The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, courtesy of the Mayor of London's website

Mayor of London: the First World War "was overwhelmingly the result of German aggression" and "the Left can't bear to say so"

Posted on on 06 January 2014
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The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has joined an ongoing argument amongst British politicians about the history of the First World War, in which he states the conflict "was overwhelmingly the result of German expansionism and aggression" and that "the Left can't bear to say so".

The argument began when Education Secretary Michael Gove attacked "left-wing" readings of the conflict, and television programmes such as Blackadder being used to teach young people about the war.

Mr. Gove claims that this means that "our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage".

The Shadow Education Secretary, Labour's Tristram Hunt, who is also a historian, condemned Mr. Gove's comments as "crass" and "shocking".

Writing in The Observer, Mr. Hunt accused Mr. Gove and the Conservative Party of "using this year's anniversary [the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War] to sow division with ugly attacks on "leftwing academics"" and of "using history" for political point scoring.

Mr. Johnson has penned his own article in The Telegraph stating that German "expansionism and aggression" as a cause for the First World War is a "truism".

He said that if Mr. Hunt could not accept this, "then he is not fit to do his job... and should resign".

Supporting Mr. Gove - a fellow Conservative - the Mayor described Mr. Hunt's article as "deserv[ing] a Nobel Prize for Tripe" and that "the modern Labour Party believes it is not polite to mention [Germany's guilt for the war]".

Mr. Johnson continued that the "driving force behind the carnage was the desire of the German regime to express Germany's destiny as a great power" and that the British people "were, in essence, fighting on the right side, and it should not be forbidden to state that fact".

Yesterday - before Mr. Johnson's article was published - Blackadder actor Sir Tony Robinson branded the Education Secretary's comments as "silly".

"To make this mistake, to categorise teachers who would introduce something like Blackadder as left-wing and introducing left-wing propaganda, is very, very unhelpful - and particularly unhelpful and irresponsible from a minister of education".

To read Mr. Johnson's article, visit The Telegraph webiste here.

To read Mr. Gove's article, visit The Daily Mail website here.

To read Mr. Hunt's article, visit The Observer website here.

To hear some of Sir Tony Robinson's comments, visit the Sky News website here.

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News