Thursday, 29 January 2015

Britain and the Common Market

One of the more disturbing trends of the past half-century has been the growing lack of confidence in our own self-governance. During the immediate post-war years, not only did we run our affairs without interference from outsiders, we also administered a significant proportion of the rest of the world. No debate about this was considered to be necessary since as a sovereign nation, and a major world power, it was self evident to almost everyone at the time that we should govern ourselves; the notion that we should be answerable to European institutions for our own internal business would have been considered near incomprehensible, particularly as we had only recently fought a major war to prevent Britain coming under the heel of a foreign dictator. This blog examines how British governments began the process of handing power to unelected foreign institutions.

All the evidence suggests that the vast majority of the British people firmly believe in the nation state and consider that it provides much the best vehicle for government that is representative of, and answerable to, the people it serves. Rightly or wrongly, citizens traditionally looked to 'the government' to address both their own concerns and the problems of society generally. Turnout at parliamentary elections has consistently been considerably higher that those for local authorities or the European Union. Most people identify with the nation state, owe their allegiance to it and consider that it should take the lead in their own governance. In short, the overwhelming popular view is that national identity and parliamentary government should coincide.

Following the devastation caused by the Second World War a number of European leaders became convinced that the only way to secure a lasting peace between their countries was to unite them economically and politically. As a first step, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed integrating the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. This took effect in 1952 with the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), with another early euro-visionary Jean Monnet as its president. The six member countries were France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. At the time, relatively little interest was aroused in Britain by this new body. However, it was the acorn from which in time a mighty oak was gradually to extend its spreading branches to cover virtually the whole of Europe.

From its inception the 'European Project' has been propelled by its own momentum. It is never enough to stand still, it has to both expand and deepen its authority. In 1957 the member countries of the ECSC signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC) that sought to remove trade barriers between them, resulting in the formation of a 'Common Market'. This was a major development in European unity and again Britain, watching from the sidelines, showed little enthusiasm for this new venture. At the time it was seen primarily as a means of increasing trade between member countries, and debate within Britain on the EEC, over the next two decades, concentrated on the issues of free trade with Europe and the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The commitment in the Rome Treaty to ever-greater political and economic union received scant attention.

In the early 1960s Britain was experiencing some economic difficulties. Despite full employment and relatively high economic growth there was concern over the 'stop-go' nature of the British economy. During the same period the EEC countries were experiencing exceptional economic growth and this resulted in their GDP overtaking that of Britain, a development that was regarded by many as humiliating. At the same time Britain was in the process of divesting itself of its colonial territories. In the much quoted words of former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Britain had 'lost an empire but had not yet found a role'. So on both economic and political grounds, joining the EEC began to look attractive, as it was seen as a panacea for boosting a relatively sluggish economy as well as a substitute for the loss of a wider world role that the empire had provided.

Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan judged that the time had now come for Britain to apply for membership of the EEC. Edward Heath, future Prime Minister and committed euro-enthusiast, was entrusted with negotiating the terms of entry. Most of the political establishment, and the British public, of the time supported membership, although there were some reservations by the Labour Party and amongst some Conservative backbenchers. It was widely seen as a golden opportunity for Britain to share in the incredible economic success that the EEC countries were experiencing. Both Tony Benn on the Left, and Enoch Powell on the Right, who were later to become fierce critics of European integration, supported membership at this time. However, despite all the energy and effort put in by Edward Heath, French President Charles De Gaulle vetoed the application in early 1963. He judged that Britain’s special relationship with the USA would compromise Britain’s commitment to Europe, and he may have been particularly piqued by the nuclear agreement that Britain and the USA had signed in Nassau a few months earlier, from which France had been excluded. Another factor was the negotiations that were still taking place on the CAP. De Gaulle wanted to ensure that it remained highly favourable to French farming interests, an outcome which might be jeopardised if Britain entered the Community before agreement on it was reached. De Gaulle’s Non! provoked a sense of great national disappointment and was regarded as a huge setback not just by the Government but also by most politicians, as well as the British people. De Gaulle rubbed salt into the wound when he vetoed a second application by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1967 on much the same grounds.

Britain’s exclusion from Europe was to end with the election of Edward Heath as Conservative Prime Minister in 1970. Heath, had been a strong Europhile since his youth, and his wartime experience convinced him of the need for close European ties. He was an ardent, almost fanatical, supporter of the EEC. It therefore came as no surprise when his Government entered into immediate negotiations for EEC membership. By this time De Gaulle was no longer in power and the British application was welcomed by member states. However, on the home front, support for the EEC had begun to fragment, and Heath faced some stiff opposition not only from Labour but also from rebels within his own party of whom Enoch Powell was the most vocal.

Opposition to Heath’s application came mostly from the wings of the political spectrum; those in the centre overwhelmingly supported British membership. However, the Right and Left disagreed on the grounds for objection. The Left considered the EEC to be a 'capitalist club' that would prevent their vision of a state controlled, nationalised, protectionist and trade union dominated economy being realised. On the other hand, some on the Right had begun to wake up to the threat posed to British sovereignty by the drive for ever closer political and economic union, particularly as specific, albeit unduly optimistic, proposals for achieving this were now firmly on the EEC agenda. Labour, still led by Harold Wilson, decided to oppose the application for membership. However, a sizeable number of Labour pro-Europeans, most notably the then Deputy Leader Roy Jenkins, supported the government and as a result Heath won all the parliamentary votes on EEC membership, although some with only very slim majorities. Heath signed the treaty of accession in 1972 – the pinnacle of his political ambition and his proudest moment – and Britain formally became a member of the EEC at the beginning of 1973, along with the Irish Republic and Denmark. However, unlike those two countries, no referendum was held in Britain despite Heath’s promise to seek the 'full-hearted consent of parliament and people'. The stage was now set for the EEC, and later the European Union, to extend its tentacles into the governance of Britain.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Marriage under attack

One of the most disturbing features of British society since the 1960s has been the huge rise in family breakdown. This has not happened by accident, or chance, but has been the inevitable consequence of decisions taken by successive governments, both Labour and Conservative. Although both have paid lip service to the principle of supporting the family, the policies they pursued have served to comprehensively undermine family cohesion and the institution of marriage. As a result, Britain has changed from a country noted for the stability of its family life to one in which our society has become fragmented and dysfunctional. So it is worth examining how this state of affairs has come about.

The phenomenon of easy divorce is a relatively recent one. Previous generations imposed very severe restraints - social, legal and financial, on couples seeking to divorce or separate. This outlook was underpinned by a greater religious belief and conviction than that which generally pertains today. The Church regarded marriage as a sacred institution, in which couples vowed to stay together, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…till death us do part”. There was an overwhelming consensus that marriage was a lifelong commitment, although not everyone shared the religious perspective that marriage was a sacrament. Those who separated or divorced were subject to social ostracism and stigma which, although gradually relaxed, still remained strong into the 1960s.

