Politics students attend Westminster conference

By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government and Politics

A group of 6.1 Politics students went to an A Level Politics Conference held in the vast Methodist Hall at Westminster on Monday, 3 December.

As the hall is very near Parliament, well known politicians come across and speak to the audience of approximately 2,000 students. The format is that the politician addresses the hall on a particular issue for ten minutes and then takes questions, some of them difficult (there is no vetting procedure!) for 20 minutes.

The conference started with an address by Sir John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who explained how he saw his role and he spoke very clearly. He was asked a question about bullying culture in the House; he himself has had his name raised on this issue, which he hotly denied.

Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave an erudite exposition of his line on Europe and the audience was broadly sympathetic. He responded honestly to an inevitable question about broken promises on tuition fees.

Nigel Farage drew a lively response, claiming along the way that he alone was responsible for the disappearance of the far-right British National Party (BNP). He challenged the audience to name the current leader of UKIP – and one student knew the correct answer, Gerrard Batten.

Chuka Umunna spoke smoothly – some felt a little too smoothly – for Labour and was followed by perhaps the least effective speaker, Emily Thornberry. In response to a question about Jeremy Corbyn’s links to terrorists, she lost her temper and unfortunately turned on the student posing the question. It was, after all, a perfect opportunity for her to refute the charge.

Nicky Morgan (former Minister for Education) spoke in a balanced way about Brexit.

Perhaps the most persuasive speaker was Jess Phillips, the feisty Labour MP who campaigns tirelessly and fearlessly for women’s rights. She dealt with some mildly chauvinist questions effectively and was persuasive, honest and fun. Her book, Everywoman, would make a good addition to anyone’s Christmas list.

The afternoon was rounded off by the inimitable Jacob Rees-Mogg, who answered questions directly and honestly, including one on his views on abortion which were not in sympathy with the student body. I need not remind you of his views on Brexit!

This was a most worthwhile and enjoyable day, but unfortunately there were not enough tickets for all the 6.1 students, which was a shame as I could have filled the allocation three times over.

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The Green Ribbon Club

On Thursday 25 September, The Green Ribbon Club (Sixth Form Historians) were privileged to hear Dr Anna Keay deliver a lecture on Monmouth, Charles the Second’s favourite but (probably) illegitimate son. It was fitting that she chose Monmouth for he was a key figure in The Green Ribbon Club in the Seventeenth Century. Although Monmouth has had bad press over the years, Dr Keay reassessed him in far more complimentary light and succeeded. Monmouth it transpires was a key figure in history who had major impact on history thereafter, not least, Dr Keay maintained, that there might not have been a Glorious Revolution had Monmouth not been born. He came across as a vivacious and attractive character who battled through difficult circumstances to emerge as a very accomplished soldier. His mother a murderess and no formal education until the age of 8 were significant handicaps. He was not the fool sometimes presented in history. His final gruesome end (another issue clarified here by Dr Keay…it took five strokes to behead him!) came following The Battle of Sedgemoor, the last battle on English soil. Dr Keay kept us thoroughly absorbed and entertained and her case for Monmouth was convincing. We look forward to the publication of her book on Monmouth. As well as historian, Anna Keay is an Old Bedalian and Bedales governor.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History and Teacher of Government & Politics


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Public Speaking Team win through to regional final

In the beautiful Mediaeval Hall of The Guildhall in Guildford, Bedales public speaking team won through from the district final to the regional final (London and The South East) of the English Speaking Union’s Public Speaking Competition. The team consisted of Harry Green as Chairman who did everything correct technically and displayed a charm and politeness which appealed to the judges. Cameron Cross, as Questioner, fired a series of clear and direct questions which showed that he had been listening and Flora Shaw was superb as Speaker, once again winning the evening’s award of Best Speaker. Her use of rhetorical device, her phrasing and her intelligent response to questions were mightily impressive. Bedales came first and were the only team out of six to go through to the regional final and did so against strong opposition from Epsom College and Charterhouse in particular.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

