Clegg wants 'sombre' WWI reflection

Halstead Gazette: Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick, right, with Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder in the series of Blackadder set during the First World War Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick, right, with Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder in the series of Blackadder set during the First World War

First World War commemorations should be sombre and sensible not "finger wagging", Nick Clegg insisted in a fresh swipe at Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) said most people wanted a "dispassionate" reflection of the lessons learnt from the "shocking scale of bloodshed" and insisted that was the approach the Government was taking.

It follows a row sparked by Mr Gove over how WWI should be taught and commemorated that saw him clash with Blackadder star Sir Tony Robinson when the Tory suggested the popular show was being used as a propaganda tool by "left-wing academics".

The actor, a member of the Labour party, accused Mr Gove of making a "very silly mistake".

Mr Clegg and Mr Gove have been locked in an increasingly personal bitter spat during their time in Government. In retaliation at claims the DPM said the Conservative was "out of control" sources close to Mr Gove accused the Lib Dem of "lying".

Asked about the comment, M r Clegg told reporters: "I'd assumed this was part of some cunning plan by Michael Gove's team to distract attention from the very serious business of their spat with Baldrick.

"I don't think I'm going to grace all that with any further comment."

In an article for the Daily Mail, Mr Gove suggested he had little time for the view of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Foreign Office that the WWI commemorations should not lay fault at Germany's door.

Asked who started the war, Mr Clegg said : "I think in terms of the commemoration of WWI I think it is going to be a really important time for remembrance, of commemoration and a century later of learning the lessons of the past.

"Historians, of course, will have different debates about how they portray those historical events and I don't want to in anyway impede historians from having those debates but I think as a nation a full century later I think most people would want this to be remembered in a sensible way, in as dispassionate a way as possible, one where we really reflect on the lessons of that shocking scale of bloodshed.

"That's certainly the way in which we as a government are approaching our role in helping to support the centenary arrangements."

He added: "I don't think anyone sensible is saying you should airbrush out history, of course not. The facts are as the facts, the events are as the events, it's the question about whether you think this is the occasion to start apportioning blame or wagging the finger of blame.

"I think most people think that historians can have their debates about the precise events, some, frankly of the facts, who was the aggressor who wasn't, are just incontrovertible.

"I think most people want a slightly more sombre and sensible reflection about what wars on that scale mean, how we, particularly in Europe, have over come that, and I think that is the mood which will be reflected in the centenary.

"The debate between Baldrick and Michael Gove, they will just have to sort it out themselves."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said David Cameron saw the centenary as an opportunity to commemorate the fallen, learn about the impact of the conflict on the UK and the world and reflect on the achievement of peace (for the most part) in Europe since the wars of the first half of the 20th century.

"I think we can do that without being afraid to say it was right for Britain to respond to aggression and to enter the war on that basis. It was right for Britain to respond in the way that it did."

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