Politics at CH

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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William
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Politics at CH

Post by William » Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:27 am

CH has often been remarkably liberal in allowing political activity not approved by the vast majority and some past examples are of interest. For example the League of Empire Loyalists was invited to speak to a CH audience in the 1950s. (As Michael Cherniavsky, a left wing master at that time, put it, ‘they are nothing more than crypto-fascists’.)

There was much radical activity at CH in the decade after the first World War and one of the most active boys was Michael Stewart, later to become the Foreign Secretary in a Labour Government. He was a co-founder and Vice-President of the CH Political Society, which invited unusual guest speakers, such as Mr S Saklatvala, a Communist MP, who was an ethnic Indian. (The headmaster, WH Fyfe, kept tabs on this Society’s activities for he was its President.) Stewart was a Sinn Fein candidate in a CH mock election and won easily, beating Conservative, Labour and Liberal candidates. Also he promoted his radical views in the debating society, challenging accepted views of the day in motions such as, ‘This House condemns the French Occupation of the Ruhr’ and ‘The English Penal Code is inadequate and immoral’. Although Stewart was presumably a good speaker, those two motions were lost.

In the superpatriotic days of the 1920s participation in the OTC, or Officer Training Corps as the CCF was then known, was compulsory. Stewart was a pacifist, while at school. He announced this and then decided not to take part in any activity that might be associated with killing. So he refused to take his rifle on parade, as did another boy, Cameron Hunter. The latter also threatened suicide if he were forced to use his rifle. (He later fought in North Africa during the Second World War and sustained serious head injuries.) The head master then was WH Fyfe, a most enlightened man. Naturally Stewart and Hunter were sent to him and Fyfe’s decision was revolutionary for that time. They were both excused all further OTC activity. At CH thirty years later a declared pacifist was allowed to opt out of the CCF. I believe that today the CCF is a totally voluntary activity. Such is progress.

This message was originally posted in the thread, ”Politics” which has since been moved to the “General Chat – Non CH”folder.

michael scuffil
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by michael scuffil » Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:49 am

CH always seemed to me to be a remarkably non-political place, with most people following the principle: 'Politics: (if none, write Conservative)'. I also have the impression that interest in politics declined between the interwar years and the 1950s.

In my lifetime there have, if I can count, been only four Old Blue MPs, curiously all of them Labour (Michael Stewart, Bryan McGee, Stuart Holland and Martin Linton: of these, McGee and Holland decided they had better things to do). The only other 'political' OB of any note was Bernard Levin, who flew the Red Flag at school, started life as a radical journalist, and like many others deserted the left-wing cause in the 1970s. He was certainly a nationally-known figure, though. (Con Coughlin writes for the Daily Telegraph, where he is far out in right field even for that organ, and outside its pages probably not well known).
Th.B. 27 1955-63

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Adrian
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by Adrian » Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:24 am

Ironically it's possibly a comedian, Mark Thomas, who is the Old Blue most connected with politics.

He was in the year above me, but I have no recollections of him being political at school. If I had to sum up the political bias inherent in the school then I would definitely say left leaning, perhaps not surprising given the founding principles, but rather non-interested overall.
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Kit Bartlett
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:46 am

I believe that the conscientious objector referred to was the late P.F. Portwood CB 37-45 who did not join he JTC as it was then known. He had a most successful career as a leading Child Psychologist.

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postwarblue
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by postwarblue » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:17 am

I always thought I was the only Tory in the entire place.
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rockfreak
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by rockfreak » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:09 pm

michael scuffil wrote:CH always seemed to me to be a remarkably non-political place, with most people following the principle: 'Politics: (if none, write Conservative)'. I also have the impression that interest in politics declined between the interwar years and the 1950s.

In my lifetime there have, if I can count, been only four Old Blue MPs, curiously all of them Labour (Michael Stewart, Bryan McGee, Stuart Holland and Martin Linton: of these, McGee and Holland decided they had better things to do). The only other 'political' OB of any note was Bernard Levin, who flew the Red Flag at school, started life as a radical journalist, and like many others deserted the left-wing cause in the 1970s. He was certainly a nationally-known figure, though. (Con Coughlin writes for the Daily Telegraph, where he is far out in right field even for that organ, and outside its pages probably not well known).
Talking of Bernard Levin, his bête noir, if I remember rightly, was Robert Pitman of the Daily Express who was a noted "leftie intellectual" baiter in the service of the mischievous Beaverbrook. At one point he sniped at Levin in his column using his memories of the two of them at CH. Re. politics at school; my peer group in the late 50s in Col B was often engaged in political discussion and I date my habit of reading a serious paper from those days - the Times until Murdoch took it over and later the Guardian and Observer into which I sometimes get letters on matters economic (and recently on UK Uncut - I look round for Ed Bell and duck at this point!) I'm thoroughly enjoying the discourse on these subjects.