Prior to the Divorce (Matrimonial Causes) Act 1857 it was not legally possible to divorce, except by means of a private Act of Parliament. In the century preceding the 1857 Act there was an average of only two divorces a year throughout the country, confined to the very rich and determined. The main aim of the 1857 Act was to cheapen and simplify procedures to make it more accessible to the rising middle classes. It allowed civil divorce through the law courts, instead of the expensive and cumbersome process of a private Act of Parliament. Under the terms of the Act, the husband had only to prove his wife's adultery, but the wife had to prove her husband had committed not just adultery but also either incest, bigamy, cruelty or desertion. The Act also empowered a court to order a husband to pay maintenance to a divorced or estranged wife, and a divorced wife could protect her earnings from a husband who had deserted her. Upon divorce the children of the marriage became the property of the husband who could prevent his former wife from having any contact with them.

From a modern perspective it is easy to mock the assumptions behind the 1857 Act. It is based solely on the concerns of adults rather than the interests of the children. More obviously, it provided a grotesque double standard between men and women on adultery, and openly discriminated against women on the custody of children. However, the provision protecting a woman’s own money was clearly a step in the right direction as it allowed women to be treated as individuals in their own right, and not as mere chattels or appendages to their husbands. But it was not until the passing of the Married Women's Property Act of 1884 that women finally gained control over their own finances and property. The Infants Custody Act of 1886 made the children’s welfare the determining factor in deciding questions of custody, but even then the father remained the sole legal guardian during his lifetime. Following the 1857 Act the number of divorces per year gradually rose from about 100 in 1860 to over 500 in 1900, and continued at just above this rate until the First World War.

War proved to be another catalyst fuelling the increase in divorce, since the numbers increased to over 3000 in 1920, the majority filed by men, and many caused by their wives’ infidelity whilst they had been away. Although this figure dipped to about 2500 during the mid 1920s, it then continued to rise throughout the remainder of the inter war years to reach over 8000 in 1939. One factor contributing to this increase was the 1923 Matrimonial Causes Act which allowed women to petition for divorce on the grounds of adultery alone, thus gaining the same rights as men. Other legislation introduced at this time lowered the costs of obtaining a divorce, and the Herbert Act of 1937 extended the grounds for divorce to include desertion, cruelty, prolonged insanity and habitual drunkenness. The Second World War provided another major stimulus to divorce, no fewer than 60,000 were granted in 1946. However, this figure fell back to an average of about 30,000 by the early 1950s and stayed below this level until 1963. Although the 1950s are seen today as a model of family stability compared with more recent years, it has to be faced that divorce during this decade was about five times higher than in the 1930s.

The Wilson government of 1964-70 is often quoted with pride by liberals for facilitating 'progressive' legislation on personal 'lifestyle' issues, such as abortion and homosexuality. As part of the liberalisation agenda, this period also saw the introduction of the 1969 Divorce Reform Act which was to have the most far reaching implications for family life in Britain. By the time of the Act divorce levels had climbed to over 50,000 a year, twice what they had been a decade earlier. The 1969 Act retained the existing grounds of adultery and desertion but crucially replaced 'cruelty' with the much less harsh term 'unreasonable behaviour', which has been interpreted broadly by the courts, thus allowing many couples a quick divorce. In addition the Act introduced new 'no-fault' grounds for divorce when the parties had lived apart for five years, or two years if both agreed to a divorce. Thus the basis for divorce became, in the wording of the Act, 'the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage'. As a result of the 1969 Act the level of divorces increased to nearly 120,000 in 1972, over four times higher than in 1962. Obtaining a divorce became less troublesome after the introduction in 1973 of the 'special procedure' which allowed divorce proceedings to be conducted by post. As a result of all these changes the stage was set for an explosion in divorce and family breakdown.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Homosexuality - the way it used to be

Today, after decades of political correctness, a climate has been created in which any criticism or questioning of the homosexual agenda, however mild, rational or well argued, is denounced as 'homophobic' bigotry. This has not always been the case; back in the early 1960s both the political establishment and wider society took a very different viewpoint. At that time there was little public clamour to repeal the laws against male homosexual activity. Instead, there was widespread revulsion at such behaviour, which was considered to be unnatural, sinful and disgusting, a view many still hold. There were widespread fears that homosexuals would corrupt the nation’s youth, and that the law should be there to protect vulnerable young men from the perceived threat of supposedly predatory homosexuals. Nobody at the time appeared to consider whether the criminalization of male homosexuality might be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, or whether it dented Britain's supposed reputation for tolerance and fair play.

The Wolfenden Report of 1957 recommended decriminalizing homosexual acts involving adult males over 21. However, it was shelved by the Tory government, fearing a public backlash if it was implemented. The Report made it clear that, although in favour of law reform, it was in no way suggesting that society should condone or approve of homosexual behaviour. It also flagged up concern that the decriminalising of homosexual acts could result in 'large-scale proselytising' by homosexuals, which is indeed what would happen. The Times newspaper, in favour of reform, said that any change in the law 'will not be won by the presentation of homosexuality as something to be regarded as other than unnatural, sinful, and to be resisted wherever possible'.

In a parliamentary debate in July 1960, called to implement the recommendation, the proposer Labour MP Kenneth Robinson acknowledged that the subject 'is one that is distasteful and even repulsive to many people', adding that he did not regard homosexuality 'as a desirable way of life'. In opposing the proposal Conservative MP Godfrey Langdon described homosexuals as 'people with warped minds who have little self control' and who were 'a dirty minded danger to the virile manhood of this country'. Dr Broughton MP looked upon homosexuality 'as biologically wrong, and that any encouragement of it would damage society' adding that 'homosexual practice should remain an offence to show our disapproval of this type of conduct'. Conservative Edward Gardner believed that if the law were changed 'there would be nothing except ethical standards, or the condemnation of society, to prevent two males living together as lovers. That, as a matter of commonsense, would be the worst possible example one could give to youth'. Presciently, Conservative MP William Deedes suggested that 'no man will willingly submit unresistingly to a social stigma. There will follow a change in the effort to prove that homosexuality has its virtues.' Robinson's motion to decriminalize was defeated 213-99 on a free vote, with 150 Conservative and 41 Labour MPs voting against.

The arrival of Roy Jenkins as Labour Home Secretary in 1965, with an agenda for social reform, set the scene for the liberalisation of the law against homosexuality. However, when Parliament debated the Sexual Offences Bill which sought to decriminalise homosexual activities, all those who expressed their support prefaced their comments with a condemnation of the practice of homosexuality. They considered that the law should be changed, not because they considered such activity morally acceptable, but for more humane reasons, principally to remove the fear of blackmail. They also considered that the law should no longer police private activity of this kind. The measure was generally perceived as a gesture of tolerance to a persecuted minority who many now thought posed little threat to mainstream society. Lord Arran who promoted the Bill in the House of Lords concluded that 'any form of ostentatious behaviour; now or in the future, any form of public flaunting, would be utterly distasteful and would, I believe, make the sponsors of the Bill regret that they have done what they have done. Homosexuals must continue to remember that while there may be nothing bad in being a homosexual, there is certainly nothing good.Lest the opponents of the Bill think that a new freedom, a new privileged class, has been created, let me remind them that no amount of legislation will prevent homosexuals from being the subject of dislike and derision, or at best of pity'.