True story of tracking down Auschwitz Commandant

Recently, The Green Ribbon Club was treated to a superb example of the skill of storytelling. Thomas Harding had an astonishing story to tell us, that of his great uncle, Hanns Alexander, who had tracked down the Nazi Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, at the end of the war. This was the subject of Thomas Harding’s book Hanns and Rudolf, published last year and already a bestseller. Thomas Harding led us through the lives of Hanns, an engaging, good-looking and fun-filled character and Rudolf, the epitome of Hannah Ahrendt’s phrase, ‘the banality of evil,’ eliciting key moments from the lives of each. Hanns was a mischievous twin and refugee from a distinguished family from Berlin (Hanns’ father had been Einstein’s doctor) and Rudolf a lover of the German countryside where he had been brought up and where he might have stayed but for chance meetings which took him to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (where, extraordinarily, his path crossed with the Hanns’ future father-in-law) and on, through twists and turns of fate, to become the overseer of the development of Auschwitz, where he lived with his family (in a house adjoining the walls of the now infamous institution). At the end of the war, Hanns tracked down the fugitive Rudolf in a thrilling tale, leading to a farmhouse on the Danish border and the discovery of Rudolf, living under a pseudonym, initially denying that he was Rudolf of Auschwitz. He was identified eventually by the initials on the inside of his wedding ring. The story remained compelling through to Rudolf’s full confession (a key point for The Nuremberg War Trials since others had claimed to know nothing) and justice through his being hanged within the walls of Aushchwitz. Hanns was happily married after the war. Thomas Harding had also been able to track down and interview Rudolf Hoess’ surviving daughter, Brigitte, and his account of that interview was fascinating. It was a wonderful, compelling and educative evening. The questions (all of them excellent) flowed and would have continued well into the night had they not been halted. May I thank Thomas Harding most sincerely on behalf of Bedales History.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Graham Riddick addresses the Politics Society

The Politics Society was most fortunate to be addressed by Graham Riddick on 16 October. Graham had been elected MP for Colne Valley in Lancashire (the first conservative there for 102 years!). He won the seat in 1987 at the end of the Thatcher era. He had some fascinating stories to tell us about Thatcher (not as imperious in person as presented in the press). His contention that it was The Poll Tax and not Europe that led to her downfall was useful to Historians as well as Politics students. Graham told us how he had become involved as politics. His grandfather Sir Edward Ruggles-Brise was MP for Maldon in Essex and this sparked an initial interest. He expanded on the role of an MP and was able to clarify political complexities brilliantly (Politics, he contended, is essentially an argument about Big Government or Small Government, whether in Britain or America). He favoured small. He also spoke about media intrusion (he had himself been the victim of a sting by The Sunday Times and although he was fully exonerated he still found it difficult talk about – but still favoured a free if more responsible press). He spoke with an infectious enthusiasm which held the audience’s attention and the questions which followed were lively and thought-provoking. This was a warm and intelligent address from a knowledgeable politician and was greatly appreciated and enjoyed by all those present.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History and Teacher of Politics

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

OB Holly Roberts and the Spartan Mirage

Holly Roberts left Bedales four years ago and went to Oxford University to study History. She is about to finish at Oxford.  She spoke to The Green Ribbon Club (sixth form history) on the subject of the Spartan Mirage, a fascinating examination of the myths surrounding the history of Sparta. She made us aware of the problems of studying Sparta since they wrote nothing down, leaving historians reliant on much later written versions such as Herodotus and Xenophon. She illustrated the talk wonderfully including a film version of Spartan warfare and gave us fabulous stories (the little boy who stole a fox cub but too terrified to admit to it under interrogation, he held it under his tunic where it ate away his stomach and he died) as well as exposing the extraordinary ménage a trios of Spartan Warriors which involved the warrior, his older male lover and the warrior’s wife. Holly drew comparisons between the New Model Army (which AS students study) and The Spartan Army. We listened intently and her address was very well-received.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.