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact which was less an alliance and more a temporary ceasefire and which Stalin was more than aware Hitler planned to break (which, of course, he did).

There is nothing in the historical record to suggest Hitler was "leftwing" and an overwhelming amount that says the opposite. All claims to the contrary, as with much ideologically-inspired "revisionism", consist of focusing on minor details (does anyone really think the fascist movement's miserable impact on humanity was a result of its economic ideas?!) and ignoring the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

That an MP represents all or any of their constituents. My MP does not reply to letters, always votes with his party, and does not proactively consult or communicate with his constituents. He is in no way unusual amongst MPs.

Matty said...

I might as well add a couple:

*The 1660 restoration of the monarchy was inevitable, England needed a King!

In fact all England needed was a powerful central figure to control the state. Cromwell had provided that, his son didn't. Had Cromwell nominated someone more suitable as his successor - Lambert, for instance - (which he was entitled to do - the Protectorate was an autocracy but it was no monarchy and there was no legal line of succession) then likely as not the regime would have persisted and England would probably have settled into being a 'republic' along the Dutch lines.

*Labour would have won the 1983 General Election but for the Falkland's War boosting Thatcher's popularity

That the Falkland's War did boost support for the flagging Tory party appears to be true but, lest we forget, Labour's 1983 Manifesto wasn't called "the longest suicide note in history" for no reason. Given that the emergence of the SDP had split the leftwing vote, it's more likely that there would have been a hung parliament or that either Labour or the Conservatives would have been forced into a coalition with the SDP.

J R Hartley said...

24 Hours to Save the NHS

Education, education education

Anonymous said...

What Norman Tebbitt actually said was:
"I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking 'til he found it."

Matty said...

Another one I've heard a few times is that the British monarch holds "enormous" reserve powers which they simply "don't use" (usually pops-up in tosh like "Johnny English" but occasionally cited in more serious circumstances).

The British monarch has no such thing, their powers have been gradually removed and transferred to Parliament over a period of several centuries until pretty much nothing is left. Any "reserve powers" which do exist are a) completely useless to any would-be Absolute Monarch and b) de-facto held by the Prime Minister.

Matty said...

I've also thought of a few of Vietnam war ones:

*The US was heavily militarily involved at the start of the war.

Except they weren't. The war started between Communist North Vietnam and Non-Communist South Vietnam with the South backed by the French. The French did not have the financial or military resources to prosecute the war for long so the Americans took over from them.

*The Americans were defending a democracy against communism.

I've actually seen this claimed in supposedly historical books. South Vietnam held elections early on but these were quickly abandoned in favour of a pro-Western dictatorship. In John Wayne's film "The Green Berets" which was made to support the war effort, Wayne's character excuses this with some paternalistic nonsense about the Vietnamese being a simple people and not being ready for democracy.

*America was losing the war when they abandoned Vietnam

Actually, the historical record suggests they weren't. The reason they pulled out was that the war had become a political liability, doubtless due to the huge cost in American lives which would have had far worse an impact due to the use of conscription.

Matty said...

Another famous one: Winston Churchill once claimed "If a man is not a socialist at 20 he no heart, if he is not a conservative at 30 he has no brain."

It was actually said by a French politician, a relatively obscure one.

Matty said...

Another persistant one that I think even Tony Blair repeated:

"America is our oldest ally".

Actually, that would be the French who we've been allied to for over 100 years (the Vichy regime doesn't really count since it wasn't the legitimate French government). The Americans have only been our persistant allies since World War II with the formation of NATO.

Mike Law said...

Tony Blair is a socialist

Mike Law said...

I thought the Portuguese were our old European allies!

Mike Law said...

Just noticed Anon at 5:10

Great minds and all that!

Unknown said...

Gordon-bennet (and other Nazis-were-leftwing-smearmongers on this blog) - has it ever dawned on you that perhaps the Nazis may have LIED sometimes?

Once in office, the NSDAP persecuted all forms of labour organisation and they did not nationalise companies - instead, they awarded mega-contracts to corporations and secured the support of the wealthy Junker families.

Hardly the behaviour of socialists.

The quote you reference by the way is about "Jewish financiers" and the deluded Nazi view of international capital as dominated by them - it is nothing at all to do with a genuine challenge to capitalism.

Phillips, Montgomery and Dale know all this is equally true of what the BNP would do in office but continue the smear, copying their US far-right cousins.

Matty said...