Had it been possible to write this blog fifty years ago it would have supported the decriminalisation of homosexual activities between adult males. Unquestionably, at that time homosexuals were persecuted for their private sexual behaviour. This was a gross and unwarranted intrusion by the state into their private affairs as citizens. Moreover, the police shamelessly abused their position by such means as trawling through address books to frame individuals, and by the use of agent provocateurs to facilitate entrapment. The Labour government was right to implement the Wolfenden Report recommendations in 1967, since the state should have no place in policing the private sexual activities of its citizens. However, matters did not rest there. It came as an unwelcome surprise to many, when homosexuals, or 'gays' as they now chose to describe themselves, quickly started to openly parade what many considered to be a deviant lifestyle and to claim further rights and 'equality', whilst at the same time stressing their perceived victimhood.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

The 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner provides evidence of the cultural control that the politically correct establishment has exercised over Western society for nearly half a century. The film starred Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as the parents of a 23 year old daughter who suddenly announces that she intends to marry a black doctor, played by Sidney Poitier, whom she met only ten days earlier on holiday in Hawaii.

In the film the Poitier character is a paragon of virtue. He is a highly qualified doctor employed as a senior medical advisor to the UN. He is polite, well mannered and presentable, who has worked hard to achieve his success. Indeed, with these characteristics, he would normally be just the sort of man that any well to do middle class parents would want their daughter to marry. However, he is black suitor and it is this conundrum that the film explores.

The parents both pride themselves on their liberal outlook which in this context means hostility and contempt to what they term 'bigotry'. They simplistically believe that the colour of a person’s skin is no more than a 'pigmentation problem', which reflected the then liberal line that people of all races are basically much the same underneath their differing skin colours. In the film Poitier is culturally white and his values and lifestyle conform to the ethos of traditional white American middle class society. The joys of multiculturalism and diversity still lie in the future.

The film focuses on the conflict between the parents professed liberal values and their real life response to the likelihood of suddenly acquiring a black son-in-law. Their first reaction in both cases is one of suppressed horror, instinctively at odds with their well cultivated liberal beliefs. Hepburn quickly regains her composure and soon openly supports her daughter’s decision. However, Tracy is not so easily persuaded, voicing the opinion that such a marriage would create problems. These are never clearly specified since they act as a disguise, both to himself and others, that his objections are in reality based on prejudice against his daughter marrying a black man. The outcome is of course predictable. After wrestling with his conscience, and with some assistance from his wife and a clerical friend, the film concludes with an oration from Tracy. He declares to the assembled guests, which include Poitier’s parents and his own black housekeeper (the only character to be openly hostile to Poitier as a suitor), that there can be no possible objection to the marriage, since his daughter is in love and her choice should be respected.

The film is impressive and superbly acted but nevertheless is a well crafted piece of cultural Marxist propaganda. The ostensible objective is to challenge racial prejudice, seen by liberals as 'irrational', the enemy in this case being white middle class values and solidarity, and the outcome is the subversion of white identity. It should be remembered that the approach of the cultural Marxists to achieving their objectives is subtle, determined and incremental. Alas, it is ultimately nearly always successful.

A film such as this would not have been made much earlier than this date. Prior to the late sixties all married couples depicted in films belonged to the same race, almost invariably white. This reflected the then overwhelming view of society that marriage should take place between those of the same race, a view that was almost instinctive to people of all races. There is a word – miscegenation, now almost taboo, which describes the breach of this principle. At the time of the film 16 US states still had laws on the statute book against miscegenation (in the early 1940’s it was as many as 40 states) although these were struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court shortly afterwards. The reason why these laws were in operation, and were hugely supported by ordinary white people of the time, was the protection it provided to the white race, since the children of mixed race couples were considered by whites to belong to the black race. So mixed marriages undermine white society just as much as non-white immigration, which is why it can be argued that both should be resisted if white society is to be preserved.

The film reminds us that there can be a conflict between the collective rights of people in society and the human rights of individuals. In this case it is the collective right to maintain white (and black) racial identity against individuals' right to marry whomever they please. The film sends out the signal that the former can be dismissed as bigotry whilst the latter should be promoted as being open minded and tolerant.

As a consequence of the taboo which this film broke, the normalisation of mixed sexual relationships became gradually more commonplace in the cinema. So it is now considered to be entirely normal for films to depict a well educated middle class white girl in a relationship with a foul mouthed black ghetto hoodlum. Any criticism is dismissed as bigotry.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Rivers of Blood - the legacy

Powell’s speech struck a deep chord with many British people - he claimed to have received over 120,000 letters as a result, the overwhelming majority sharing his concerns. Opinion polls also showed strong support for Powell’s stance. However, the British political establishment, then speedily moving in a liberal direction, denounced Powell as a populist agitator, intent upon stirring up race hatred for his own personal ends. He was promptly sacked from his shadow cabinet post by Tory leader Edward Heath for the 'racialist tone' of the speech. This was a moment in time when the British nation was presented with an opportunity to look into the abyss and step back. Instead our political leaders hurled us headlong forward to our almost certain doom.

For the 1970 general election the Conservative manifesto promised, 'that there will be no further large scale permanent immigration' and that 'future immigration will be allowed only in strictly defined special cases'. Moreover, it adopted the Powellite policy of giving 'assistance to Commonwealth immigrants who wish to return to their countries of origin' albeit in a very much watered down form. The Labour manifesto was proud to boast that 'the rate of immigration [was] under firm control and much lower than in past years'. However, none of the political parties seriously addressed the urgency of the problem. The election resulted in a return to power of the Conservatives under Edward Heath, and within a short time they had spectacularly broken their pledge on 'no further large scale immigration'.

Most unfortunately, the legacy of Powell’s speech has been the complete opposite of what he hoped to achieve. The uproar it caused galvanised liberals into the creation of the vast race relations industry with intrusive new initiatives to oversee public thought and behaviour, such as the Commission for Racial Equality, race equality officers in the public sector, race monitoring by local councils, 'hate' crimes, public funding of ethnic organizations, all overseen by the self righteous cant of the politically correct obsessives, which has created a stifling climate in which the majority of white people have been silenced from publicly expressing their true feelings. Powell accurately predicted race riots, ethnic ghettos, civil disturbances, the open ended increase in the numbers of ethnic people, and the ever expanding state apparatus to force race 'equality' on an unwilling population. However, even he failed to anticipate the rise of British born terrorists and the extent of 'parallel lives' which form a gulf between the different races and cultures in some British towns and cities. It is because of the latter development that governments started to distance themselves from the concept of multiculturism, towards one of promoting 'community cohesion', seemingly unaware that until the advent of mass immigration our society was largely homogeneous and thus cohesive, despite its obsession with class differences.

If the current policy of open ended mass immigration continues we risk sleepwalking into disaster. An end to such madness is the only answer, if the risk of increasing ethnic conflict is to be avoided in the future, if traditional British culture and way of life is to be maintained and if we are ever to regain a sense of togetherness, shared values, identity and character. Mass third world immigration has introduced into British society racial and religious conflict and tension, which we were previously spared. It is no doubt the case that the majority of people in Britain of all races can live together with a fair degree of tolerance of one another, and perhaps sometimes of acceptance. And clearly some people of ethnic origin have worked hard to integrate themselves into British society. Nevertheless, it has to be faced that the more brutish or fanatical elements on the front line of the racial, cultural and religious divide are unlikely to always share the elevated notions of political commentators such as Polly Toynbee on multicultural enrichment. The result has been low level conflict spilling over at times into what are euphemistically termed 'disturbances'.

