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Peter Rhodes on Mr Attlee's cap, how history is written by winners and the dangers of cheap specs

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Clem Attlee

HISTORY is written by the winners, with all the embarrassing stuff taken out. Which is why, as the world marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, I am fascinated by Listening to Britain (Vintage Books), a compilation of overheard comments, gossip and rumours of ordinary Britons in the early days of the war.

EIGHTY years on, the official, approved version of history is of plucky resistance by Britain and her beloved Allies, and sympathy for Hitler's victims. Yet reports gathered during 1940 tell of widespread anti-Belgian feeling in Britain after that nation surrendered to Germany. Some families refused to take Belgian refugees. Foreigners were generally treated with suspicion or even sacked, as in this snippet: "Aliens dismissed from factories in Weybridge and Newbury on demand of fellow workers." And while Conscientious Objectors (COs) may be regarded today as principled and heroic, that was certainly not the view in 1940 England as reported in this dispatch: "CO milkman chased by crowd of angry women at Cannock."

AND even in those days, what you wore mattered. One official reported solemnly: "Mr Attlee's cap is said to have had a depressing effect on picturegoers."

SOME readers take me to task for the assertion that "the Brexit battle is already won." Think long-term. Can anyone name a single Empire in history whose subjects did not eventually think they could do better on their own? And how would the fervently anti-Brexit brigade ensure that this desire for independence from the EU would go away? Ultimately it could be stopped only by Brussels or Westminster passing laws banning certain political parties or forbidding any criticism or challenge to the EU. These measures would be so draconian, so redolent of the Third Reich, that even the most ardent Remainers could not stomach them.

WHAT'S that? You don't consider the EU to be an empire? Just give it time. It has a flag, an anthem and a parliament. Its army will soon be marching.

AFTER months of TV commentators and their guests being almost drowned out by the bellowing, bell-ringing, whistle-blowing hordes of pro- and anti- Brexit buffoons outside Parliament, technology comes to the rescue. Simply by wearing cheek-mounted microphones, as used by pop stars, broadcasters now ensure their words are heard but all the background mayhem is silenced. Blessed relief - even if the presenters seem to be smitten with huge yellow pimples.

THE mini-microphones also make the point, in this technological age, that you may have freedom of speech but you don't always have the freedom to be heard.

THE consumer organisation Which? claims that some cut-price spectacles sold online are so badly made that they could distort customers' vision. It is warning shoppers to be wary. Quite right, too. On the other hand, they are very cheap and evm if you cannt seee verryyyb gooodd you cn uslly ges thhhe worrdsw sf msdfsd ffdhn.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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