I've thought of another good historical one: that the Roman Empire ended in 476AD with the abdication of Romulus Augustus who was the "last Emperor". In fact, Roman power had shifted eastward to Constantinople (which was intentionally created as a new Roman capital by Constantine). The Empire had been split into two for administrative purposes for centuries and the Western Empire had been in terminal decline for decades when Romulus became emperor and was little more than a barbarian-ruled vassal of Constantinople which controlled Italy and little else. When Romulus abdicated (actually was deposed, he had no power and was a mere figurehead) nobody would have known what you were talking about if you'd said the Roman Empire had ended. Contemporary Romans simply thought that Romulus was the latest in a long line of Emperors to be deposed and that a new emperor would come along soon either from within Italy itself or appointed by the Eastern Empire. If you'd asked where the Roman Empire was to an Italian in 477AD he'd have said you were standing in it and that the Emperor sat at Constantinople. Constantinople claimed overlordship of Western Europe for much of the next 200 years and, officially at least, this overlordship was actually recognised by the West's de-facto barbarian rulers. The fact of the Empire's collapse in the West, the decline of the classical world and the reduction of the "Roman Empire" to a Greek rump state called "Byzantine" these days took many generations to become clear to people and certainly had no specific date.

John Smith said...

Myth: The EU is a bad thing.
Reality: If peace, prosperity, democracy and open borders are 'bad things', we probably don't want things to be 'good'.

Paul Linford said...

It was Romulus Augustulus, Matty.

Treble exes all round said...

My favourite political myth is that all economists are idiots, lay them end to end and you still wouldn't reach a conclusion etc etc.

The reality is that if one of them is attacking Labour party policy the Tories immediately think them fine insightful chaps altogether.

Matty said...

"Once in office, the NSDAP persecuted all forms of labour organisation and they did not nationalise companies - instead, they awarded mega-contracts to corporations and secured the support of the wealthy Junker families."

To be fair, the Nazis did nationalise some companies although not for egalitarian reasons but more because they felt government control was necessary for the wars the Nazis were planning or because the owners were hostile to the Nazis.

But it's certainly true that many wealthy German families and industrialists shifted their support to the Nazis from the conservatives (although some conservatives were strongly opposed to the Nazis, notably Hindenburg who (correctly) believed Hitler's policies would destroy Germany).

Matty said...

"It was Romulus Augustulus, Matty."

Actually Romulus Augustus was his proper name. "Augustulus" (meaning "little Augustus") was a derogatory nickname mocking both his youth (he was 16) and his lack of power. Like "Caligula" it's largely become associated with him more than his real name.

Matty said...

"The quote you reference by the way is about "Jewish financiers" and the deluded Nazi view of international capital as dominated by them - it is nothing at all to do with a genuine challenge to capitalism."

In part, but it was more about Hitler's desire to draw support from the German working-class. Hitler had seen working-class Germans veer towards the socialist and communist parties and felt that such ideologies were a threat to Germany, so much so he was more than willing to appeal to working-class concerns about social welfare to stop Germans from voting for them. Much of the fascist movement came from the working-class but many of them were ex-soldiers (in fact German fascism has its origins in the Freikorps, militias formed by war veterans who fought against German leftist radicals in the 1920s) and Hitler needed to reach out to the wider working-class.

davidc said...

'Myth: The EU is a bad thing.
Reality: If peace, prosperity, democracy and open borders are 'bad things', we probably don't want things to be 'good'.'
no the reality is more along the lines of
peace - nato
prosperity - liberal capitalism
democracy - the eu ?????
open borders - british jobs for british workers - well , perhaps not.

Scottish Tory said...

Myth - That Margaret Thatcher was particularly unpopular with the Scots and that is why they voted for devolution.

Fact - Margaret Thatcher cumulatively lost less votes for the Conservative party in Scotland than her predessor or successor. In fact the loss was actually very small in comparison.

Edward Heath inherited a Tory vote of 40.6% in Scotland from the 1964 election when he became leader in 1965. The last elecion he fought as leader saw the Tory vote at 24.7% in October 1974. A loss of 15.9%.

John Major inherited a Tory vote of 24% in Scotland from the 1987 election when he became leader in 1990. The last elecion he fought as leader saw the Tory vote at 17.5% in 1997. A loss of 6.5%.

Margaret Thatcher inherited a Tory vote of 24.7% in Scotland from the October 1974 election when she became leader in 1975. The last elecion she fought as leader saw the Tory vote at 24% in 1987. A loss of only 0.7%.

Ted Treen said...

Despairing Liberal said "The fact that Hitler locked up, intimidated and murdered hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, social democrats and communists does not seem to intrude on this wierdly altered perception of reality."