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Re: Politics at CH

Post by Jim Rayner » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:04 pm

I vividly remember Newsome warning us all in a Big School assembly one morning in about 1973 that our school's very existence was being threatened by a dangerous left wing labour radical called Roy Hattersley. This was at the time when the law was being changed to allow 18 year olds to vote for the first time, so maybe he was trying to steer us into the conservative camp?

Newsome's views certainly weren't shared by all the school staff. I turned 18 a couple of weeks before the first of the two 1974 general elections and I was taken by my housemaster, Michael Carrington, to hear Roy Jenkins address a Labour Party election meeting in Horsham. I seem to remember there were just three of us in Housey uniform: me, a lad called Mike Thomas and someone whose name escapes me who was too young to vote but was doing politics A level.
LHA 67-70; ThA 70-74

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J.R.
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by J.R. » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:03 pm

I very vaguely remember a 'mock' house election, just before a general election, but not being a 'political-animal' at the time, I can't remember the outcome.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

michael scuffil
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by michael scuffil » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:59 pm

J.R. wrote:I very vaguely remember a 'mock' house election, just before a general election, but not being a 'political-animal' at the time, I can't remember the outcome.

Probably the 1959 election. I remember the same. The Labour Party got six votes, three from working class boys on scholarships (me and two 'East Hammers') and three more from 'intellectuals'.
Th.B. 27 1955-63

viejoazul
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by viejoazul » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:23 pm

michael scuffil wrote:
J.R. wrote:I very vaguely remember a 'mock' house election, just before a general election, but not being a 'political-animal' at the time, I can't remember the outcome.

Probably the 1959 election. I remember the same. The Labour Party got six votes, three from working class boys on scholarships (me and two 'East Hammers') and three more from 'intellectuals'.
In contrast to the above (and to cheer up postwarblue) in a 1955 house mock election the Conservative won, Labour and Liberal were second and third and the Communist last. The latter candidate thereafter had the nickname 'Joe'.

rockfreak
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by rockfreak » Fri Apr 11, 2014 10:07 pm

Jim Rayner wrote:I vividly remember Newsome warning us all in a Big School assembly one morning in about 1973 that our school's very existence was being threatened by a dangerous left wing labour radical called Roy Hattersley. This was at the time when the law was being changed to allow 18 year olds to vote for the first time, so maybe he was trying to steer us into the conservative camp?

Newsome's views certainly weren't shared by all the school staff. I turned 18 a couple of weeks before the first of the two 1974 general elections and I was taken by my housemaster, Michael Carrington, to hear Roy Jenkins address a Labour Party election meeting in Horsham. I seem to remember there were just three of us in Housey uniform: me, a lad called Mike Thomas and someone whose name escapes me who was too young to vote but was doing politics A level.
Newsome would have been worried in 1944 too, had he seen a very non-leftwing radical, Tory RA Butler, floating plans for the abolition of the public schools and the establishment of a one-tier state system. Butler thought that they would be outdated after the war but Churchill didn't want to see his old school, Harrow, go down and wouldn't hear of it, so Butler compromised and expanded the grammar schools and redbrick universities. Imagine even a Labour minister suggesting this today.

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Re: Politics at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:56 pm

In The Blue for Michaelmas Term 2002 ,page 69 I compiled a list of twelve Old Blues who had been M.P.s since 1844.
There were seven Conservatives, the last of whom was Sir Duncan McCallum W ? and TA 1900-04 MP for Argyllshire 1940-58.
Of the remaining five one was a Liberal, A.P. Hedges MP for Tonbridge 1906-10 ? CH dates and four were Labour, R M M Stewart, B,E. Magee , J.M. Linton TA 54-62 and S.K. Holland LA 51-59 .
The list also contained Old Blues who stood for Parliament in General and By Elections for a variety of different parties without success. The last Conservative up to 2002 was S.A. Shakespeare (Kukowski ) PB 68-75 who stood at Colchester in 1997.[

Kit Bartlett
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:33 am

Just discovered ha A.P. Hedges Liberal MP for Tonbridge 1906-10 was not an Old Blue. Wrong information recorded in The Blue
for February 1906. Tut tut !

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J.R.
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Re: Politics at CH

Post by J.R. » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:54 am

Kit Bartlett wrote:Just discovered ha A.P. Hedges Liberal MP for Tonbridge 1906-10 was not an Old Blue. Wrong information recorded in The Blue
for February 1906. Tut tut !

Long long before J.H's time, I hasten to add !
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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