Saturday, 28 February 2015

Pornography in the permissive society

Mary Whitehouse gave the impression to many that she regarded pornography as presenting the greatest threat to society. In contrast, during the early days of the permissive era pornography was one of the main touchstones of sexual liberation since it offered clear evidence to the liberal revolutionaries that society was moving in a 'progressive' direction. However, this 'let it all hang out' initial phase was relatively short lived, and by the early seventies the growing influence of feminism within liberal circles led to a sharp change of outlook. Feminists argued that pornography 'objectified' women, encouraging the assumption that they were the sexual playthings of men. They feared that exposure to pornography fostered an image of women that depicts them as mere 'sex objects' and that this puts them at greater risk from rape and sexual assault.

Feminists tended not to make much distinction between any of the images of women they branded as pornographic. So, for example, a Miss World contest, or an image of a Page 3 girl in The Sun, would be just as objectionable as a hardcore video. Indeed many of them argue that the Page 3 girl is more dangerous, since it is shown in the mainstream media, rather than consumed more covertly. Campaigns by militant feminists became more vocal and extreme, seeking bans on anything they defined as pornographic, some going so far as branding all men as rapists. Many of them dressed in an unfeminine, man–repellent way - dungarees, cropped hair etc becoming the (perhaps unfair) stereotypical image of sisterly solidarity. The suspicion arose that a militant lesbian man-hating nucleus within the feminist movement had a hugely disproportionate influence on feminist thinking. What is not in doubt is the manner in which obeisance to the feminist credo became a core value of the liberal political class.

So, pornography was attacked by critics from both the right, such as Mary Whitehouse and the Festival of Light, and from the left, chiefly the feminist movement. An interesting fact is that although the numbers willing to defend pornography has always been relatively small, such material nevertheless, in the pre-internet age attracted huge sales, almost exclusively from men. This contrast between actual practice and openly expressed opinion suggests that, although the use of pornography by men is widespread, it constitutes a compulsive activity mostly carried out furtively, sometimes accompanied by shame and guilt, although this is less so today given the prevalence of this material on the internet. There is no doubt that the feminists are right in their conclusion that most pornography presents a degrading image of women. Contrary to some claims, pornography is not about celebrating scantily clad female beauty, such as was claimed for the early issues of Playboy magazine, or just an opportunity for the lads to catch a glimpse a Sun Page 3 girl with her kit off. Instead, the defining feature of pornography is the illusory fantasy it provides that women are always sexually available and that their primary function is to act as sexual playthings for men.

Although the imagery in much pornography is highly degrading it should not be forgotten that sexual attraction is natural and entirely legitimate. Sexual activity itself is also normal and, of course, pleasurable. Moreover, the human body is not in itself inherently 'indecent', contrary to some views on the subject. So the way in which pre-permissive society branded such matters as 'dirty' or 'immoral' clearly lack credibility and a return to that mindset would be pointless. It was for these reasons that the traditional forces of puritanism quickly crumbled when they came under sustained attack in the sixties. So it would be advisable not to become too closely associated with the more eccentric musings on this subject from religious fanatics, who sometimes manage to ally themselves with the political Right, such as those who condemn dancing, or mixed swimming, as likely to give rise to 'male lust'. Nature does not take chances on the need to reproduce, and male physical desire provides the driving force to ensure that it occurs. So without 'male lust' there is no guarantee that any of us would be here. Condemning sexual drive and physical desire as intrinsically wrong in themselves is therefore misplaced and unrealistic.

Although the critique of feminists on the nature of most pornography is valid it does not necessarily follow that their remedies for combating what they see as a menace are practicable. The more militant members want to see an end to all pornographic material, broadly defined, believing that it encourages men to commit rapes and other sexual assaults against women. However, the evidence for this appears to be lacking, since the number of men using pornography vastly exceeds those accused of sexual offences against women. Furthermore, men would have to be seriously mentally challenged to be unable to distinguish between the fantasy image of women presented in pornography, and their real life experience of ordinary women. Notwithstanding this, there is no doubt that the attitude of many men towards women is less than gentlemanly, but this has more to do with the general deterioration in manners, rather than the easy availability of pornography. Unfortunately, it is a poor reflection on so many men that they should feel the need to use this kind of degrading material.

Measures that could be taken to curb consumption are to exert pressure on magazine distributors not to handle pornographic titles, to ban all 'sex shops' selling such material, and to pre-install filtering software on all computers. As a further step the possession of any form of pornography could be made a criminal offence. However, there is little evidence that any Government would have the appetite to introduce such action against the private activity of its adult citizens. There would be the additional difficulty of finding a definition of pornography that attracted general support, and the further complication of getting juries to convict. The Government has legislated to make the possession of violent pornography a criminal offence. There can be no doubt about the disgusting and degrading nature of this repulsive material. However, criminalizing what people view in the privacy of their homes is fraught with danger, and is likely to tie up police resources which could be better employed. By all accounts the consumption of pornography, in one form or another, is now widespread amongst adult men, and it does not appear possible for it to be prohibited without considerable interference with individual liberty. This is still more the case since the growth of the internet, where pornographic images can be viewed at the click of a mouse. This easy availability has led to significant falls in the sales of 'top shelf' publications. It could be argued that the internet is the least bad means of distributing such images since it facilitates their removal from more visible mainstream outlets such as newsagents and cinemas, thereby reinforcing the stigma against such material. Society should continue to maintain this stigma since pornographic images, which portray women as readily available 'sex-toys', are intrinsically degrading. But realistically any attempts to address the problem through additional legal measures against consumers are likely to end either in an expensive and time-consuming failure, or an unacceptable erosion of individual liberty.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The single mother problem