There is the fact that kindly Uncle Joe did the same, but on a greater scale, as did Chairman Mao and Kim Il Sung - or is your perception of "weirdly altered" selective?

bergen said...

Fred Mulley as Defence Secretary fell asleep next to the Queen taking a Review.

A photo from another angle showed he was leaning forward to read a programme which was placed between his feet.

Matty said...

"There is the fact that kindly Uncle Joe did the same, but on a greater scale, as did Chairman Mao and Kim Il Sung - or is your perception of "weirdly altered" selective?"

Stalin and Mao didn't kill them for being socialists/communists, though, they killed them because they claimed they weren't communists but in fact "rightists" which in Marxist-Leninist terms meant (and indeed means) actual rightwingers, anyone on the left who wasn't Marxist or (more usually) actual Marxists who were simply a political threat.

Hitler, on the other hand, killed such people because they were leftists. He also killed quite a few fascists too, although that was because he felt they were a political liability or a threat.

As a good example of the sort of people the Nazis persecuted, take a look at the list of public figures to be interred in the event of a Nazi occupation of Great Britain, the notorious Black Book:

The list consists overwhelmingly of liberals, socialists, Marxists, homosexuals and feminists. The only Conservatives there are wartime government ministers whose reason for inclusion is obvious, Noel Coward (for his homosexuality) and Enoch Powell (who, ironically, had an early admiration for fascism). Outspoken public rightwingers are notably by their absence.

Matty said...

I meant Baden Powell, not Enoch Powell, obviously. Doh.

Gareth said...

Prof Robert Hazell , Prospect Magazine, Feb 2006: "Opinion polls show that an English parliament commands almost no support amongst the English people"

Lord Howarth of Newport , Hansard: "as we know, there is no demand for an English Parliament"

Lord Falconer of Thornton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs ? Today Programme, Radio 4 (10th March 2006): "there is no demand at all for devolution to England or the English MPs only being able to vote on English issues."

Prof Robert Hazell, The English Question (2005): "There is no demand yet for an English parliament"

James Dowden said...

Matty, "the only people we hate more than the Romans are the [redacted] Judaean People's Front".

But dragging it back from Labour, the BNP, the Commies, the Nazis, and other same-wing splinter groups, another Alan Clark myth:

Bongo Bongo land. (It was in fact a smear made by Clare Short.)

Treble exes all round said...

To Michael Crick

"That Jeffrey Archer didn't go to Oxford University - he did".

He didn't go to Oxford in the sense that everyone understands the phrase "go to Oxford".

IOW he wasn't enrolled for a degree, nor did he get one, nor could he ever have got one.

He got a one year teaching diploma awarded by Oxford Dept of Education.

IOW he only went to Oxford in the same sense as Dolly went to Berkeley.

Matty said...

"Matty, "the only people we hate more than the Romans are the [redacted] Judaean People's Front"."

Are you trying to suggest that the fact the Nazis and Communists were deadly enemies proves they were "the same"? Please, you might as well say this means Liberals and Conservatives are basically the same too. They were deadly enemies not because of some "splitter" mentality but because they were fiercly ideologically opposed.

The Communists wanted class warfare leading to an end of class divisions, end national and racial divisions, end conflict and create a utopian "worker's paradise". The Nazis wanted to end class conflicts, cement national and racial heirarchies and practically existed for conflict (arguably fascism would have fizzled-out without warfare to drive it since it was such a heavily marshall ideology).

The "splitter" mentality did exist at the time, largely on the radical left but to some extent on the radical right: Franco was an early ally of Hitler but cooled his relationship with him after a meeting following the Spanish Civil War and refused to ally with Hitler in World War II beyond sending Spanish troops to fight on the Russian Front - this was seemingly a result of minor ideological differences and looks petty to anyone outside of fascism.

DominicJ said...

"or (more usually) actual Marxists who were simply a political threat."

Were "marxists" and "comminists" a political threat to Hitler?
Were the "facists" he killed a threat?

Is the common thread that he ( and Stalin and Mao ) killed anyone who was a threat, rather than anyone who disagreed?

Some German Capitalists cosied up to the state and did very well out it, men like Krupp, but I get the odd impression men like Pavel Sukhoi werent eating bread primarily made of sawdust in the USSR.

No, they said the right things, bribed the right government employees and lived a life of luxary.

Anonymous said...

That private-school educated men such as Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson are any better at governing, leading or managing than any other group.

Matty said...

"Bongo Bongo land. (It was in fact a smear made by Clare Short.)"

Apparently, Clark did say this and claimed it was a reference to President Bongo of Gabon rather that intended to be racist.

