The former head of the Royal Navy has offered to take on education secretary Michael Gove in the boxing ring to determine whether socialists can be patriotic.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead, a Labour peer and former security minister, said he agreed with Mr Gove that the First World War was just, but hit out at his criticisms of the left.
In a speech in the House of Lords, Lord West, who was first sea lord from 2002 to 2006, said he would be happy to settle the matter inside or outside a boxing ring.
Mr Gove this year caused controversy by attacking ‘left-wing academics all too happy to feed’ myths about the conflict perpetuated by programmes such as Blackadder.
He hit out at the ‘existing left-wing version of the past designed to belittle Britain and its leaders’.
And he said there was ‘an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage’.
In a Lords debate on commemorations of the centenary of the First World War, Lord West said: ‘Our decision to go to war over Belgium was absolutely right. I do believe it was a just war.
‘I have no doubt at all that Europe would have been a worse place if Germany had won. Therefore I think it was the right thing that our nation did.
‘In that I have to agree with the Secretary of State for Education that it was a just war.
‘I think he has been reported wrongly, because I have read that he has said that socialists are unpatriotic. I’m sure he didn’t mean that.
‘If he did mean that, I’m willing to discuss it with him inside or outside a boxing ring and we’ll see how we go.’