Perhaps the most alarming consequence of the undermining of marriage, and the promotion of casual sexual relations, has been the huge increase in single parenting. During the first half of the last century the percentage of births outside marriage remained at around 4-5%, except during the war years. Thus, in the early 1950s, the percentage of births to unmarried mothers was still only slightly higher than it had been fifty years earlier. But, by the early 1970s, the figure had increased to 8% and, by the early 1980s, there was a further increase to 13%, almost three times higher than it had been twenty years earlier. In the 1980s, during the high point of Thatcherism, children were born with ever-increasing frequency outside of marriage, accounting by 1991 to over 30% of all births. This figure had increased again to over 40% in the early years of the new century. Between 1986 and 1990 the number of never married lone mothers almost doubled. In 1961, where the mother was under the age of 20, 26% of births were outside marriage, but by 2004 the number had increased to an amazing 91%. This explains why the Government considers 'teenage pregnancy' to be such a problem, whereas in the 1950s it was seen as fairly normal since the great majority of such pregnancies were within marriage.

Previous generations treated unmarried mothers and their children in a needlessly harsh manner. Many such women were forced into workhouses, and some even placed in mental institutions on the grounds that they were 'mentally deficient'. Their babies were stigmatised as 'illegitimate' thus visiting the 'sins' of their parents onto their blameless children. In the immediate post war period some humane measures to reform this situation were introduced. For example, from 1947 illegitimate children could conceal their parents’ unmarried status by means of a 'short' birth certificate, and the 1959 Legitimacy Act granted legitimacy to children in some situations where the parents married after their birth.

It is interesting to see how the leading charity in this area has changed its values over the years. The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child was formed in 1918 as a result of the rise in babies born out of wedlock during the First World War. The death rate for such babies was double that for those born to married couples. The early work of the National Council concentrated on managing and funding homes where unmarried mothers and children could live together. They also campaigned to fight the stigma of illegitimacy. After the Second World War the main priority was to place children into adoption, then rightly seen as much the best solution for raising children born to single mothers.

Until the 1960s the National Council never condoned unmarried motherhood. But the emphasis was soon to change since, by 1968, the Society started advocating that unmarried mothers and their children should be accepted as integrated members of the community. At this time, because of the growth in marital breakdown, there was a large rise in divorced or separated women bringing up children on their own. As a result, the National Council expanded its role to enable it to bring single parent divorcees within its remit. This decision led to a change of name in 1973 to the National Council for One Parent Families. Thus the National Council transformed itself from a campaigning body that implicitly condemned unmarried motherhood to one that championed such a state as the equal of marriage.

The most striking feature of the National Council’s current policy position is that it appears happy to accept that single parenting will continue at the current high level (over 1.8 million) indefinitely and that nothing can, or even should, be done to prevent parents from getting themselves into this situation in the first place. This defeatism is summed up in the injunction to 'recognise that lone parenthood is now a stage in the life-cycle that many children will go through'. One of the National Council’s main goals is to 'recognise the diversity of family structure in public policy making and acknowledge the successes of one-parent families'. In other words it believes, as an article of faith against all the evidence, that single parenting is just as good as parenting by married couples. Moreover, by also campaigning for more generous state funding for single parents, it seeks to ensure that they remain locked into the dependency culture, and that others are not deterred from taking this route in the future. It is disturbing to note that the National Council has changed from a position of trying to prevent births outside marriage, to one in which it 'recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes and we believe that the diversity of family life should be celebrated'. In promoting this kind of dangerous cant the National Council neatly encapsulates the malignity that is the inevitable consequence of the politically correct takeover of our institutions.

The difficulties of single parenting are not confined to the raising of children, since in the majority of cases there are likely also to be financial problems. Families that stay together are largely self supporting but single mothers, particularly those with young children, are disproportionately dependent on state funded income support, since they are less likely to be in work. Thus the breakdown of marriage also places burdens on those who stay together, since they have to pay for the benefits through increased taxation. This was the motivation for the establishment of the Child Support Agency (CSA) by the Conservative government in 1993, with a remit to pursue absent parents (overwhelmingly fathers) to ensure that they provided more financial support for their children, and to save public money by reducing dependence on state benefits.