(Wiki cites this from his diaries and provides the page number, so I assume it's checkable)

Clark also made a few pro-Nazi statements:

Alan Clark Diaries: Into Power, Page 280, Phoenix Paperback 2000 Edition, December the 8th, 1981:

"Frank [Frank Johnson, sketch writer for The Times] pretended he wanted to talk about the Tory Party, but he really prefers to talk about the Nazis, concerning whom he is curious, but not, of course, sympathetic. Yes, I told him, I was a Nazi, I really believed it to be the ideal system, and that it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished. He both gulped and grinned 'But surely, er, you mean ... (behaving like an unhappy interviewer in Not the Nine O'Clock News after, e.g., Pamela Stephenson had said something frightfully shocking) ideally in terms of administrative and economic policy ... you cannot really, er ...' Oh yes, I told him, I was completely committed to the whole philosophy. The blood and violence was an essential ingredient of its strength, the heroic tradition of cruelty every bit as powerful and a thousand times more ancient than the Judaeo-Christian ethic."

Of course, this may have been a joke but his statements about the Kosovo War (in which he argued that we should have sided with the Serbs against the "loathsome, verminous gypsies" and muslims suggests otherwise.

DominicJ said...

"Are you trying to suggest that the fact the Nazis and Communists were deadly enemies proves they were "the same"?"

So Russia was a capitalist nation because it supported the USA against Germany?

What were the ideological differences between the Communists and the NSDAP?
If you walked out of a facttory and stood outside with a bioard saying strike, you'd be shot dead, in both countries.

Both believed all property, including people, belonged to the state.
The state told you what to do and you did it

That they fought is irrelevent, plenty f very similar nations have fought before, the first world war was primarily a war between two parliamentary monarchies

Matty said...

"Were "marxists" and "comminists" a political threat to Hitler?"

He certainly seemed to think so, he spent an awful lot of time expounding on the fact. When Berlin was poised to fall in 1945 he kept re-iterating the message that "only" Germany and the Nazi Party could turn-back the threat from Communist "barbarism" that he was convinced was plotting to engulf the entire continent.

"Were the "facists" he killed a threat?"

The fascists he killed were the SA and the Strasserists. The SA were seen as an internal threat (having been initially important to Hitler and the NSDAP as muscle from their streetfighting days) due to their loyalty to Ernst Rhom. Rhom was also a homosexual and Hitler was unable to pursue his policy of persecuting homosexuality whilst Rhom was alive (Hitler's official views on homosexuality before the Night of the Long Knives were that it was a private matter, this changed following the SA's elimination).

The Strasserists were a problem because, whilst being solidly rightwing on nationalist and military affairs, they were sympathetic to socialist ideas about public ownership of capital (if not the philosophy behind it) and felt that the Nazis should be a "socialist" party in this regard in fact as well as in word. Hitler disagreed strongly (and actually had to disabuse Goebbels of these ideas, his later propaganda minister being initially sympathetic to Strasserism) believing that socialist economic ideas were part of the Bolshevik-Jewish plot he believed threatened the "civilised world" and that having such men in his party also threatened his support amongst the German capitalist and middle-class (Hitler was apparently from the lower-middle class which also probably explains his hostility to economic socialism) so the Strasserists were eliminated.

David Boothroyd said...

Myth: Harold Macmillan described privatization as "selling off the family silver".

Truth: He did use the concept but not the words, working it into an extended metaphor.

Myth: Harold Macmillan was opposed to privatization in principle.

Truth: His opposition was to the fact that the Treasury, then as now, treats privatization proceeds as income rather than capital.

Matty said...

"Both believed all property, including people, belonged to the state.
The state told you what to do and you did it"

No they didn't, the Nazis did not believe "all property belonged to the state". There was considerable private enterprise under the Nazi regime, visible class divisions continued and many Nazi Party members were industrialists and businessmen.

What the Nazis did believe is that everyone had a duty of loyalty to the nation and therefore the state. Loyalty to and being owned by are quite different things. And the idea that private citizens have a duty of loyalty is a rightwing idea that persists (look at a lot of the output of rightwingers from the USA)

Communists, on the other hand, believed that the state should control everything. Under Communism, there was no private enterprise (beyond very very small scale operations, many of them illegal) and class divisions were actively broken-down and removed and the de-facto class divisions that replaced them were created by the state rather than on merit/through inheritance or whatever. Stalin certainly didn't have the backing and support of Russian capitalists and landowners because he'd spent the previous twenty years having them shot.

"That they fought is irrelevent,"

It's not about that they fought, it's about why they fought. Why Hitler thought Communism was a "threat to civilisation" rather than a rival.