To manage the problem an increasingly powerful politically correct elite has introduced intrusive laws and bureaucratic interference into the personal affairs of ordinary citizens and businesses, which should have no place in a free society. The 'fight against racism' can never be won since it is largely contrary to human nature. Moreover, the publicly funded bureaucracy established to combat it has a vested interest in discovering more subtle forms of 'racism' to keep the issue on the boil and their jobs secure. The liberal multicultural and diversity agenda is centred on insinuating feelings of guilt into the white population. Clearly violence, harassment or abuse of people because of the colour of their skin, or their religion, is completely unacceptable. But the definition by some politically correct institutions of what constitutes 'hate' has now been extended to cover those voicing criticism of immigration policy or questioning the benefits of a multicultural society. Many white people fear the epithets the politically correct class place on them such as 'racist', 'hater', 'extremist', and 'bigot' etc, applied to those who offer even the mildest dissent from their agenda. Children and young people have been brought up in an educational ethos where it is normal to denigrate their own history and culture, but to be uncritical of all others. Public concern about the level of immigration, and the changes it is causing to our communities and neighbourhoods, has for decades been suppressed and ignored. As a consequence Britain is losing its sense of shared cultural history and identity. The politically correct establishment’s only answer has been to desperately promote the bogus, and now discredited, concept of multiculturalism, whilst fanning the flames of social conflict by continuing to encourage mass third world immigration. Those whom the gods wish to destroy……..

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Rivers of Blood

In 1968 Asians in Kenya were threatened with the loss of permanent residence unless they took out Kenyan nationality. Some Tory MPs, most notably Enoch Powell, predicted mass arrivals of Asians with British passports. Labour responded to such fears by rushing the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill through parliament in three days. The new law was clearly racially targeted since it prevented 'British citizens' entry into Britain if they lacked a 'close connection' with the country, close connection being defined as birth in Britain or descent from a parent or grandparent born in Britain. As a result, 150,000 Kenyan Asians were prevented from entering while white settlers and their families enjoyed free access. The politically correct class have always portrayed this action as an example of outrageous discrimination against non-white 'British' citizens. However, in reality very few, if any, of these putative 'British citizens' had ever set foot in Britain, and their possession of British citizenship came about only because it was irresponsibly given at the time of Kenyan independence. It was also an unnecessary gesture since they were all eligible for Indian or Pakistani citizenship, so none of them would have been stateless, as is often claimed. The following year Labour introduced further legislation making it more difficult for dependants to enter Britain. Clearly, during this period there was little support, from any of the political parties, for the idea that the 'diversity' of third world immigrants would bring 'enrichment' to our nation. So this was the background and climate in which Enoch Powell delivered his 'Rivers of Blood' speech that is worth examining in some detail.

Enoch Powell’s 'Rivers of Blood' speech spelt out, in stark terms, the consequences of continuing mass third world immigration into Britain. It was peppered with many apocalyptic allusions including 'those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad - we must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants' and 'it is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre' before ending with the much quoted finale 'as I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood'.

This was not the first speech in which Powell had discussed immigration, since he raised the issue a few months earlier at Walsall where he called for action against the entry of the Kenyan passport holders. In making such speeches Powell was straying well outside his Defence brief and into matters that properly came within the remit of the shadow Home Secretary. His declared motives in highlighting the immigration issue were that it was the responsibility of elected politicians to discuss matters of concern to constituents, and to raise awareness of future problems, so that avoiding action could be taken in good time. Powell drew attention to the fact that millions of ordinary people were privately discussing the question of immigration, but that politicians of all parties appeared to treat it as an almost taboo subject. He predicted that, if the then current levels of immigration continued, and the higher level of fertility of the immigrant communities was maintained, the ethnic population of Britain would be in the region of five to seven million by the year 2000. Such a population would not be evenly distributed but rather “whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population”. Powell warned that delay in addressing the issue would only make the problem worse and more intractable. However, he correctly identified that a remedy was at hand 'by stopping….further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow'.

Powell was particularly scathing about what he termed the 'insane' practice of allowing 'unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen'. Such a policy was allowing into the country 'a further 25,000 dependants per annum ad infinitum, without taking into account the huge reservoir of existing relations in this country'. He demanded that 'in these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay'. Powell rightly pointed out that ending immigration was not enough and that in addition it had to be accompanied by 'the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party's policy - the encouragement of re-emigration'. Incredible as it may now seem, this was, indeed, official Conservative policy at the time and a provision to this effect would be included in the Immigration Act 1971. However, in government, the promotion of the measure was virtually non-existent. In contrast, Powell stressed that it should be 'pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter the prospects'.

Powell covered other issues raised by immigration in his speech. In considering the rights that should be enjoyed by the ethnic population, he declared that there should be no second class citizens in Britain, but pointedly added 'This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendant should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another, or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another'. Powell then moved on to the issue of discrimination, which then, as now, was disproportionably exercising the delicate consciences of liberals. He rightly pointed out the true nature of the concern in these terms 'the discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and of resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming' adding that 'whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration, but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different from another'. He then focused on the nub of the problem, ignored by virtually all other political leaders, before and since, that 'while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision, by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country'. The crucial point here is that the British people were never consulted on whether they wanted mass third world immigration or what is now termed a 'multi-cultural society'.

Powell moved on to express what, he believed, to be the true feelings and views of the indigenous population by declaring that 'they found their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted'. Powell then went on to condemn the Labour government’s Race Relations Bill as a 'law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect [the indigenous population] or redress their grievances [but rather] is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions'. Powell then attacked the then current liberal fad for 'integration', which, unbeknown to all concerned, was soon to be quietly replaced by 'multi-culturalism'. He acknowledged that a small minority of immigrants had made a determined effort to integrate, but realised that 'to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one'. This was a viewpoint that, in principle, liberals were soon to share.

Powell realised that immigrant 'numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority [will] not operate'. He then goes on to accurately predict a multi-cultural Britain in which there will be a 'growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population'. Powell concluded with a further condemnation of the Race Relations Bill that it 'is the means of showing that the [ethnic] communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided'. He feared that the American experience of race riots would be visited upon us 'by our own volition and our own neglect'. He ended with the words 'only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal'.

This was unquestionably a historic speech, of incredible boldness, which mercilessly exposed the wilful blindness of successive governments on an issue of crucial national importance. Powell accurately predicted the potentially unlimited growth of the ethnic population and its distribution into ghettos. He identified the disproportionate concern given to allegations of discrimination against the ethnic population, contrasted this with the near complete disregard of the fears of the indigenous population on the 'open ended' nature of immigration, exposed the naiveté of policy on integration and anticipated the cultural separation of much of the ethnic population from mainstream society. Most importantly, Powell also came forward with the only credible policy for permanently addressing the problem, namely ending all further third world immigration and instituting a well funded high profile programme of offering financial incentives to persuade the ethnic population to return to their countries of origin or ancestry. Unfortunately Powell, rather unwisely, quoted verbatim from letters he had received from constituents, which contained some pejorative comments and negative generalised assumptions about the ethnic population. Many critics, either deliberately or through ignorance, attributed these views to Powell himself, and this chorus of self-righteous indignation distracted media attention from the main arguments in Powell’s speech.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

How Britain created a race problem

The Labour government of 1964-1970 led by Harold Wilson was the first to introduce politically correct policies. The term 'politically correct' was unknown at the time, such policy initiatives then being described as 'liberal' or 'progressive'. A good definition of 'politically correct' is any cultural non-economic policy that the Liberal Party, or later Liberal Democrat Party, would be comfortable in promoting. Until 2010, of course, Liberals never got a chance to implement such policies directly, but they could look on with approval from the sidelines as the two major parties of government introduced them. During the Harold Wilson led administration politically correct policies were introduced on grammar schools, race, homosexuality and divorce law reform. During this period the sexual liberation movement also gained ground. This particular blog will explore the issue of race.

