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Is Edmund Burke's definition of representative government still valid?

wombat

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Must admit part of me would not want to be represented by someone as high-minded as Burke. Occasions arise when you need a flexible fellow in your corner.
The question is always where to draw the line between principle and pragmatism. The Labour party had multiple splits over the years between pragmatists who wanted to be in government and purists who want to wait until the people see sense and agree with them. Personally, its why I prefer conservative politicians, free of ideology/principles.
 


Lumpy Talbot

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No
Great election poster in that for a conservative dogwhistle. 'Vote Right Wing and Break Free of Principle'.
 

wombat

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Marx said "These are my principles, if you don't like them, I have some more"
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
I suspect he may have been facetious and a bit tongue in cheek with that.

Churchill was closer to the mark with his remark that history would be kind to him as he intended to write it.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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I suspect he may have been facetious and a bit tongue in cheek with that.

Churchill was closer to the mark with his remark that history would be kind to him as he intended to write it.
Good try. Worth exploring the exactitude and context of that. And here we might engage with wombat's distinction of principle and pragmatism. Which, by the way, is why I prefer:
  • Harold Wilson, the pragmatist, keeping the UK out of Vietnam (despite enormous pressure from Washington and its paid acolytes in the UK press and Labour Party)
against
  • Blair, with his cast-iron religious principles, condescending (fatally for his reputation) to Bush over Iraq.
Back to the main event:

It was an adjournment debate (23 January 1948) on foreign affairs — so pretty open-ended.

Churchill had taken a bit of hassle over the Yalta agreement: the Cold War was heating up, and there were issues whether or not the Soviets had been given easy rides in eastern Europe. WSC was a trifle defensive.

This is the precise quotation:

In case at any forthcoming General Election there may be an attempt to revive these former controversies, we are taking steps to have little booklets prepared recording the utterances at different moments, of all the principal figures involved in those baffling times. For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.
So, not quite the elephantine trumpeting often read into truncated versions.

A different thread, but worth asking: has history been fair to Churchill over Yalta and later? Because he didn't succeed in (re-)writing it. At first sight what happened on the late evening of 9 October 1944 suggests to me the ultimate in political cynicism:

At 10 pm on 9 October, Churchill met Stalin in the Kremlin and said, 'How would it do for you to have ninety per cent predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?' Churchill sketched out the figures on a sheet of paper, adding 50-50 for Hungary and 75-25 in Bulgaria (in Stalin's favour). Stalin 'took his blue pencil and made a large tick upon it, and passed it back to us'. The British Foreign Office memorandum of the conversation also records that Stalin accepted that Britain would be 'the leading Mediterranean power'. The famous sheet of paper contained no reference to Germany or Czechoslovakia, not to Poland, the country for which Britain had gone to war in 1939, but which had become in Churchill's eyes a hopeless cause. Just before he left for Yalta, Churchill confided to his personal secretary: 'Make no mistake, all the Balkans, except Greece, are going to be Bolshevised, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. There is nothing I can do for Poland either'.
Source: Martin Walker, The Cold War, page 11.
 

Ardillaun

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MR, perhaps you could expand on the difference between yourself and Lumpy on Winston’s writing of history? Surely he painted his own role way too large in WWII?
 
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Ardillaun

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It is not clear if the social media generation is all that apathetic.
So matters may not be a bleak at you think.
In contrast to the gloom from geezers like myself, here’s a bit of good news from Eastern Europe:


I am also heartened by the recent performance of the Greens in many countries and above all by Alliance ‘upstairs’, a real moment of hope for our island.
 
Last edited:

owedtojoy

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Good try. Worth exploring the exactitude and context of that. And here we might engage with wombat's distinction of principle and pragmatism. Which, by the way, is why I prefer:
  • Harold Wilson, the pragmatist, keeping the UK out of Vietnam (despite enormous pressure from Washington and its paid acolytes in the UK press and Labour Party)
against
  • Blair, with his cast-iron religious principles, condescending (fatally for his reputation) to Bush over Iraq.
Back to the main event:

It was an adjournment debate (23 January 1948) on foreign affairs — so pretty open-ended.