Matty said...

"Myth: Harold Macmillan was opposed to privatization in principle."

Another myth is that, from the 1950s until Thatcher the Conservative Party was happy with the post-war economic consensus and the mixed-economy. Most of them wanted a return to the "profit motive", they were simply unwilling to rock the boat and found it easier to go with the consensus.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

"Pissed as a newt" in fact has nothing to do with newts and is a bastardisation of the word "Neuf" (as in Chateeu Neuf de Pape). It was code-word for when the PM was drunk.

DominicJ said...

"It's not about that they fought, it's about why they fought. Why Hitler thought Communism was a "threat to civilisation" rather than a rival."

Hitler thought Russia was a rival because it was in the way of his dreams for expansion.
Stalin thought Germany was a rival because it was in the way of his expansion.
People fight for real reasons, not ideological ones.
Hitler was quick enough to abandon German Racial Superiority when he needed Japanese support and muslim SS divisions.
Both wanted to expand the reach of their empires, both engaged in Realpolitik when it suited them.
If The German Communists would have beaten the Freikorps, come 1940, they would still have been presented with the option of knuckling down under Stalin, waiting till Stalin was strong enough to make them obey him, or strike first in the hopes of winning and imposing their will on him.

Hitler fought Russia for the same reason Wilhelm II did, we fought Hitler for the same reasons we fought Wilhelm II.

Re: Class Divisions and Capitalism
Class divisions persisted under both regimes and were enforced.
The son of a prominant CP member had a much better chance of success than the son of a farmer.
But the same was true in Germany, you couldnt quite your job and go do your own thing, if the state didnt like what you were making, it could make you make something else, siezing your factory and shooting you resisted.
In the latter stages of the war, factories making costmetics and perfurmed were retasked.
Not that the same thing didnt happen in the UK, where the ordnance office could take your staff if they werent deemed essential to the war effort.

Re: Threats to Hitler
I was simply trying to point out that Hitler had anyone who was a threat to him killed, regardless of their beliefs.

I'm sure Stalin had some actual capitalists executed, but its hard to fit trotsky in with them.

So, I say again, did they kill people for ideological reasons, or because it was convenient to do so.

But anyway, we're getting a bit off topic.

I define Nazism and Communism as left wing, because both believed in the supreme power of the state, and I define "leftism" as Statism, whether thats the state compelling people to allow black people into their restaurants, or compelling them not to allow black people in isnt the issue.

On my scale, both are on the extreme left wing, socialy and economicaly.

Anonymous said...

It's a myth that the Scottish Conservatives won over 50% of the vote in the 1955 election -the only post-war Scottish party to do so.

The fact is that it was the Scottish Unionist party and their electoral allies in the Liberal Unionists and National Liberals. None of them were part of the Conservative party though they took the Tory whip at Westminster. their relationship with the Conservatives was much the same as the Ulster Unionists before 1973.

The irony is that the Tory vote rapidly declined after they gave up their independence in 1965 and allowed themselves to be taken over by the Conservatives.

Anonymous said...

If everyone left aside the arguments and accepted hypothetically that there were relatively few ideological differences between the Soviets and the Nazis, why does that make the Nazis left-wing? Why doesn't it make the Soviets, right-wing? What were the ideological differences between the Soviets and the Tsarists? Most traditional definitions of the left and right wings would place absolute monarchism on the extreme right and anarchism on the extreme left. Surely the Soviet and Nazi systems have more in common with absolute monarchism than with anarchism.

DominicJ said...

"Most traditional definitions of the left and right wings would place absolute monarchism on the extreme right and anarchism on the extreme left."

Again, how are you defining left and right?
Or Anarchism and monarchism for that matter.
I've had anarchism definitions that swing from modern libertarianism to the most hard core communism and know of powerless monarchs and those who can do as they choose.

eeyore said...

All those commenters who don't know the difference between communists and fascists are ... in good company. "Communists and fascists differ as the north pole differs from the south." (Churchill)

Graham Robb said...

The Peter Mandelson 'mushy peas' story might well be a myth. It was first reported in the 'John North' column in the Northern Echo and was similar to stories told about Harold MacMillan when he was MP for Stockton before the war. Northern Conservatives were used to this kind of treatment when they selected well spoken southerners to fight northern seats. How John North got the story I don't know....but I was the Conservative candidate in Hartlepool at the time.

Anonymous said...

That a personal vote for an MP in a parliamentary election is worth a maximum of 1500 votes.

Anonymous said...

That we handed back Hong Kong because the lease ran out.

Anonymous said...

That oppositions never win elections. First governments have to lose them.