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Saturday, 13 April 2019

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In 1940 Michael Foot and others wrote Guilty Men (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilty_Men). This focused mainly on Conservatives and ignored all Labour MPs excepting, of course, Ramsey McDonald. George Lansbury, whose pacifism had dominated Labour thought for most of the decade gets nary a mention. (I wonder why Ramsey McDonald, who was expelled from the Labour Party for leading a coalition government and was reviled as a traitor was included? :-))

The reason I mention this is that the template was set by this book. The myth became that only Conservatives supported appeasement, and is the default setting.

A key question I have for you (when you read the book) is: does this new book fill in the gaps or does it follow the myth.

[Note: I don't argue that Chamberlain was right]

TDK, I shall watch out for the point you make although in my other readings on this subject the Labour party rarely appears. What does seem to be clear is that the 'dreaded Peeps' were more than content to follow Chamberlain's lead. That is what makes the whole thing even more shameful.

I read a review by David Aarononvitch on Sunday and he only mentioned the Conservatives except for a cryptic comment at the end.

The default view across the parties, at the time, was that the Great War had been a terrible experience and we should do all we could to avoid it. Moreover it had become accepted that Versailles was unfair to the Germans and so when they defaulted (and they often did) it reinforced a sense that an injustice had been done. Another popular view was that rearmament itself was a factor in the inevitability of the war, leading to the corollary that disarmament would lead to peace. So I agree with you - the people, certainly first half of the 30s were very much on the side of appeasement.

However when I read today about the terrible mistakes we made, I wonder how any politician would have fared without the benefit of hindsight. For instance: challenging the reoccupation of the Rhineland - I wonder whether any politician could have obtained popular support for such an intervention. Even reversing Anschluss would have struggled to get popular support. Czechoslovakia was the first time Germany made demands on another country. Now, for the first time there was an opportunity to make a stand.

I think we flunked it there, but I get cross when I read about how we should have intervened earlier, often by the same people who complain about British interventions today.

And, of course, 'TDK', 'the Peeps' have more than a small excuse for their reluctance to face up to Hitler given that their ranks had been decimated by the previous war. Even so, that's what we have our politicians for, to take the hard decisions and we should remember that there was one politician who spoke out constantly and loudly against appeasement!

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