History, the staff of politics

THE electorate may be increasingly turned off by today's politicians and politics, but interest in the history of the political parties and biographies of the statesmen and women who have helped shape this United Kingdom is growing apace.

THE electorate may be increasingly turned off by today's politicians and politics, but interest in the history of the political parties and biographies of the statesmen and women who have helped shape this United Kingdom is growing apace.

For the party that has provided the bulk of our governance over the past two centuries, the Conservatives are the last to form a study circle to research and discuss their history.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have now been joined by the Conservative History Group and they are planning to hold joint meetings - nailing on the head the myth that Tory, Labour and Lib Dems activists don't talk to each other.

In less than a year, the Tory group has attracted several hundred members, including parliamentarians, journalists, party employees and rank-and-file Conservatives. Under the chairmanship of Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, meetings have been held on Alan Clark's memories, the re-evaluation of Sir Anthony Eden as prime minister - attended by his widow Clarissa - and the role of the Tories in opposition.


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The group's director Iain Dale says in the first issue of the Conservative History Journal that you don't have to be a Tory to join ­- "we're all inclusive now. We're delighted that there is a new Labour History Group and of course the Liberal Democrat History Group has been thriving for several years. Over the next 12 months, we'll be organising some joint events with them."

The CHJ includes articles on John Buchan - author of The Thirty Nine Steps - as a Tory politician, Enoch Powell, the Conservative tradition in foreign policy, the 1975 Tory leadership contest in which Margaret Thatcher was elected, how Rab Butler decriminalised suicide, Stanley Baldwin, and Alan Clark's diaries.

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November 1963 will forever be remembered for the assassination of President John F Kennedy - but a few weeks before, Britain underwent a major upheaval when Harold Macmillan resigned as prime minister to be succeeded by Lord Home. This event, which provided your humble columnist - albeit still a schoolboy - with his first real interest in, and insight into, the machinations of politics, will be the subject of the group's Tory Party Conference fringe meeting at Blackpool, where Macmillan's dramatic announcement stunned that year's gathering of Conservatives.

Membership of the Tory group costs £15 a year, to include its bi-annual journal. Details from info@conservativehistory.org.uk (website www.conservativehistory.org.uk) or you can join online at www.politicos.co.uk.

Annual membership of the Labour History Group costs £10. For this members receive the journal Labour History, published twice a year. For information, email Greg Rosen on gregrosen@excite.com or join online at www.politicos.co.uk

The Liberal Democrat History Group was founded to promote research into the history of the Liberal Party, the SDP and the Liberal Democrats. More information can be found on its website www.liberalhistory.org.uk. For £15 a year, members receive the quarterly Journal of Liberal History and can join in discussions and attend meetings of the group. You can sign up via Politicos' web site.

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