Saturday, 26 December 2009

Gladstone once more

In advance of the GOM's bicentenary next Monday, BBC Radio 4's "Week in Westminster" celebrated with a visit to Hawarden followed by a discussion. Michael Crick's interviews of the present-day William Gladstone and the St Deiniol's Library custodian, Reverend Peter Francis, were informative, but what followed was even more interesting.

Lord Steel, Lord Adonis and David Willetts MP were invited to discuss Gladstone's legacy, both to the nation and to present-day politics. David Willetts as an heir of Mrs Thatcher was predictably the most critical, praising Gladstone's free-market instincts, but deprecating his social interventionism. The biggest surprise was Andrew Adonis's knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Gladstone, almost exceeding that of the former Liberal leader, David Steel.

There was talk of Gladstone's international policy. The panel seemed to think that he wanted to intervene too much, citing his campaign to eject the Turks from the Balkans. However, none of the politicians recalled his ending of the Anglo-Afghan war and of the first Boer War. He was against colonial expansion in Africa, so would surely have opposed neo-colonialists on both sides of the Atlantic if he were alive today.

It's a programme well worth catching when it appears on iPlayer.

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