Before the CSA was established less than a third of all lone parents were in receipt of maintenance and, of those who did receive it, only a relatively small proportion of payments covered the real costs incurred by the caring parent, usually the mother. Since its inception the CSA encountered numerous problems, which became so intractable that the Blair Government decided to replace it. The CSA also alienated many of those whom it was supposed to help without achieving any obvious cost savings or support for the institution of marriage. The hope that parental responsibility would be restored was not achieved. In reality it was only considered necessary to create a body such as the CSA because of the huge rise in marital breakdown, providing further evidence of the cost of this malaise to society. A much simplified procedure is now in place under the Government's Child Maintenance Service.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Why marriage is important

According to our politically correct establishment, fixated on 'diversity' and 'inclusivity', a family is defined not only as the traditional married couple comprising husband, wife and children, but now also includes those who cohabit. To the clear detriment of children’s needs the definition has been further expanded to embrace so-called 'one-parent families', which mostly consist of single women with children who became pregnant either through their own choice, or through the folly of entering into transitory relationships with feckless or selfish men who have abandoned them. In the liberal mindset all these categories are 'families' and as such, so it is claimed, all have equal validity.

However, behind the agenda for promoting alternative lifestyles the statistics clearly show the foolhardiness of such an approach, since they demonstrate that much the best foundation for bringing up children is through the institution of marriage, in which couples give a clear public commitment to each other. Relationships between couples who merely cohabit are generally of much shorter duration and thus fail to provide the stability which children need in their upbringing. Cohabiting relationships are fragile. They are more likely to break up than marriages entered into at the same time, regardless of age or income. On average, cohabitations last less than two years, and less than four per cent of cohabitations last for ten years or more. Surprisingly cohabitating couples with children are even more likely to break up than childless ones. Children born to cohabiting parents are more likely to face disruptions in their family life, with harmful consequences for their emotional and educational development.

A significant proportion of one-parent families are created through the break-up of cohabiting unions. The statistics also show that children brought up without fathers are the most likely to be disruptive, have lower educational attainment, greater probability of unemployment, are more likely to turn to crime and to perpetuate this cycle of deprivation. This is not to say that all single mothers necessarily make poor parents, indeed some succeed in very difficult circumstances, but the odds are usually stacked against them. So it is very much in the interests of society to insist that firm measures are taken to ensure that children are brought up within marriage, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

Marriage, if taken seriously, demonstrates a clear responsibility and commitment by both husband and wife to the upbringing of children. The acceptance of a much broader definitions of 'family' has allowed the institution of marriage to become downgraded to one of a series of supposedly equally valid 'lifestyles'. There is now an increasing likelihood that marriage might wither away altogether since the number of marriages continues to fall year by year. The Office of National Statistics has reported that it expects unmarried people in Britain to outnumber the married in the not too distant future. Family law no longer makes any attempt to buttress the stability of marriage. It has adopted principles for the 'protection' of children that are equally applicable to the unmarried, leading to the piecemeal erosion of the distinction between marriage and co-habitation. As a result, the breakdown of the traditional family has lead to a society in which adults increasingly place their own personal self interest, happiness, pleasure and desire for new relationships, above the interests and needs of their children.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Comprehensive School takeover

During the 1960s the Conservative Party, with the liberal Edward Boyle as education spokesman, followed a policy of appeasement on grammar schools. From a position of staunch support at the start of the decade, there was a gradual shift in position until by its close they had adopted almost the same policy which they had previously denounced as doctrinaire. However, during the actual period of Conservative administrations, from 1951 to 1964, only a relatively small number of comprehensive schools had been created, amounting to about 10% of secondary schools. This was to change with the election of a Labour government in 1964. Using intemperate language, the new Labour Education Secretary, Anthony Crosland, declared that he would close every grammar school in the country, clear evidence that the motivation was not educational excellence but rather egalitarianism and social engineering.

Crosland implemented his policy through two notorious Department of Education circulars to education authorities. The first requested that all authorities submit plans for turning their education provision completely comprehensive, followed by a second circular which gave notice that education by selection should be ended. Labour rhetoric of the time reflected the misplaced idealism that surrounded comprehensive education, as when the 1964 manifesto declared 'grammar school education will be extended: in future no child will he denied the opportunity of benefiting from it through arbitrary selection at the age of 11', or the dismissal of the Eleven Plus as 'that barrier to educational opportunity', from the 1966 manifesto. Unfortunately, for many years, blind allegiance to egalitarian dogma was to prevent any rational or meaningful analysis of the comprehensive system, or to address its many weaknesses. The conclusion was reached that, as 'progressive' thinkers had wholeheartedly endorsed this system, it must, ipso facto, be regarded as near perfect. Thus any criticism could be dismissed as reactionary or elitist, without the need to be troubled by any debate or argument. The Conservative leadership of the time appeared content with this situation.