Harold Wilson’s Labour government was the first to introduce legislation, the Race Relations Act 1965, to combat racial discrimination by making it illegal in such places as hotels and cinemas. It was brought in to challenge the 'colour bar' - the covert, but sometimes more open, practice of banning non-white people from using public services or entering public places. The Act also established a Race Relations Board, the name of which, probably unintentionally, implicitly acknowledged that racial identity and awareness are a fundamental attribute of people of all races and that this could give rise to potential conflict. A second Race Relations Act, in 1968, brought employment and housing within the scope of the law. At the same time further restrictions on immigration were introduced, the number of vouchers issued to prospective migrants was limited to 5,000 and the right of entry was removed from British passport holders whose parents or grandparents were born outside Britain.

These measures reflected the twin track approach of the political parties at the time, of trying to keep further migrants out but giving fair treatment to those already here. The policy implicitly reflected the political consensus of the mid sixties, that 'coloured immigration' (as it was then termed) was undesirable and needed to be firmly controlled. In 1965, Roy Hattersley future Labour Deputy Leader, justified support for immigration controls by saying: 'Without integration limitation is inexcusable; without limitation integration is impossible', thus openly endorsing the view that restricting numbers was good for race relations. He further claimed that 'social problems' could occur if immigration was not controlled and emphasised the need for integration, 'We must impose a test which tries to analyse which immigrants... are most likely to be assimilated into national life'. So three main strands marked this period, the need for the immigrants to assimilate, the imposition of supposedly ‘firm but fair' immigration controls implicitly designed to exclude non-whites and legislative measures aimed at outlawing racial discrimination.

So why were non-white people allowed into Britain in the first place? At the end of the last war, Britain was an almost completely racially homogenised country, since over 99.9% of its people were White European. There were small pockets of other races, mainly Chinese and West Indian, in some of the larger ports such as Liverpool, London and Cardiff, and tiny numbers scattered elsewhere. During the war many non-white colonial citizens and black Americans serving in the armed forces were stationed in Britain, but nearly all returned home after the end of hostilities. For most British people in the early post war years, meeting a person of a different race would have been a rare experience.

If young people then living in cities such as London, Leicester and Bradford had been told that by the time they reached retirement age over a third of their neighbours would be non-white people from India, the West Indies or Africa, they would have reacted with a combination of incredulity that such a situation could have been allowed to happen, and alarm for the future of their country and communities. If they had been further informed that such change brought considerable 'enrichment', 'diversity' and economic benefits to their localities they would have greeted such patently extraordinary views with indignation and incomprehension. If they had then been warned that to question the wisdom of allowing so many non-white immigrants into the country, would invite certain vilification, likely dismissal from their employment if they worked in the public sector, or even a risk of prosecution, they would have thought that the country was suffering from some kind of collective insanity. Yet now, as we all know, these events, and more, have come to pass. So it is worth examining how, often through the best of intentions, we got ourselves into this crazy, yet perilous situation.

The problem arose because of the recklessly broad legal definition of British citizenship in the British Nationality Act 1948, which included not only the white population of Britain, but also the hundreds of millions of people of many different races living within the various colonies that comprised the British Empire (or Commonwealth as it later became), all of whom had the right to enter and live in Britain. The start of mass third world migration into Britain began when the SS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in June 1948 with nearly 500 Jamaican men aboard looking for work. Discussions took place in Parliament on whether the men should be turned back, but the Colonial Secretary decided that they could land as long as they had British passports. He added that there were unlikely to be any problems as few of them would want to stay longer than a year anyway. This was just the first of many instances of self-delusion displayed by politicians on this subject.

Throughout the fifties there was a constant stream of new arrivals from the West Indies and the Indian sub continent. Their reasons for coming to Britain were wholly commendable as they sought to better themselves by moving to a country with low unemployment and a relatively high standard of living. Many only expected to stay for a few years and then return home when they had saved enough money. However, in the event, the vast majority stayed and were joined by their dependants, which helped swell the numbers. Although no criticism should be attached to the immigrants for seeking improved opportunities, nevertheless both the immigrants themselves and, more especially, the politicians of the time, can be criticised for not anticipating the consequences of this migratory trend.

Many of the immigrants believed they were coming to the 'mother country' where they would receive a warm welcome, a belief that may have been encouraged by the cult of Empire and later Commonwealth unity that was fostered by the royal family and the political establishment of the time. However, the new arrivals failed to anticipate a widespread characteristic of human nature, that large numbers of outsiders, particularly those who are clearly visibly different, are rarely welcomed into established communities. Although this outlook can be interpreted as uncharitable, and not one to be commended, it nevertheless is a trait that appears common to most, if not all, societies. By definition a community must exclude those people who do not belong to it, and it is for those within a community to decide whom to accept as one of themselves.

The first attempt by politicians to deal with the matter came as early as 1950 when eleven Labour MPs wrote to Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, informing him of their view that, 'an influx of coloured people domiciled here is likely to impair the harmony, strength and cohesion of our public and social life.' The Home Secretary responded by setting up a cabinet committee to look at 'ways which might be adopted to check the immigration into this country of coloured people from British colonial territories.' However, fatally establishing a trend of inaction that was to be followed by successive governments, nothing was done as large-scale immigration was thought to be unlikely.

The continuing inflow of non-white colonial citizens into Britain did not go unnoticed by the Conservatives when they came to power in 1951. Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed his concern and asked what could be done to tackle the problem. The Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, established a Civil Service working party which concluded that legislation would be needed to halt further immigration. However, Maxwell-Fyfe argued that 'as there were only 40,000 coloured immigrants living in Britain' there was insufficient justification for tightening the law. Although a draft immigration Bill was considered by the cabinet in 1954, the view was taken that political difficulties, particularly the fear of alienating Commonwealth and colonial leaders, outweighed the need to introduce such measures given the relatively little public interest shown in the subject. The Cabinet accepted that social problems and white resentment might arise if large numbers of immigrants did settle in Britain, but did not consider the issue to be then sufficiently serious to warrant taking the necessary legislative action. Meanwhile the numbers coming in continued to grow, estimated at 3,000 in 1953 and no less than 42,000 in 1955.

Most of the parliamentary voices questioning the Churchill government's lack of action came from within the Labour Party. For example, the Swindon MP, Thomas Reid asked in June 1953 how many immigrants had settled in Britain since 1945. He was told that no figures were kept and that the Home Office had no powers to obtain such information. The Conservative cabinet appeared to have little idea of the considerable changes that were taking place in some urban working class areas, since most Tory MPs sat for constituencies far removed from the problem. In December 1954, Reid asked the new Home Secretary, Gwilym Lloyd George, if he would introduce legislation giving the government 'control over the immigration to this overcrowded island, of aliens, and citizens of British Dominions and Dependencies, of whom the latter can now enter regardless of their health record, habits, culture, education, need for them economically or otherwise, or of the wishes of the British people' Lloyd George dismissed his concerns by airily claiming that he was 'not yet able to make a statement'.

