Friday, 27 November 2009

Iraq Inquiry

The Chilcot Inquiry into the War has now begun. The BBC has a large amount of information including here a set of Q and A about what its remit is. Channel 4 has set up a special blog to cover the events here. Key questions being asked are: Will it be a whitewash? Will it be a waste of money? Will anyone be made accountable? Does it matter now? What do you think?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

9/11 Leaks

The Wikileaks website has published over half a million electronic messages that were sent on 11 September 2001. It is unclear how it acquired these and the legality and morality of publishing private messages is rather dubious. However, it does provide further insight into the chaos, confusion and high emotion of that day. Here is more information on the story, plus an article about how Wikileaks has gained a reputation for exposing information others would prefer the public not to see.

PS: Please note Wikileaks is not available on the school system.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A Scottish perspective

A new series of a History of Scotland returned last night. Dramatically told by Neil Oliver, it gives a very Scottish perspective on events from Charles I's reign and the growth of Presbyterianism to the Glorious Revolution of 1689. It tells the story of the Covenanters, radical presbyterians who signed an agreement between God and the people to retain their religion, and who were partly responsible for the Civil Wars. See here for the BBC's Scotland's History site and watch the programme.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Elizabeth's theme song

If you had to choose a theme song to sum up Elizabeth I's core values what would it be? Be as anachronistic as you like and post your answers below. Best response (including your justification for the choice) will win some sort of prize...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Herman and Cathy

The controversial posts of EU President and High Representative have now been chosen and it is to be a Belgian, unsurprisingly, and a Brit, but not Blair. Lots of questions being asked which you may have a view on - are Van Rompuy and Ashton too obscure to make a difference or are they the consensus builders that an organisation with 27 members needs? Is Baroness Ashton experienced enough for the post? What is the message the powerful countries are sending out about the future direction of the EU? See here for some articles and links from the BBC.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Queen's Speech

The Queen has given her last speech of this Parliament. 15 Bills have been promised but there are only 33 working days in the House of Lords before the next election to get them passed. The Bills include a Child Poverty Bill and a Children, Schools and Families Bill to guarantee pupils and parents specific entitlements in education. Is this ceremony unnecessary and out of date, and is it more about scoring points over the Conservatives? Let us know your opinion.

PS: Here is a link to Queen Victoria's speech from 1841.

The Velvet Revolution

On 17 November 1989 a group of students in Prague began demonstrating for freedom and democracy in Czechoslovakia. Thousands of people joined them and 12 days later the Communist Party gave up its power. The anniversary was marked in Prague yesterday with rather more low key celebrations than were seen in Berlin, but Vaclav Havel, the playwright who became the figurehead of the revolution and later the president of the Czech Republic, was there to retrace the steps of the first demonstrators. There is BBC footage of the celebrations here and archive film of the events in 1989 here and here. John Simpson shares his opinions here. For the local perspective, here is the Prague Post.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


You may have noticed that a poll has appeared in the top right of the blog. Do you think there should be a Queen's Speech this year when the length of the next Parliament will be severely curtailed by the election? David Cameron doesn't think so. What's your opinion? Please also let us know if there are any problems with the voting process.

UPDATE: This poll isn't very satisfactory as it turns out you have to have a blog to take part! Apologies for that. A new version should appear next week.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Politics and Dancing with the Stars

For those of you who are fans of John Sargeant's efforts on Strictly Come Dancing and like a little politics with your dancing, here is a clip of Tom DeLay - Republican House Majority Leader 2003-5 - dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha on the American version of Strictly, Dancing with the Stars. Known as "the Hammer" in the House for his enforcement of party discipline, you cannot accuse the former pest exterminator and born-again Christian for being boring!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Michelle Obama on Sesame Street

There has been more than one significant anniversary this week. Here to mark 40 years of Sesame Street is Michelle Obama, who gives some handy vegetable growing tips.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Should Britain pull out of Afghanistan?

What is this conflict about? What has happened so far? What should we do? All these are questions that Year 9 have been asking but all over the country is up for debate and that politicians are trying to decide. Here is a link to the BBC website on this issue and then a link here to an argument that we should stay and a link here to one that says we should leave. What do you think?

Gordon Brown and The Sun

Here from our colleague at Politics Etc is a pointed and well-balanced comment on Gordon Brown's treatment by The Sun over the letter he wrote to the mother of a serviceman killed in Afghanistan. What is your opinion on this controversy?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

More on the wall

Here is a Berlin Wall quiz, courtesy of German magazine "Der Spiegel". There is also an interesting interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger, the first border guard to allow East Germans to cross into the west. He explains why he made that decision, revealing the chaos and confusion of the East German government that evening.

