Michael Gove blasts Blackadder for spreading ‘left wing myths’ on war

The education secretary Michael Gove today made an extraordinary attack on the classic comedy series Blackadder for peddling left-wing "myths" about the First World War "designed to belittle Britain and its leaders."

Gove said the popular series had sought to denigrate British patriotism and had been used by "left wing academics" to portray the British war effort as a "shambles" led by an out-of-touch elite.

"Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage," he writes in the Daily Mail.

"The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.

"Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths."

He claims the war was in reality a "noble cause" and a "just" conflict against the cruel "social Darwinism" of the Germans.

"The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified.

"And the war was also seen by participants as a noble cause. Historians have skilfully demonstrated how those who fought were not dupes but conscious believers in king and country, committed to defending the western liberal order."

Even the battle of the Somme, which has become a byword for futile and indiscriminate slaughter, is defended by Gove who describes it as a vital "precursor" to victory.

The education secretary's comments follow controversy over his attempts to rewrite the national history curriculum in schools.

Gove was forced to withdraw several planned changes to the curriculum last year after he was criticised for focusing too much on British history at the expense of the wider global view.

Prominent historians including Simon Schama, Sir Richard Evans and Sir David Cannadine all criticised his plans.