Advocates for comprehensive education did not limit their aims to just encouraging this new system. They also sought changes to teaching methods, the content of the syllabus and means for enforcing discipline. So streaming by ability was discouraged, to be replaced by mixed-ability teaching, in which both intelligent and dull children were grouped together in the same class. The thinking behind this was that weaker pupils would be provided with positive models of achievement and every child would be given the same opportunity. Moreover, it was argued that streaming benefited bright pupils at the expense of weak ones. Behavioural problems were more likely in the lower streams, where pupils had become demotivated by the knowledge that they were at the bottom. Again, no evidence was provided that pupils, whatever their intelligence, would receive an education better tailored to their needs, as a result of the abandonment of streaming. The motive was purely egalitarian, achieving the overarching goal of ensuring that all children received equal treatment. Such an outlook was also highly paternalistic since all decisions were placed in the hands of educational 'experts' who could impose their vision on the rest of society, regardless of what ordinary parents might want, and who were thus rendered powerless when trying to obtain the kind of education they thought best for their children.

A milestone in the development of 'progressive' education was the Plowden Report of 1967, which examined primary education. It advocated a 'child-centred' approach in which the curriculum emanated from the child's previous knowledge and interests rather than being imposed externally. Such methods demanded high levels of commitment and energy from teachers, as well as fundamental changes to teaching methods. The traditional classroom layout of desks all facing the teacher, who taught the whole class, was replaced by informal groups of tables, where the teacher would give individual pupils assistance in their voyage of discovery through the educational system. Learning by rote was out - self-fulfilment was in. With the demise of the Eleven Plus mixed ability teaching was extended from primary to secondary schools.

By the mid-1970s comprehensive schools, mixed ability teaching and child centred education were the prevailing orthodoxies in an educational establishment that was now under firm liberal control, although there were still pockets of resistance in some Tory controlled education authorities which had managed, against all the odds, to retain grammar schools. Labour returned to Government in 1974, and was again committed to abolishing all grammar schools and direct grant schools, as well as ending tax breaks for the public schools. This was the zenith of liberal confidence in their egalitarian educational doctrines. However, nemesis was just around the corner when the national media spotlight focussed on the William Tyndall School in Islington, where near anarchy had broken out as a result of the extreme leftist policies carried out by the teaching staff. Public and media discontent with the low achievement of many comprehensives now began to grow. Working class children, compelled to attend the local sink comprehensive, were the most badly affected, the very children the comprehensive system was created to help. Better off middle class parents, however, had more choice since they could move into the catchment area of successful schools, thereby forcing up house prices in these neighbourhoods. Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan called for a 'great debate' on education. Clearly, the utopian dream that comprehensive education was expected to deliver was still a long way off.

Meanwhile, discontent on the Right about the direction of education policy began to mount. In 1969, the first of the Black Papers on Education was published. These papers, there were five in total, were fiercely attacked as 'reactionary', a favourite term of abuse employed by liberals to denounce and marginalise heretical ideas. By the end of the 1970s comprehensive education was coming under increased attack by a more assertive Conservative party.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Tory sell out on grammar schools

During the early post war years both Labour and the Conservatives broadly supported the Butler Act 1944 education system comprising, for the most part, grammar and secondary modern schools. Attention at that time was mainly directed towards the building of new schools and reducing the size of classes. However, by the time of the 1955 election, this consensus had ended and Labour was pledged, 'to remove from the primary schools the strain of the eleven-plus examination', fearing that it 'cramps the free and happy life which should stimulate children's early years. It penalises children who develop late and gives an inferior place in our education to the practical skills increasingly essential to our industrial efficiency'. Had a Labour government been elected this new policy would have required local authorities to submit schemes for abolishing the eleven plus, and to encourage comprehensive secondary schooling. Such an approach was rejected by the Conservatives who declared 'We shall not permit the grammar schools to be swallowed up in comprehensive schools. It is vital to build up secondary modern schools and to develop in them special vocational courses, so that they …offer a choice of education that matches the demands of our expanding economy'.

However, the campaign for comprehensive education was gaining strength and it became the received wisdom on the Left that it would provide a panacea for ending the 'divisions' within society. Benefits claimed for the comprehensive system were that it would eliminate selection at age 11 and provide education for all abilities in one school; allow children to develop at their own pace; provide secondary schooling for an area, ensuring that a cross-section of society was represented in a single school; encourage the creation of larger schools that would provide greater choice and better facilities for a wider range of subjects, and improve opportunities for continuing in education beyond the minimum leaving age.

Unfortunately, the driving force for comprehensives was not educational improvement but instead was motivated by political dogma. This constituted two main strands - egalitarianism and social engineering. Grammar schools were deemed 'divisive' on the grounds that they favoured the interests of the middle class whose children received a quality education at the 'expense' of working class children, who were supposedly stigmatised as failures at the age of eleven. So, it was argued, it would only be fair for all children to attend the same kind of school where every child could enjoy the same opportunities. Furthermore, divisions in society would be eliminated as children from all backgrounds worked and grew up together in a spirit of social harmony. This was the idealistic thinking that allowed Labour leader Harold Wilson, in keeping with the optimism of the time, to declare that comprehensives would become 'grammar schools for all', resulting in the 'levelling-up' of education for all children. There was no talk then about 'bog-standard comprehensives'. One of the most deeply entrenched delusions of the Left is that there is a vast reservoir of untapped working class talent, which only a hidebound ruling class intent on maintaining its privileges, fails to encourage and develop.