Churchill had taken a bit of hassle over the Yalta agreement: the Cold War was heating up, and there were issues whether or not the Soviets had been given easy rides in eastern Europe. WSC was a trifle defensive.

This is the precise quotation:

In case at any forthcoming General Election there may be an attempt to revive these former controversies, we are taking steps to have little booklets prepared recording the utterances at different moments, of all the principal figures involved in those baffling times. For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.
So, not quite the elephantine trumpeting often read into truncated versions.

A different thread, but worth asking: has history been fair to Churchill over Yalta and later? Because he didn't succeed in (re-)writing it. At first sight what happened on the late evening of 9 October 1944 suggests to me the ultimate in political cynicism:

At 10 pm on 9 October, Churchill met Stalin in the Kremlin and said, 'How would it do for you to have ninety per cent predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?' Churchill sketched out the figures on a sheet of paper, adding 50-50 for Hungary and 75-25 in Bulgaria (in Stalin's favour). Stalin 'took his blue pencil and made a large tick upon it, and passed it back to us'. The British Foreign Office memorandum of the conversation also records that Stalin accepted that Britain would be 'the leading Mediterranean power'. The famous sheet of paper contained no reference to Germany or Czechoslovakia, not to Poland, the country for which Britain had gone to war in 1939, but which had become in Churchill's eyes a hopeless cause. Just before he left for Yalta, Churchill confided to his personal secretary: 'Make no mistake, all the Balkans, except Greece, are going to be Bolshevised, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. There is nothing I can do for Poland either'.
Source: Martin Walker, The Cold War, page 11.
The key figure at Yalta was not Churchill, but Roosevelt. At this stage of the war, the UK was an adjunct to the other two powers, and was helpless without US support.

Roosevelt did obtain commitments from Stalin for free elections in Poland and elsewhere, but Stalin broke them all. There was little that the two Western Allies could do about it, except to try to hold the line in Greece and Turkey, which is where the Cold War began.
 

owedtojoy

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In contrast to the gloom from geezers like myself, here’s a bit of good news from Eastern Europe:


I am also heartened by the recent performance of the Greens in many countries and above all by Alliance ‘upstairs’, a real moment of hope for our island.
Agreed.

 

Malcolm Redfellow

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MR, perhaps you could expand on the difference between yourself and Lumpy on Winston’s writing of history? Surely he painted his own role way too large in WWII?
Dunno. Ask Lumpy.

My take is that self-serving WSC ran the equivalent of a bot-farm, 'The Syndicate'. It was at its most prolific post-1945: The Second World War and History of the English-Speaking Peoples are its product. He was less than conscientious in the final editing, as some of his errors and inclusions indicate (the French Army was the prop poop of France, though none so gross as the anti-semitism).

David Reynolds, In Command of History, did the due diligence. It seemed to me a fair accounting.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
Agree with Malcolm. Churchill was an extraordinary fellow with a much sharper political antenna than he's ever really been credited with. I think he saw his whole political career as an intellectual game and he was very good at it.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if he had a natural talent for manipulating the media of the day. And that he had made arrangements to do so professionally.

Even in the doldrums of the latter stages of his career in office he was well aware, from the accounts I've read in Roy Jenkins' biography, of the shortcomings of the coming man, Mr Anthony Eden. And he was right on that score.

He was such a magpie as well for his oratory and written papers, plundering the sayings of philosophers and updating them or changing them slightly in order to be credited with intense wit. Very definitely with malice aforethought.

Much more machieavellian than the hale fellow well met and cheerful countenance of the newsreels that was required of him for one audience, a natural for the great medium of the day, radio broadcast to an Empire, no, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that Churchill was an arch manipulator of the media.
 

levijagger

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I disagree, most TDs get no exposure in Dublin media (obviously I don't know about local radio or papers). Its a bit of a hobby horse of mine but a TDs time on RTE is inversely proportional to their distance from Donnybrook parish.
what is the problem with u gyz why u alwas disagree and facts that are not valid here . you should do a deep study so that u can get about TDs and RTE.
your philosophy is total wrong here....
 

Dame_Enda

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I have mixed feelings about Burke. On the one hand, he correctly predicted the maelstrom into which the French Revolution was descending during the Terror, and predicted the rise of a military dictator (who turned out to be Napoleon). He understood that too much freedom = anarchy and the people eventually craving an end to it will come to accept tyranny again.

