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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

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

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there