Letter: Foreign policy not quite forgotten

Sir: Richard Gott declares: "as every history student is almost certainly well aware, no election has been fought on a foreign policy issue since 1857". This history student is wondering whether Mr Gott has forgotten the far more important campaign of 1880: Gladstone's Midlothian election.

In what could well be described as the first modern British political campaign, Gladstone perfected his demagogic technique with a series of attacks on Disraeli's foreign policy. The "evil instinct" which guided Conservatives was to be replaced with "six right principles" of foreign policy. This was at a time when a revolt in Bulgaria could lead to nationwide rioting and international affairs were the stated priority of both party leaders.

Mr Gott may lament the absence of foreign affairs from the current election campaign, but perhaps he should be relieved. Both Disraeli and Gladstone had grand ideas about foreign policy; both of them ended up frustrated as their knowledge of the problems failed to match their ambitions.


Magdalen College