Burke was sortof warning against politicians playing to the gallery. He has a reputation as an apologist for reactionary monarchies, because of his book "Reflections of the Revolution in France". The Prince of Wales at the time was an admirer of the Revolution and called the book "a firago of nonsense", but later on changed his mind. Louis XIV had the book translated into French. Burke had an elitist attitude to the common people, whom he called "the swinish multitude". So he would probably have opposed the parliamentary reforms of the 19th century such as the Great Reform Act, which abolished the unpopulated "rotten boroughs" that landlords were able to appoint MPs to because they had few or no voters and votes had to be declared publicly until the Secret Ballot Act of 1874. Burke's criticism of the French Revolution disappointed admirers among the French Revolutionaries (some of whom like Antoine Barnave aimed for a British style constitutional monarchy) who wrote to him asking he reconsider.

I don't agree with Burke that we should show "awe" to kings or deference to nobility or reverence for priests. On the other hand he was before his time in support for religious freedom, including the repeal of the Penal Laws. He was also supportive of the Americans in the war of independence. He helped in the House of Commons to get legislation like the Catholic Relief Acts passed in the 1770s and 1790s, which allowed Catholics own land and removed some barriers to education and military service.

On the speech Malcolm Redfellow mentions in the intro post of this thread, I think it sortof reflects modern Establishment politics as typified by the Remainers in the UK, and the kind of politicians that oppose "populism", namely the argument that politicians should use their own judgement and not necessarily play to the gallery. I think this is true, but I think one of the reasons for the rise in populism in the West recently is the correct perception that the pendelum towards "status quo" positions has swung too far in politics up to then.
 

shiel

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I have mixed feelings about Burke. On the one hand, he correctly predicted the maelstrom into which the French Revolution was descending during the Terror, and predicted the rise of a military dictator (who turned out to be Napoleon). He understood that too much freedom = anarchy and the people eventually craving an end to it will come to accept tyranny again.

Burke was sortof warning against politicians playing to the gallery. He has a reputation as an apologist for reactionary monarchies, because of his book "Reflections of the Revolution in France". The Prince of Wales at the time was an admirer of the Revolution and called the book "a firago of nonsense", but later on changed his mind. Louis XIV had the book translated into French. Burke had an elitist attitude to the common people, whom he called "the swinish multitude". So he would probably have opposed the parliamentary reforms of the 19th century such as the Great Reform Act, which abolished the unpopulated "rotten boroughs" that landlords were able to appoint MPs to because they had few or no voters and votes had to be declared publicly until the Secret Ballot Act of 1874. Burke's criticism of the French Revolution disappointed admirers among the French Revolutionaries (some of whom like Antoine Barnave aimed for a British style constitutional monarchy) who wrote to him asking he reconsider.

I don't agree with Burke that we should show "awe" to kings or deference to nobility or reverence for priests. On the other hand he was before his time in support for religious freedom, including the repeal of the Penal Laws. He was also supportive of the Americans in the war of independence. He helped in the House of Commons to get legislation like the Catholic Relief Acts passed in the 1770s and 1790s, which allowed Catholics own land and removed some barriers to education and military service.

On the speech Malcolm Redfellow mentions in the intro post of this thread, I think it sortof reflects modern Establishment politics as typified by the Remainers in the UK, and the kind of politicians that oppose "populism", namely the argument that politicians should use their own judgement and not necessarily play to the gallery. I think this is true, but I think one of the reasons for the rise in populism in the West recently is the correct perception that the pendelum towards "status quo" positions has swung too far in politics up to then.
Burke was probably a bit elitist but did emphasise representative democracy.

That was public representatives supporting issues that were for the long term good not representatives supporting policies which was to their own short term benefit but had medium term negative consequences.
 

Dame_Enda

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Burke was probably a bit elitist but did emphasise representative democracy.

That was public representatives supporting issues that were for the long term good not representatives supporting policies which was to their own short term benefit but had medium term negative consequences.
In Burke's time only 1% of people had the vote and I don't think he wanted that to change.
 

Dame_Enda

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Around 1-1.5% of the population in Britain had the vote because it was tied to property ownership.
 


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