Der Spiegel also takes a closer look at the significance of 9 November in German history, which also marks 1918 German Revolution which brought down the Kaiser, Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, and Kristallnacht in 1938.

PS: 9 November was also the date of the execution Robert Blum, one of the leaders of the 1848 Revolution in Germany, and was the date of the foundation of the SS in 1925. It is therefore referred to in Germany as the "Day of Fate" (Schicksalstag)

PPS: Here's Pravda's take on the anniversary. Apparently the fall of the wall triggered "the largest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century"...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Fall of the Wall: 20 Years Today

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Here is a video showing the incidents that led to its collapse, and if you didn't see it, we recommend you watch the BBC documentary about the Wall which you can see here.

PS: Here's a link to the article from The Times reporting events from that day and another explaining why celebrations will be slightly muted as 9 November also marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht.
PPS: Here's footage from the BBC reports from that night, and explanation from Brian Hanrahan about its significance (Recommended!)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Richard III on Mastermind

If you have a moment take a look at the first 5 minutes of Mastermind - linked here. The questions are on Richard III and the contestant is very impressive. Please let us know how many answers you got right...there may one one or two you know!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Historical Ignorance

Here is yet another article moaning about how ignorant Britain's children are about history. "Adolf Hitler was Germany's football team manager, according to youngsters aged nine to 15," it says, and apparently 12% of the children surveyed thought Remembrance Sunday was represented by the McDonalds logo. Pardon? How was this survey conducted exactly?

Is this the true state of the nation's historical ignorance, or have Britain's youth been poorly represented here? Let us know, or perhaps click on the link and let the Daily Mail know what you think...

Constitution passion

A passionate argument is put forward in favour of a written constitution for the UK in the Times today by Antonia Senior, see here. She argues that our system is broken and that, particularly on Europe, changes are being made that we do not have a say in. She believes that a written (codified) constitution or at least a debate on one, would change this. What do you think?


This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. It is especially significant this year as the last three British veterans of the First World War died during the year. A special service will be held at Westminster Abbey to mark their generation's contribution and you can read more about it here. On a similar theme a new statue has been unveiled on the famous "Fourth Plinth" in Trafalgar Square. It marks the contribution of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park to the organisation of the Battle of Britain. The unassuming man was not even mentioned in the offical reports of the battle so his supporters are very pleased that his contribution is now being acknowledged.

Have you worn a poppy this week? Some campaigners are very keen that you should and have poured heavy criticism on footballers, Strictly Come Dancing contestants, newsreaders and others that have not done so. Nonsuch HP is not so sure about this and suggests that wearing a poppy should be your choice, and not a mandatory act. If you do wear a poppy, please consider all those who have served their country in the past and those who continue to do so today (often at great cost to them and their families) and please wear it with pride.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gunpowder Plot

Happy November 5th! Here are some sites that provide more information on the Gunpowder plot of 1605, including an FAQ from the Houses of Parliament, questions on whether Guy Fawkes was framed, a more detailed look at the conspirators and a quiz from the BBC.

1989: Year of Revolutions

The Guardian has set up a page where important figures debate the importance and significance of the events of 1989. So far Mikhail Gorbachev (Leader of the USSR in 1989)and Timothy Garton-Ash (political historian) have made contributions.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Democracy Live!

A new BBC website which links all the political institutions here and allows you to see them all in action live, see here.
Think about getting involved in the BBC School Report project which allows you to present the news!

Fall of the Wall

The Berlin Wall was breached on 9 November 1989. The celebrations that followed effectively marked the end of the Cold War, leading to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany. It was an exceptionally dramatic and exciting time to live through and it seems difficult to believe for many people that 20 years have passed since then.

There is lots of information about to mark this anniversary. The BBC has created an archive of material about the history of the wall. Jeremy Vine has made a radio programme which includes interviews with Germans who tried to escape over and under the wall. The Times has created an archive of its reports on the Wall's history, and also includes reports about modern Germans' attitudes to the wall in both east and west.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Into the Storm

"Into the Storm" was on BBC2 last night and followed Winston Churchill through World War 2, looking in particular at his role in Dunkirk, the bombing of Dresden, and the Yalta Conference.

If you missed it, check it out here on the iPlayer. Here is a review of it from The Times.