Contrary to the conventional wisdom, which presents contemporary party politics as ahistorical, it is clear that history remains an ever-present point of reference in political discourse, providing a source of lessons, warnings and precedents. Yet while previous understandings of the political past emphasised its capacity to make demands upon the present – whether of conservative duty or radical obligation – this has now been sidelined in favour of a present-focused view of the past as ‘heritage’, which can be embraced or rejected as politically expedient. Above all, the past is used to set the present within a legitimating framework, whereby it appears constantly ‘historic’, as can be seen in the rhetoric surrounding the 2010 General Election and formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
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