Perhaps the most defining feature of the post-war world is the extent to which a self-confident liberal elite has been enabled to pursue its subversive social agenda, and the ineffectual, craven response of politicians who claim to represent the views of the Right. So it is worth examining the reaction of the Conservative Party to the threat posed by comprehensive education. It should first be remembered that the 1944 Butler Act actually included a provision for the introduction of comprehensive education, and a number of 'progressive' education authorities took advantage of this to create comprehensive schools. Labour politicians became increasingly vocal in support of comprehensive education, whereas the Conservatives gradually became more hesitant and faltering in their commitment to grammar schools, a trend reflected in the election manifestos between 1959 and 1970.

The 1959 Conservative manifesto took a very firm line in support of grammar schools declaring, 'we shall defend the grammar schools against doctrinaire socialist attack, and see that they are further developed'. It should be remembered that in this election the Tories won their third election victory in a row with their majority increased to 100 seats. Although rising prosperity may have contributed a large part to this victory, it disproved the view that a strong defence of grammar schools was a vote loser. Unfortunately, by 1964 this support had become noticeably watered down when the manifesto observed 'of the many different forms of secondary school organisation which now exist, none has established itself as exclusively right'. It still condemned the 'socialist plan to impose the comprehensive principle [as] foolishly doctrinaire' in which the abolition of grammar schools 'would be the inevitable and disastrous consequence'. But the message now started to look a bit confused, as when it sought to 'encourage provision, in good schools of every description, of opportunities for all children to go forward to the limit of their capacity'. Thus there was no longer any ringing endorsement of grammar schools and the policy had now shifted closer to one of 'pick and mix' in educational provision. In this election Labour won with a wafer thin majority of three seats. A stronger defence of grammar schools might have swayed sufficient floating voters to have kept the Tories in power.

By the time of the 1966 election, Edward Heath had become Conservative party leader with a remit to 'modernise' the party, which is normally code for surrendering to liberal pressure. Heath, was the most successful of a significant number of senior Conservative politicians who would have been more at home in the Liberal Party. The manifesto commitment to grammar schools was weakened still further when it proclaimed, 'We will judge proposals for reorganisation on their educational merits; strongly oppose hasty and makeshift plans, especially in the big cities, for turning good grammar and secondary modern schools into comprehensive schools'. No talk now about comprehensive proposals being 'doctrinaire'. Labour won this election with a majority of nearly 100 seats, so once again there was no correlation between drifting with the liberal tide and electoral success. By the time of the 1970 election the Conservatives had completely abandoned their commitment to supporting grammar schools, boasting that 'many of the most imaginative new schemes abolishing the eleven plus have been introduced by Conservative councils', on the basis that 'the age of eleven is too early to make final decisions which might affect a child's whole future'. This shift in policy owes much to the influence of the notorious liberal Edward Boyle, who held the Conservative education portfolio, both in government and opposition, throughout most of the 1960s. His outlook did however, provoke opposition from Tory grass roots and, unusually for such a deferential party, the official motion on education at the 1968 party conference was defeated. To general surprise, the Conservatives won the 1970 election and thus the stage was set for the Education Secretary who abolished more grammar schools than any other - Margaret Thatcher.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The explosion in divorce

The Labour government's Divorce Reform Act 1969 was the turning point in which British society moved from one of relative family stability to one where broken homes and single parenting became widespread. This legislation relaxed the grounds for obtaining a divorce to one of 'unreasonable behaviour' and 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, 'the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage'. Within a few years the number of divorces shot up to over 120,000 a year, a fourfold increase on the early 1960s total.

As the self declared party of the family one might have thought that the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher would have relished the opportunity to demonstrate their firm commitment to marriage when they came to power in 1979. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of modern Conservatism, they did nothing of the kind. By 1980 the number of divorces had reached 150,000 a year and it has stayed at roughly this level ever since. The Tories’ Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 allowed couples to divorce after only twelve months of marriage. It might more accurately have been called the 'Abolition of Marriage Act 1984' since, in practice, that was the outcome. The Family Law Act 1996, also introduced under the Conservatives, facilitated still further the ease with which divorce could be obtained. It dispensed with the principle of 'fault based divorce', which effectively meant that no grounds needed to be shown as to why a divorce should not be granted.

The history of divorce legislation highlights the gradual transformation from a situation in which obtaining a divorce was almost impossible, to one in which it could be achieved almost on demand. It is worth asking how politicians justified to the electorate such radical changes. However, a search through the party manifestos since the war reveals a near complete failure to mention marriage. There are many references to support for families, but these are invariably couched in terms of better health or education provision, or more generous benefits. But strangely, there is nothing in any Labour or Conservative manifesto which even hints that easier divorce should be allowed. Thus there has never been any electoral mandate for this far reaching change.