The government continued to procrastinate and failed to grasp the nettle by introducing measures to end further immigration to prevent what Churchill had termed a 'magpie society'. At this time it was Labour MPs who most urgently wanted the matter to be addressed, unsurprisingly since their natural areas of support, the working-class inner city districts, were beginning to be transformed by large numbers of immigrants. Labour MPs representing such constituencies reflected the growing resentment of their white working class constituents at this unexpected and unwelcome change in their communities, a development over which they had no control. Trade unions leaders also raised fears that the new immigrants would form a cheap source of labour undercutting their members’ wages or even displacing them altogether. However, the position of the Labour Party and the trade unions on immigration was soon to change radically.

Until the end of the fifties the issue of Commonwealth immigration received relatively little publicity. This was to change with the Notting Hill riots in August 1958 which brought the subject centre stage and into the national spotlight. These riots took place over five nights and appeared to have been instigated largely by white 'teddy boys' provoking local black residents. However, the clashes brought home to an alarmed British public just how easily racial conflict could spread in Britain, as had happened in some US cities. As a consequence of the riots the government came under increased public pressure to end the 'open door' policy on Commonwealth immigration and to introduce controls.

However, some large employers, such as the NHS and London Transport had, by then, started to actively recruit immigrant workers because of the difficulty they were experiencing in filling low paid jobs. Faced with this situation the best response would have been to either improve efficiency or raise wages. But these employers, both private and public, for their own self-interested and short–term reasons, chose instead to keep their costs down by exploiting this new cheap source of labour. Consequently the indigenous workers in areas were immigrants had settled lost out twice, they saw their communities transformed, and their income kept low due to the increased competition from the new arrivals. The politically correct class often try to argue that third world immigration is necessary because it allows jobs to be filled that white people are not prepared to do themselves. This is nonsense since, in areas where few immigrants have settled, the indigenous population still do these jobs as they have always done. The immigrants came of their own volition, aided and encouraged by some employers for their own ends, whilst successive governments failed to foresee the consequences.

However, increasing public concern caused both by the riots and by the sharp increase in the rate of arrivals, eventually convinced the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan to take some action. The result was the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962 which required all Commonwealth citizens seeking employment in Britain to apply for a work voucher, the intention being to control the numbers of unskilled workers. Unfortunately, the new legislation was clearly too little, too late, and failed to tackle either the scale or nature of the problem. However, it did at least establish the principle of non-white immigration control and as result was denounced by Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour opposition leader, as 'miserable, shameful and shabby' and who promised to repeal it when Labour came to power. Gaitskell had previously declared in 1961 'The Labour Party is opposed to the restriction of immigration as every Commonwealth citizen has the right as a British subject to enter the country at will.'

However, his successor Harold Wilson, far from reversing the Act, instead tightened its provisions. In the 1964 general election the Labour candidate for Wandsworth Central issued a leaflet correctly reminding voters that the 'Tory Immigration Act has failed…immigrants of all colours and races continue to arrive here.' Wilson must have felt that his decision to reverse Labour policy was vindicated by the success of the Conservative candidate in the Smethwick constituency, Peter Griffith, who won the seat from Labour in the general election, against the national trend, by mounting a strong personal campaign against immigration. Wilson denounced Griffith as a 'parliamentary leper', with some justification, as his campaign literature included clearly offensive material. Nevertheless, Griffith’s success plainly showed that Labour’s earlier policy of supporting open-ended immigration was unpopular with many working class supporters. As leading left winger Richard Crossman recorded in his diary: 'Ever since the Smethwick election it has been quite clear that immigration can be the greatest potential vote loser for the Labour Party, if we are seen to be permitting a flood of immigrants to come and blight the central areas of our cities.' However, instead of taking firm action to control the growth of the non-white population Governments would start to vilify those who warned of the consequences.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The beginning of sexual intercourse in Britain

According to the poet Philip Larkin, “Sexual intercourse began in 1963, between the Lady Chatterley trial and the Beatles’ first LP”. The observation is an apt one since the publicity generated by this landmark court case triggered the sexual revolution that was to define the sixties. In an amazingly short period of time, sex was transformed from an almost taboo subject into all pervasive national obsession. Before the 1960s anyone rash enough to publicly advocate the practice of any form of sexual activity, as a desirable recreational pursuit in itself, would have been considered depraved, such was the level of censoriousness in those pre-permissive days. Yet, by the end of the decade, those bemoaning the new level of sexual intrusion appearing in the media were dismissed as old fashioned, repressed and out of touch. On the surface the sexual revolution appears to have been based on solid foundations, since both media and public interest in the subject has been maintained at a high level. However, there has been a price to pay - the increase in sexually transmitted infections, breakdown in marriage, the debased portrayal of women, single parenthood and a general degradation of society.

Before the 1960s the stance of the conservative establishment was to stifle open discussion and portrayal of sexual matters, to suppress pornography, to encourage chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it, to outlaw homosexual relations, to strongly discourage other forms of sexual deviancy and to denounce 'immorality', a catch all word covering a multitude of practices regarded as objectionable. Such a hard line position came to grief with the publicity surrounding the Profumo Affair in 1963, which revealed to a bemused public the sexual escapades of their betters. Many people began to ask why it was acceptable for those in authority to indulge themselves in this way whilst everybody else was expected to conform to a strict moral code. Britain at the time was still largely under the control of a conservative establishment with traditional values, which suddenly appeared to lack a credible response to this new challenge. As a consequence before very long the floodgates were opened and a new sexual frankness emerged. The public swiftly demonstrated an appetite for matters sexual, both in practice, and vicariously, through greatly increased media coverage and the wider availability of sexually explicit material. Opposition to these changes quickly crumbled, the only major exception being the determined campaign of Mary Whitehouse against 'permissiveness', a word with which she will forever be associated.

The level of censorship in Britain before the 1960s will strike many of the younger generation as near incredible, brought up in a society where sexual imagery and discussion forms an all pervasive feature of the popular media. It is true that in the pre-permissive era newspapers such as the News of the World attracted a large readership through the reporting of the salacious details of court cases. But this took place within a framework in which traditional values were upheld, and those who transgressed this code were duly censured. There was clearly a substantial amount of hypocrisy in this approach, but most people at the time appeared to support the system, and many of those who did not chose discretion by paying lip service to it. It might be difficult to square this heavy censorship with the often-proclaimed right to freedom of expression, which is sometimes claimed to be a traditional feature of the British way of life. However, the establishment at any given time whether politically correct, as now, or conservative, as in the 1950s, tends to define free expression through the prism of its own values, leading to a marked lack of sympathy for views contrary to those shaped by their own perspective. This results in a willingness, sometimes even a determination, to suppress them. So, for example, in the 1950s the issue of race could be debated relatively honestly (at least by the standards of today) but not sexual issues.

