The Kosovo war has inevitably dominated British headlines in recent weeks. But lesser wars—culture wars—have continued unabated; and if the Blair government has become somewhat less frenetic in its campaign to “rebrand’ Britain, there have been powerful institutions more than willing to lend a hand.

Take the case of Florence Nightingale. We live in an age in which there is a move to dethrone every established hero sooner or later, and though Florence Nightingale wouldn’t have seemed one of the more obvious candidates, her turn was bound to come. What would have been harder to predict (until a few years ago, at least) was that when the attack was finally launched, it would be the work not of some small radical group, but of an organization with nearly half-a-million members, including 250,000 nurses.

At its recent annual conference Unison, the union representing workers in the British...


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