Monday, 26 September 2011

Nothing Outrageous In Returning

Although he is wrong about the death penalty, Peter Hitchens writes:

It’s impossible to believe it now, but many members of the Labour cabinet voted to retain the death penalty when there was an attempt to abolish it in 1948. Good for them. They were being true to their voters, and protecting them from harm. That was when Labour was still a working class British party, and had yet to be taken over by modish cultural revolutionaries. Even as late as 1970, all the working class members of the Wilson Cabinet voted against the effective decriminalisation of cannabis that would end up as the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It was a close vote. A pity they lost.

Richard Crossman noted this in his diaries, as the only occasion when the 1964-70 cabinet split entirely along class lines, with the working class members of course being the social conservatives, and the Oxbridge snobs the let-it-all-hang-out liberals. There had been other moments, during the Roy Jenkins/Tony Crosland cultural revolution, when working class ministers objected, but these were almost all dressed up as ‘Private Members’ Bills’, on which the cabinet had no need to decide. Roy Jenkins just got on with it and ensured that they had plenty of time and drafting help. They got through, but Labour couldn’t be punished for them at any election, since the government had officially been uninvolved.

Labour’s Drugs Bill fell because of the June 1970 election. But – and this is such a telling detail of modern British politics - the Tories passed the planned law almost unchanged, an amazing piece of bipartisanship. If there’s one thing the two party leaderships can always agree on, it’s debauching the morals of the nation.

There’s nothing specially socialist about this debauching stuff, though it does fit in with a certain type of Marxism. One of the most articulate and ferocious defenders of morals and justice in recent times was the great sociologist Norman Dennis, who sadly died a few years ago. His denunciation of the absurd Macpherson Report was devastating and pungent. I also still relish the memory of his confrontation at a think tank lunch with a bunch of ‘conservative’ free market drug legalisers, who seemed to think John Stuart Mill would have supported the decriminalisation of dope. They had to be scraped off the walls afterwards. Yet he remained an active Labour Party member till his dying day.

With facts such as these in mind (not to mention R.H.Tawney’s support for Grammar Schools, and the Christian self-discipline of so many Labour people when our country was going through very hard times) I feel that social conservatives should never entirely rule out the possibility that salvation may come from the left as well as the right. Oddly enough, it could be Labour’s salvation too. I am not sure if ‘Blue Labour’ has now been wholly buried. But if I were in the Shadow Cabinet (and , yes, I know I’m not) I would say to Ed Miliband (or more likely to Ed Balls, who seems to me have a real seething desire for power) that Downing Street could be his in 2015 if he returned his party to its patriotic, Christian roots.

Labour already has a better record on the European Union than do the Tories – Gaitskell’s great ‘Thousand Years of History’ speech was prescient and right. The party campaigned for an exit in 1983 (the only one of its pledges that year that hasn’t since been enacted in one form or another, despite the conventional wisdom that the 1983 manifesto was ‘the longest suicide note in history’). There’d be nothing outrageous in returning to that position.

On law and justice, I doubt if they could get the death penalty past the existing MPs. But a return to the principle of punishment, and a real war on the use and possession of drugs, would be of huge benefit to Labour voters in the big cities, who suffer most of all from the horrible crime and disorder which now go unchecked. As for immigration, it’s once again Labour’s supporters who suffer most from the huge numbers of migrants now arriving from Eastern Europe. Its their public services that are overloaded, their communities that are altered, their wages that are lowered. It’s also Labour’s supporters who would most benefit from a Divorce Reform Act that made it harder to break up a marriage, especially one with children, than it is now.

And of course it’s Labour supporters who would gain most from the return of discipline, rigour and academic selection in state schools. I was talking the other day to someone who lives in Kent and one of whose children has just won a place at a grammar school. It’s a marvellous school, offering a fine education to all its pupils. And you get into it by passing a fair examination. Imagine if every town, every county in the country had such schools, how it would transform so many lives.

We’ve established quite clearly in recent years that the Tories don’t love Britain, or even England. We’ve established that their voters will carry on voting for them however many times their hopes are betrayed and their concerns mocked by their ‘own’ leader. Is it even remotely possible that a combination of ambition and desperation will persuade Labour to try to prove that it really still loves the poor?

You’re right. It’s most unlikely. But forgive me for dreaming. The idea, though far-fetched, is no more so than many of the turns in the other direction which our political leaders have taken in recent years.


  1. All set out in the forthcoming Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory?