Editor's Letter: August is anything but the silly season

In fact, it's the month when history speeds up

Share

Morning all. The late and much loved journalist Frank Johnson had a habit, during many an August, of writing a column about August’s place in history. The conceit was simple. We think of August as a time to slow down; as the silly season. In fact, August is anything but silly; indeed, it’s the month when history speeds up.

Given what an action-packed month this has already been, this seems as good a time as any to revive Johnson’s tradition. Besides, it’s been at least a couple of years since Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times had a stab (and I copied him).

In  August 1914 Sir Edward Grey said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Sixteen Augusts earlier, the Spanish-American War ended; and in August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – which led to the invasion of Poland – was signed. The following August, the Blitz began; five Augusts later, the Americans bombed Hiroshima, prompting the Japanese to surrender. India became independent on 15 August 1947. Fifteen Augusts later, Marilyn Monroe died and Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

August has served us the following dollops of history too: the crushing of the Prague Spring (1968); Richard Nixon resigning following Watergate (1974); Elvis dying (1977); Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait (1990); Princess Diana dying (1997); Hurricane Katrina (2005); and Russia’s invasion of Georgia (2008).

News never stops, but this month has been a typical August – that is, especially busy. We had the centenary of the First World War, of course. Israel and Hamas have re-engaged in their own brand of seemingly permanent conflict; Russia has renewed its interest in eastern Ukraine; Ebola has broken out; and the Isis advance has led to the sickening murder of James Foley – and a propaganda coup for the gutless scum responsible.

August was never actually a good time for our politicians to get away. The past week has shown that the modern news and social media put new and intolerable pressures on holidaying politicians. No 10 was keen to brief the fact that the Prime Minister came home early from holiday, and the image of him getting out of his official car without a tie on added to the impression that he was getting down to work. But the fact is, Britain doesn’t really have a foreign policy at the moment – and this week confirmed it.  Then, in America, Barack Obama gave a press conference about Foley’s death, again tieless – and headed straight for the golf course. That wasn’t an uncharacteristic error  in itself – but being photographed was.

As we wrote in an editorial this week, politicians deserve holidays more than most. The trouble is, in the age of BlackBerrys and Twitter, the need for leadership and decisive action is relentless. Given school holidays, there’s no chance of a change; but now more than ever, our leaders should beware the guns of August.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game