What does Strictly Come Dancing tell us about the government of Britain? See below...
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A Personal Note (Archive)
April 5, 2014
Bruce Forsythe announced his retirement from Strictly Come Dancing this week. Strictly is a favourite in the Jones household, and I've written about it before. Since Brucie is retiring I will make a return to what I found most interesting about the show - apart from Erin Boag that is.
The government, of Strictly, like that of Britain, is a mixed government, There is a system of democratic voting: "only you can save your favourite." But there is also an element of non elected government coming from the judging panel whose marks contribute towards a contestant's final score. Len Goodman, with the other judges, represent the Lords and the non elected Civil Service who keep an eye on the constantly changing crop of MPs. Strictly sometimes reveals the weaknesses of such a body, hidebound by old regulations which might not mean much to people who just want to enjoy a good dance. On the other hand Strictly indicates the potential difficulties that arise with democracy. Former contestant Anne Widdicombe - who bid Bruce Forsythe a fond farewell in interviews - was not a good dancer. And yet because it was amusing to see her being propelled around the floor by Anton du Beke, the democratic system, which she praised at every opportunity, kept her in contention for ten weeks. Civil servants and peers on the judging panel griped, but Anne kept on coming back. Democracy saved the worst dancer, which has to make you wonder... But then the amusement and fun offered by Anne would have been missed by the judging panel. Perhaps one of the many good things about Strictly is that it illustrates the benefits of a mixed form of government. And of course Brucie was prime minister, a middle man trying to keep everyone happy and jolly them along. He did it very well.
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Historical news for April
On 22nd April 1884 an earthquake hit the area of Colchester in Essex. This turned out to be the most damaging earthquake in Britain in the last four hundred years, damaging over a thousand buildings. This event is commemorated this month with an exhibition at the Natural History Museum Colchester. The exhibition runs until 17th April. Telephone 01206 282941.
An exhibition exploring the life and work of William Kent opens at the V&A this month. Kent created what we now know as Georgian architecture. The exhibition brings together almost 200 examples of Kent's work, ranging from architectural drawings to pieces of gilded and upholstered furniture. The exhibition runs 22 March - 13 July. Telephone 020 7924 2000.
In 1911 hundreds of women across Britain boycotted the census of that year. The aim was to raise awareness for the campaign to grant women the vote. An exhibition commemorating this event is being staged at the People's History Museum in Manchester this month. The exhibition runs from 24th February until 27th April. Telephone 0161 838 9190.
Anniversaries for April
2nd April 1801: Caught between threats from Russia and Britain, Denmark decides to sign a treaty with Russia. Britain responds by sending in the Royal Navy. Using a combination of insubordination and audacity Admiral Nelson defeats the Danish fleet and shore batteries at Copanhagen. With the British ships taking a terrible pounding, Nelson ignores his commanding officer's order to withdraw. Even though Nelson's ships were being shot to pieces, Nelson magisterially offered the Danes a chance to surrender, which they did.
7th April 1827: Following his invention of the "friction match" in 1826, John Walker, a chemist from Stockton-on-Tees makes his first sale.
8th April 1886: William Gladstone's government introduces the Government of Ireland Bill, commonly known as the First Home Rule Bill, into Parliament.
10th April 1815: Mount Tambora erupts in Indoneasia, reducing temperatures world wide for the next two years. During the summer of 1816, young Mary Shelley, is staying beside Lake Geneva with her new husband Percy Shelley, and their friend Lord Byron. The weather is cold and wet, so Mary stays indoors and starts writing Frankenstein.
25th April 1599:Oliver Cromwell is born in Huntingdon near Cambridge. He would grow up to end the divine right of kings, leading the rebellion which deposed Charles I. Ironically stories about Cromwell's birth couldn't resist mimicing the sense of destiny used to bolster the position of monarchs. Cromwell's traditional birth time was moved to the early hours of the morning, to give him a more powerful horoscope.
28th April 1940: Following an attempt to resist the German invasion of Norway, the British and French governments decide to evacuate their forces from Norway. This would effectively end the career of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain. Meanwhile Winston Churchill, who was much more closely involved with the Norway campaign than Chamberlain, would go on to become prime minister in May 1940.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.