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The Power of Political Forgetting

When a major crisis from the past slips from public memory, does this open up possibilities for current politicians? David Aaronovitch finds out, with historians and an audience.

When a major crisis from the past slips from public memory, does this open up possibilities for current politicians? David Aaronovitch finds out, drawing on archive recordings, a panel of historians and political experts and an audience.

How does public memory shape political policy? Margaret Thatcher was the first post-war Prime Minister who did not spend the Second World War in either Parliament or the Armed Forces, and she was the first with no memory of the General Strike. She did not share Heath, Wilson and Callaghan's terror of mass unemployment, and she had no experience of cross-class male bonding in uniform. And by 1979, when she arrived in Downing Street, many people who remembered the Depression had died, while many more far too young to remember it became voters. So did this liberate her to pursue ideas for which her predecessors had little appetite?

And 70 years after the celebrations for VE Day and VJ Day, how has our collective attitude towards the war changed, as the generation who fought and survived gradually disappears? And does this have political implications now?

To consider the power of political forgetting, David Aaronovitch is joined by historian Juliet Gardiner, whose books include The Thirties: An Intimate History, Andy Beckett, author of When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies, and columnist Daniel Finkelstein. David also draws on the views and memories of an audience drawn from different generations, with ages ranging from 20 to 80 and beyond.

Producer Phil Tinline.

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58 minutes

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