The law governing censorship in Britain, the Obscene Publications Act 1959, has been found to be extraordinarily flexible since it has gradually permitted the publication of a wider and wider range of sexually explicit material. The test of obscenity is that 'taken as a whole' a work must 'tend to deprave and corrupt', a wording which dates from a court judgement made as long ago as 1868. However, the 1959 Act introduced a new defence, namely, that publication is in 'the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other matters of general concern'. The flaws in the Act are fairly obvious since words such as 'deprave', 'corrupt', 'obscene' and 'indecent' are both subjective and nebulous. Everybody has their own ideas on what constitutes 'indecent' and 'obscene' and there is likely to be a huge range of opinion on the matter. Similarly, the assumption that exposure to, or interest in, sexually explicit writing or images is a sure test that an individual must be 'depraved' or 'corrupt' is one that appears to have gone untested when the 1959 Act was passed. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, juries reached the conclusion that an interest in sexual matters did not necessarily mean that individuals were, or were likely to become, 'depraved' or 'corrupt'. As a result there was an explosion in the availability of sexually explicit material without any artistic, or indeed any other, merit. Sales of such 'literature' grew enormously, allowing a number of 'entrepreneurs' who identified a 'gap in the market' to become very rich. The conservative establishment was forced onto the defensive as this 'free-market' activity mushroomed.

The trial of Penguin Books for the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover took place in October 1960. This was a time when the first stirrings of social change were becoming apparent, reflected in the publicity generated by rock & roll, angry young men and a new social realism in the cinema and theatre. Nevertheless, censorship was still taken seriously, only a few years earlier a Soho bookseller had been jailed for two months solely for the 'crime' of selling the unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The defence in the Lady Chatterley trial produced 35 witnesses, including bishops and leading literary figures, such as Dame Rebecca West, E.M. Forster and Richard Hoggart. The prosecution, on the other hand, failed to find any witnesses to condemn the book, other than the police inspector to whom Penguin had 'published' it. The prosecution counsel compounded this weakness by crassly asking the jury, to widespread ridicule, whether 'It is a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?' The jury took just three hours to return a verdict of not guilty and within a year Lady Chatterley's Lover had sold two million copies. The absurdity of banning a work by a major literary figure soon became apparent, with the result that the whole principle of censorship became fatally discredited. During the next decade or so further high profile trials such as Last Exit to Brooklyn, and the School Kids’ edition of Oz, resulted in defeats for the prosecution and further undermined the principle of upholding laws on censorship.

During this period a similar relaxation took place on what could be shown in cinemas. At the time the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), a body set up by the film industry and its distributors, was responsible for the pre-censorship of all films shown in public cinemas. Although local authorities had the final legal responsibility, in practice they nearly always accepted the BBFC certificate. The system appeared to work, since during the 1950s cinemas attracted large, albeit declining, audiences, and there appeared to be no great clamour for significant change. The films themselves were entertaining, with mostly good quality acting, although the portrayal of working class characters could sometimes be patronising and stilted. Conventional morality was upheld, incidents of adultery or infidelity were rare and, if they did occur, were stigmatised. The screening of any overt sexuality was proscribed.

At the start of the 1950s only a few households had television, but by the end of the decade it had become a feature in the majority of British homes. Although there was no decline in the quality and standard of films shown, cinema attendance nevertheless fell throughout the decade as a result of this new competition. This trend particularly affected family audiences and older people. By the early sixties many cinemas had closed, whilst those remaining became more dependent on the newly enriched youth market. Both the climate of the time and commercial pressures prompted film producers to become bolder in addressing sexual themes. Since they were starting from a highly puritanical base, the honesty and realism of films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or A Kind of Loving had wide appeal and the acclaim they received was well deserved. However, it is unlikely such films would have been given a certificate just a few years earlier.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Profumo scandal spooks the conservative establishment

As revealed in the previous blog Britain, during the early 1960s, was under the control of a male dominated, complacent, rather self-satisfied conservative establishment, with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as the figurehead of this ruling class. He had been hailed as Supermac for his landslide victory in the 1959 general election, just three years after the Suez debacle. However the shine was starting to come off him a little by early 1963. The stop-go economy, the 'night of the long knives' (during which he was panicked into sacking a third of his cabinet) and more recently the humiliation of French President De Gaulle's resolute non to Britain's common market entry, had all tarnished his reputation somewhat. However, these events would all pale into insignificance with the media firestorm that was about to overwhelm the Conservative government relating to the extra curricular activities of the War Minister John Profumo.

The facts of the sorry saga are well known. Profumo met model Christine Keeler at Cliveden, the country estate of Lord Astor. The pair carried out a clandestine affair which Fleet Street became aware of but, in that age of deference, the relationship was kept secret. However, unbeknown to Profumo, Miss Keeler was sharing her favours with a Soviet naval attaché and the fear arose that national security might have become compromised. As a result rumours and innuendo over the relationship began to appear in the press. Initially Profumo brazenly attempted to deny the affair, lying to Parliament that there had been any impropriety in their relationship. His position quickly became untenable and he was soon forced to admit in Parliament that he had lied, resigning in disgrace immediately afterwards. The circumstances of his departure dealt a body blow to the Macmillan government. From a government perspective the main concern was over the national security implications. The subsequent Denning Report concluded that there had been no breach of national security.

However, the impact of the Profumo scandal on the British national psyche was much more far reaching as the strident press coverage revealed a picture of moral debauchery and licentiousness among the ruling elite that had hitherto been concealed from the wider British public. This centred on the activities of society osteopath Stephen Ward, who owned the flat shared by Christine Keeler and fellow model Mandy Rice-Davies. Ward was a compulsive social climber who was able to ingratiate himself with his social superiors by facilitating introductions between his wealthy high society clients and fun loving young ladies such as Miss Keeler and Miss Rice-Davies. Unfortunately for him, after the Profumo scandal broke, this would lead to his downfall as he was charged with procuring women and living off the immoral earnings of prostitutes. In reality it was Keeler and Rice Davies who were being subsidised by Ward.

During his trial none of Ward's wealthy friends were prepared to support him as character witnesses. Many observers today consider that he was a victim of an establishment stitch up involving perjured evidence and the blackmail of potential witnesses by the police. The prosecution portrayed Ward as representing 'the very depths of lechery and depravity' while the judge adopted a similarly hostile attitude. As a result of the condemnatory summing up by the judge on the last day of the trial Ward took an overdose of sleeping tablets and died a few days later. Meanwhile the jury found him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies. The establishment feared that 'the moral fabric of family life' was under threat from 'this explosion of sexual scandal' and Ward was set up as the scapegoat. His trial was the conservative establishment's revenge for the humiliation it had suffered in the fallout from the Profumo affair. Fifty years later the politically correct establishment would also use show trials to enforce their own sexual agenda.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A time before political correctness

Let us take a trip back to a time before the arrival of political correctness. It is early 1963 and Britain is in the grip of the worst winter of the century. Harold Macmillan is the prime minister, the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell had recently died and has been replaced by Harold Wilson. The Cold War and the Space Race dominate the headlines. The Beatles had just reached the top of the charts for the first time, and the Profumo scandal was about to break.