Surprisingly, the most ringing defence of the family came from the Labour manifesto of 1997, which declared 'We will uphold family life as the most secure means of bringing up our children. Families are the core of our society. They should teach right from wrong. They should be the first defence against anti-social behaviour. The breakdown of family life damages the fabric of our society. …Families should provide the day-to-day support for children to be brought up in a stable and loving environment'. This explained with brilliant clarity the reasons why the family should be the bedrock of society. However, it failed to acknowledge that the surest way of providing support for families, and a stable upbringing for children, is through the security and commitment that marriage brings. Nor did it challenge the very broad reinterpretation of what constitutes a family which the liberal elite had been promoting, in particular the uncritical endorsement of single parenting.

Monday, 9 February 2015

EEC - The Political Divide

At the time Britain joined the EEC at the beginning of 1973 both of the main political parties were divided on membership. The Conservative government of Edward Heath strongly supported Britain's EEC membership, but a significant number of Tory backbenchers were opposed on the grounds of loss of sovereignty. The Labour party under Harold Wilson formally opposed membership because the EEC was considered to be a 'capitalist club' that was intrinsically opposed to the objectives of socialism. However, a substantial number of Labour MPs, led by the former deputy leader Roy Jenkins, supported membership as being in Britain's best economic interests. During 1973 Britain's economy took a turn for the worse as inflation started to increase. This turned into a crisis when the oil producing cartel OPEC increased prices fourfold after the Yom Kippur Israeli Arab war in the autumn of 1973. To make matters worse the miners voted in favour of a national strike.

In early 1974, the Heath government was facing serious difficulties caused by the miners’ strike, the three-day week and the energy crisis that followed the huge hike in the world price of oil. As a way out of his difficulties Heath decided to hold a snap election on the somewhat spurious question of 'Who Governs Britain?' The issue of Europe was hardly raised in the campaign, until Enoch Powell dropped the bombshell that he would be voting Labour. Since his dismissal by Heath from the shadow cabinet in 1968 for his 'Rivers of Blood' speech on immigration, Powell had made several further speeches highly critical of Conservative policies, not just on race and immigration but also on economic matters and the threat to British sovereignty posed by the EEC. He seemed to have had a particular animus against Heath and the tone of his speeches was often vitriolic towards his party’s leader. In reaching his decision to vote Labour, Powell argued that reclaiming British parliamentary sovereignty, that is the ability to govern ourselves, was of such supreme importance that it overrode all other issues. A vote for Labour, who made a manifesto commitment to renegotiate British membership and hold a referendum, offered an opportunity for Britain to withdraw from the EEC, albeit at the high price of a Labour government.

Powell was a deeply controversial politician; his repeated advocacy of large-scale repatriation of non-white Commonwealth immigrants had caused outrage amongst the liberal establishment which then, as now, included a sizeable proportion of the Tory leadership. Powell’s supposedly 'extreme' views rendered him almost a pariah amongst parliamentary colleagues and he was denounced as a populist agitator by most of Fleet Street. Unlike his speeches on immigration, those on the EEC received relatively little publicity and his concerns over the loss of sovereignty fell on largely deaf ears, not just of politicians but the media also. Although the political establishment loathed Powell, his views on immigration struck a chord with a sizeable proportion of the electorate and he was widely thought to have helped win the 1970 election for Heath in several marginal constituencies. Powell’s decision to vote Labour would have been an important contributory factor in Heath losing the February 1974 election.

On returning to power, Harold Wilson’s government carried out some rather desultory renegotiations of the British terms of EEC membership. The outcome was widely seen as not much different from that which Edward Heath had obtained. Wilson never gave the impression of having strong views on Europe (or much else). He supported joining in the 1960s, but when opposition within his party surfaced in the early seventies he switched sides and opposed Heath’s application for membership. In reality his party was deeply split on the issue. Wilson’s attempt to overcome this problem was to agree to the suggestion of Tony Benn to hold a referendum on the question of whether Britain should remain in Europe.

During the 1975 referendum the Wilson Government supported EEC membership as did both the Conservative and Liberal parties. Wilson suspended collective cabinet responsibility on the issue to allow about a third of his cabinet opposed to membership to join the anti-EEC campaign. Three leaflets were sent to every household in the country, one from the pro-EEC campaign, another from the anti-EEC campaign and a third from the Government recommending that Britain should remain in the EEC. Thus two of the leaflets supported continued membership but only one was against. Although, both the pro and anti campaigns were given equal broadcasting time, it could still be argued that the campaign was a little one sided, since all the major parties supported membership as did the leaders of industry and business, the TUC and most of Fleet Street. The pro-campaign had considerably more money and successfully presented itself as mainstream and moderate, whereas the anti-campaign was branded as extremist and eccentric, dominated by such divisive figures as Powell, Benn and some of the more militant left wing trade union leaders.

