Somerset MP still trying to rewrite history

With so much serious news to deal with, we are grateful for some light relief. It is as ever provided by one of our more colourful MPs. Ian Liddell Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has strong views about the future of Somerset. He is not a fan of Somerset County Council or their One Somerset plan for a unitary authority. In his latest polemic on the subject he compares SCC to the Viking leader Ivar the Boneless:

By all accounts he was insanely brave, but ended up unloved by the Viking army he led. And, like all the other Vikings, his reign of terror ended in Wedmore when King Alfred signed a deal with their king to send the whole lot of them back home in the general direction of Denmark.  Ivar the Boneless was no slouch on the battlefield but did not have the loyalty of his own troops. It may be ancient history but there are surely some parallels to what is happening right now as Somerset County County fights to persuade the government that its dreadful One Somerset plan is the only option for local government reform.”

Whatever Mr Liddell Grainger’s views of the future of Somerset, his knowledge of the past is on much less solid ground. His view of unitary council’s may turn out to be realistic. His knowledge of Ivar the Boneless, less than wholly factual. Ivar the Boneless certainly led a Danish army and invaded several bits of Britain. Wessex was not one of them. And he had either died or vanished from the historical record by 870AD.

Unfortunate. For Alfred the Great did not ascend the throne of Wessex until 871 AD. The battle of Edington where he decisively beat the Danes took place in 878AD and the treaty of Wedmore that followed it probably dates to either 879 or 890AD. Either way nearly a decade after Ivar had died. Nor did Alfred pack the “whole lot of them home in the general direction of Denmark“. The Danish King Guthram, who led the Danes at Edington, settled permanently in East Anglia with his army.

Added to which Mr Liddell Grainger seems not to have heard of the Danish King Cnut and his sons who ruled England in the 11th century. These are facts that I suspect most English schoolchildren know. At least those from Somerset. Mr Liddell Grainger may have strong views and top marks on the future of Somerset. His knowledge of the history of our county scores by contrast, barely 2 out of ten.


  • Love Ian as we do, none of us have ever accused him of being on top of the detail. Broad brush strokes, big picture, not strong on the fiddly little truth stuff.

  • ILG corrected by JRM!

    Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

    Ivar the Boneless was given his marching orders actually from Nottingham by Alfred the Great with his brother Aethelred I—not to be confused with the unready one who comes a little bit later. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Ivar the Boneless must be moved out of Wessex—he ended up disappearing from history, as it happens, and is thought to have died in either 872 or 873. I have so much sympathy with what my hon. Friend is saying. Somerset is a great, single, individual county. It always seemed to me to be rubbing the salt in the wound of the 1974 local government reforms when Somerset County Council put up signs saying “Welcome to Somerset” when people were just going into its administrative area and not entering the great county.

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