Britain at the time was run by a conservative political establishment, who believed in traditional values and the virtues of the stiff upper lip. It was a very male dominated society - there were no female judges and very few female MPs. Industry, commerce the trade unions, the media, the civil service and the legal establishment were almost entirely under male control. The old school tie still counted for quite a lot in career advancement. Cultural politics scarcely existed, the dividing line in politics was largely economic, the only notable exception being that the Labour Party was more egalitarian in outlook, on this basis favouring comprehensive schools, whereas the Conservatives supported grammar schools, believing them to provide a more challenging education for academically gifted pupils.

This conservative establishment was seen as rather stuffy and complacent by some of the more iconoclastic trendsetters exemplified by the satirical TV programme That Was The Week That Was, which enjoyed taking a pop at some of the more pompous politicians of the time. It was this programme that ended the general deference shown by the media to the political class, and which opened the gates to the destruction of the conservative establishment, which since then has incrementally led to the politically correct establishment of today, that has firmly entrenched itself into virtually all aspects of our society.

With the exception of the education question previously mentioned, virtually none of the politically correct issues of today were discussed by the politicians or media of the time. Let us examine them one by one. Homosexual activity between adult males was still illegal. The Wolfenden Report of a few years earlier had recommended decriminalisation for men aged over 21, but the Conservative government refused to act on the recommendation fearing a backlash from the public. Juries, consisting of ordinary people, were happy to send men to prison for this offence. Indeed there was considerable public distaste for this activity, many fearing that the nation's youth would be corrupted if there was any relaxation of the sanctions against this kind of 'unnatural vice'. Nobody thought to ask why only men, and not women, should be subject to these criminal sanctions. Needless to say the supposed evils of 'homophobia', 'transphobia', or the promotion of same sex marriage, were beyond the imagination of anyone living at the time.

On the question of sexuality more generally Britain of that time was fairly uptight and repressed. Both pre-marital and extra-marital sex were condemned, indeed any open reference to sex in the media was discouraged. However, there were some tentative signs of a relaxation of this taboo. The Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial had resulted in a spectacular own goal by the prosecution. As a result millions of British people experienced the frisson of seeing some naughty four letter words in print for the first time. Since the start of the sixties some critically acclaimed British films had begun to explore sexuality in a bolder way than hitherto. Saturday Night & Sunday Morning examined the relationship between the working class hero and a married woman, A Taste of Honey portrayed an unmarried mother and an inter-racial sexual liaison, and Victim highlighted the plight of homosexual men subject to blackmail. The cinema was more adventurous than television in this respect, the only programme that might in any way be described as arousing was the annual Miss World beauty contest which regularly attracted record viewing figures during the sixties, with its slightly more generous than usual display of attractive female flesh. There was no talk then of the 'objectification' of the contestants or any comparisons with a cattle market. With the exception of some religious prudes nobody at that time considered it in any way unusual for men to be attracted to feminine beauty, or for women to exploit their attractiveness. Pornography (if it can be so called) at the time was very mild comprising nothing more than photos of young attractive topless women.

The attitude to children was very much different to what it is today. Fathers were expected to firmly discipline their children in the home for unruly behaviour, and school teachers appreciated the widely exercised right to beat children for disobedience. It was very much a society in which all adults could pretty much control any child in any way they thought fit within the law, and children had very little say in the matter. The advantage of this system was that children very quickly discovered what was right and what was wrong and delinquency was largely contained. However, in some respects children enjoyed more freedom than today. From the age of about 5 or 6 children were free to roam the streets and play with friends anywhere they liked provided they returned home at meal times or bed time. They were warned not to take sweets from strangers or to go off with them. But there was none of the paranoia over paedophiles that blights their lives today, or fears that men might consider physically undeveloped girls to be 'sexualised'.

During this time backing for the nuclear family was a top priority, divorce was relatively low and support for the institution of marriage, both in the media and government, was very high. Men were largely seen as the breadwinners and women were expected to take the lead in bringing up children and running the family home. Couples married at a very early age, women in their late teens and men in their early twenties. There were no social problems caused by teenage pregnancies since these very largely took place within marriage. Single mothers were stigmatised and ostracised and could expect to be pressurised into giving up their child to infertile married couples. In so doing society then took the view that the interests of the child should take precedence over the feelings of the mother.

On the subject of race there were absolutely no laws whatsoever and citizens could express views and discriminate on racial grounds to their heart's content without the authorities being able to do anything about it. Moreover, there was very little public pressure to change this state of affairs, although there was increasing concern about the amount of 'coloured' immigrants coming into Britain. The Conservative government had recently addressed this matter in a half hearted fashion with the introduction of the first control of immigration legislation. It is worth remembering that the much overused word 'racist' had yet to make its appearance in the mainstream media. The only regular black faces on TV were the calypso singer Cy Grant on Tonight and the blacked up male vocalists on the now reviled Black & White Minstrel Show, a programme that at the time was considered to be wholesome family entertainment which absolutely no one found objectionable. No politician preached the virtues of diversity and multiculturalism. Future governments would soon end this hands off approach and very quickly the issue of race would become a cornerstone of the politically correct agenda.

Both smoking and drinking were seen as confirmation that an individual had left childhood behind them and that they had entered the world of adulthood. So teenagers, particularly youths, were motivated to indulge in these habits as soon as they could get away with it. As a result, nearly three quarters of men smoked as did almost half of women. The link between lung cancer and smoking had recently been discovered but this had not yet been translated into restrictions or controls. There was no ban on tobacco advertising nor were there health warnings on cigarette packets. People could smoke just about anywhere unless it was specifically forbidden such as in no-smoking railway carriages or the lower decks of buses. Cigarettes could not legally be sold to anyone under the age of 16 but this was very laxly enforced. Cynically tobacco companies provided affordable packs of five cigarettes targeted at children to spend their pocket money on. As a consequence most smokers started the habit in their early teens. Alcoholic drink was not quite so easy to come by as it could mostly be only found in off licences since most supermarkets did not yet stock it. Alcohol could only be sold to those over 18 but as with cigarettes this was very laxly enforced. Youths in the 16-17 age range would only be rarely challenged by bar staff. There was no concern then about binge drinking although public drunkenness was an offence. The government did not trouble itself recommending how many units of alcohol their citizens should consume each week. Illegal drugs were virtually unknown at this time.

Concern for the environment had a low priority at the time although the recently introduced clean air legislation put an end to the notorious smogs which had affected London. Campaigning groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth had not yet been established. Absolutely nobody, including scientists, was worried about global warning, unsurprising as global temperatures had been falling for the previous 25 years despite a huge increase in CO2 emissions during that period. Instead, people at the time were petrified that the planet would be destroyed in a nuclear war, a fear that came dangerously close to being realised during the recent Cuban missile crisis.

This then is a brief synopsis of Britain in early 1963 before the liberal takeover moved into gear. It was a male dominated society that exuding smugness, self importance and inefficiency. Conservative prime ministers of the time were lampooned for their grouse moor image, a factor exploited by the new Labour leader Harold Wilson who was promising to harness 'the white heat of the technological revolution'. The conservative establishment would soon be holed below the waterline following the Profumo affair revelations. This allowed the forces of the left to credibly present themselves as a modern progressive force attacking an ossified privileged establishment. Indeed their early goals were both constructive and necessary, but in time they became dizzy with their own success, and above all they became convinced of their own moral superiority, and self righteousness became their default position. Instead of debating issues in an open minded manner they would attempt to hector, intimidate and silence opponents through the use of pejorative language. These developments will be explored in future blogs.