At the time of the 1975 referendum the EEC was widely perceived as little more than a common market, the term by which it was then usually referred. So much of the debate concentrated on the benefits that would accrue to Britain by increased trade with the prosperous countries of Western Europe. At that time external tariffs were appreciably higher than today and fears that Britain could be excluded from the important European market were skilfully exploited by the pro-membership campaigners. The issue of sovereignty was played down - the Government in its leaflet stressed that ministers could veto any proposal that was against British interests. Many people who voted yes in the referendum subsequently complained that they had been deceived, as they thought they were only agreeing to remain in a common market and, had they realised that they were joining a full blown political and monetary union, they would have voted differently. Edward Heath, albeit many years later, answered this by correctly pointing out that closer political and economic union had always been a goal of the Treaty of Rome. Moreover, from the opposing perspective Enoch Powell had raised the danger to our sovereignty in many of his speeches. However, during the referendum this appeared to many a very distant threat that may never be realised. Thus the perceived trading benefits of EEC membership appeared highly persuasive and Britain voted to stay in the EEC by a two to one majority.

The referendum vote to stay in the EEC put the question of Britain’s membership on the backburner for the next fifteen years. In 1979 the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher returned to power. Although she fully supported EEC membership her enthusiasm for Europe was far cooler than that of Edward Heath. This became apparent at one of her first meetings with European leaders when she ruffled quite a few feathers by stridently demanding that Britain’s contribution should be renegotiated and our money returned. Although her viewpoint was eminently reasonable since Britain was proportionally the largest budget contributor, she was heavily criticised both at home and abroad for being out of step with the spirit of European co-operation - in the euro-jargon she was perceived as being insufficiently communautaire. After protracted negotiations her government succeeded in obtaining a rebate which Britain still retains albeit reduced.

Following its 1979 election defeat the Labour Party entered into a period of internecine feuding between its left and right wings. This reached a critical point with the election of Michael Foot as leader in 1980 and the consequent departure of the 'Gang of Four' who founded the SDP under the leadership of Roy Jenkins, who had recently returned to British politics at the end of his term as EEC President. With a significant proportion of the pro-Europe leadership gone, Labour adopted a policy of EEC withdrawal as part of its radical plans for a socialist siege economy. The Labour Party was to remain hostile to the EEC until the end of the decade.

In contrast, the Conservative Party throughout the 1980s was proud to describe itself as the 'Party of Europe' and anyone in the Party questioning the validity and purpose of the European mission was given short shrift. Membership of the EEC was seen in a positive light and contrary views were largely suppressed. During this period Margaret Thatcher signed the Single European Act, which further strengthened the powers of the European Community (EC) over our affairs. The quiet dropping of the word 'economic' from the title went almost unnoticed but it was deeply symbolic. By 1986 the EC had expanded to twelve members with the accession of Spain, Portugal and Greece. However, within a few years the unity of the Tory Party would start to be undermined with the creation of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Britain creates a race relations industry.

During the seventies there was a tremendous growth in what was termed, with much justification, the 'race relations industry'. This movement largely comprised left wing Labour councils, far left trade union activists, liberal academics and a motley group of liberal/leftist pressure groups. Between them, aided by sympathetic media outlets such as the Guardian and New Statesman, they campaigned for an end to what they judged to be the discrimination and inequality experienced by black people. The 'fight against racism' became one of the main planks of the liberal progressive agenda and anyone challenging their assumptions or remedies could expect to be the subject of vitriolic denunciation.

The election of a Labour government in 1974 paved the way for the introduction of the Race Relations Act 1976, which established the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), and created the offence of incitement to racial hatred. During the late seventies the issue of race was kept on the boil by the activities of the National Front (NF), a largely working class right-wing political party committed to the compulsory repatriation of non-whites from Britain. The NF began to have some limited electoral successes, particularly in London where it attracted about 10% of the vote in the GLC and borough council elections, higher than that achieved by the Liberals in many wards. This rise in popularity caused deep concern in leftist/liberal circles, which responded with the setting up of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) which, although nominally independent, had strong links to the hard left Socialist Workers Party. During the late 1970s there were many clashes between NF members and ANL activists, the most notable taking place in Southall, when SWP member Blair Peach was killed, by police action in April 1979, during a demonstration against an NF march in this predominantly Asian part of West London.

In contrast the earlier Conservative government under Edward Heath had passed the Immigration Act 1971 which introduced the new terms of 'patrial' and 'non-patrial'. Patrials, defined as being British born, or having a British-born parent or grandparent, were free from immigration controls, unlike non-patrials who needed an entry certificate or a work permit to enter Britain. This was a thinly disguised device to distinguish white from non-white Commonwealth immigrants, since few of the latter would qualify as patrials. Thus it endorsed the consideration of race as a legitimate factor in immigration control and, as such, was widely condemned by the Labour opposition and liberal commentators.

However, the Conservatives self proclaimed supposedly 'tough' immigration policy was quickly blown off course with the expulsion, in 1972 by Idi Amin, of 27,000 Asians with British passports living in Uganda. Unlike the Labour government decision on the Kenyan Asians, the Heath government quickly capitulated and allowed them to settle in Britain permanently. The Conservative government, faced with a choice between upholding its manifesto commitments, the clearly expressed views of its supporters and the national interest or instead, appeasing liberal concern, predictably surrendered to the latter, maintaining a well established trend on this subject that has continued to the present day.

The Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher returned to government in May 1979. During a television interview, in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment, Margaret Thatcher spoke about the fears of being 'swamped' by people of alien cultures. This was widely interpreted by many voters, without any real justification, that the Tories might actually be thinking seriously about taking some action against third world immigration. One consequence of her remarks was that the NF, which was expected to do well in the 1979 general election, received a derisory 1.4 % of the vote. It is likely that many potential NF voters were beguiled by what they interpreted as a 'coded message' from the Tories that they would take a firm line on immigration. In reality, over the 18-year period of Conservative governments, the number of third world legal immigrants averaged about 50,000 per year. So, including illegal immigrants, during the Tories time in government, the ethnic population increased by at least a million, and this ignores the appreciably higher birth rate of ethnic communities.

However, during the eighties the issue of immigration largely went off the boil. This was partly due to a media blackout on the numbers of third world immigrants still entering the country, despite the Tories’ supposedly 'firm but fair' immigration policies and, also, because other subjects such as trade union reform, unemployment, inflation, privatisation, crime, health and education received greater political media coverage. It was also a period when militant 'anti-racism' became more entrenched in local government, trade unions and higher education. The most celebrated trailblazer was Ken Livingstone’s GLC, whose 'rainbow' political machine diverted large amounts of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money into the pockets of favoured minority groups. It was a period when no inner city area was complete without its new 'community centre', for the dominant ethnic minority, and from which only the indigenous white population, who largely funded it, felt excluded.

During the summer of 1981 rioting involving mostly ethnic minorities occurred in several towns and cities, the most serious taking place in the Toxteth district of Liverpool and Brixton, South London. Lord Scarman, an eminent High Court judge, was asked by the government to investigate the causes of the Brixton riots. His subsequent report recommended the recruitment of more black police officers, better race awareness training and stressed the need for community policing. He also advised the government to end racial disadvantage and tackle the disproportionately high level of unemployment among young black men which stood at 60% in the area. More rioting was to take place later in the decade in Brixton, the Handsworth district of Birmingham and the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham where PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death. Many commentators began to ask whether the fears of Enoch Powell were being realised.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Permissiveness - the 1970s debate.

One of the more striking features of the sexual revolution that began in the mid 1960s was how quickly it took hold and how relatively little resistance to it came from the conservative establishment, which not long before had taken a strong line against 'immorality', 'depravity', 'smut' and the like. The most vociferous opponent of this trend was Mary Whitehouse, who established the National Viewers & Listeners Association, to combat what she saw as declining standards in broadcasting. Mrs Whitehouse had an amazing talent for self-publicity, spoke her mind vigorously, and conveyed a deep sincerity underpinned by her Christian values. However, her views were anathema to the burgeoning liberal trailblazers, who ridiculed her conservative appearance, 'reactionary' views and middle class outlook, a highly pejorative term in the liberal mindset.

Mary Whitehouse’s main concerns were the degradation of society arising from the widespread availability of pornography, the portrayal of promiscuity and casual sex as normal and acceptable behaviour in TV drama, alongside the gratuitous inclusion of sexual matters in a wide range of other programmes. Mary Whitehouse encapsulated the pre-permissive age view on sex and, had the climate on this subject not changed, she would have remained an obscure schoolteacher.

Her campaign ultimately failed because of two major flaws. First, as a committed Christian she assumed that her religious beliefs gave her a self-evident right to intervene in the nation's viewing habits. In reality, we live in a post-Christian age in which the overwhelming majority does not accept that the dogma of a minority religion should underpin the personal morality of society as a whole. A second weakness was that once the genie was let out of the bottle, permissiveness proved to be a tricky concept to argue against. Younger people began to question why they should be prevented from doing what they thought best in their private lives, just because some older people in authority expressed their disapproval. The traditional moralists appeared to have no credible response and by the early 1970s, the 'permissive society' was firmly established, and the commercial exploitation of sex quickly became the dominating focus of the media.

Another opponent of permissiveness was Lord Longford, who gained enormous publicity with his report on pornography. It proposed a new Obscenity Bill to include a revised test of obscenity under which 'an article or a performance of a play is obscene if its effect, taken as a whole, is to outrage contemporary standards of decency or humanity accepted by the public at large'. George Gale of The Spectator attacked this recommendation claiming that 'what is being proposed is an extension of censorship. Lord Longford and his crew are trying to tell you and me what we may and may not read and publish...freedom of speech is necessary to resist the depravity and corruption brought about by the totalitarians, just as censorship is necessary for the success of the totalitarians to be assured.' This encapsulated the view of liberals and progressives of the time who were strongly anti-censorship and considered the increased availability of pornography as liberation from the sexual repression of the traditional moralists.

The early seventies was the high point of sexual liberation. It was a time when bohemianism flowered, when the young and liberally minded rejected what they considered the uptight sexual morality of the older generation. However, a challenge to this outlook was beginning to appear with the rise in feminism. This would herald the start of the process whereby the forces of personal liberation and freedom would incrementally and gradually morph into the stifling orthodoxy of political correctness.