Saturday, 22 October 2016

Swinging Statements

As a comment on a previous post puts it:

I'll always be grateful to you for pointing out that hardly any MPs voted one way or the other on the Jenkins social changes, they formed no part of his reputation until 20 years later when he was out of the Commons (courtesy of a left-wing, pro-life mate of yours), that reputation was all about his time as Chancellor not his time as Home Secretary, the social changes were barely reported at the time except in specialist Catholic papers, and they still had no impact at all on Catholics overwhelmingly voting Labour.

And why would they have had any such impact?

Such Conservatives as voted at all on these measures, mostly voted in favour of them. For example, Margaret Thatcher.

The big two, which really changed this country and which ought really to have been contentious, were the 1967 Abortion Act and the 1969 Divorce Reform Act.

She voted for both of those, as did almost everyone else who turned up in the first place.

It is completely inconceivable that a Conservative Government at the same historical juncture would not have enacted them.

Or that it would not have decriminalised male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private; again, that was opposed by almost no one, it was actively supported by hardly anyone, and it was barely reported anywhere with a general audience.

Such a Government would probably also have enacted the Race Relations Act, the only one of these things about which Harold Wilson truly cared.

It might have had to rely on Labour votes in order to do so, although even that would have been fairly improbable.

There would have been a rebellion, but it would have been quite small, and easily seen off.

And a backbench amendment or a Private Member's Bill to abolish capital punishment would most likely also have passed a predominantly Conservative Parliament by then.

It was little more than a tidying up exercise, dispensing with something that had scarcely been used in years, and which the previous Conservative Government had drastically restricted even as an option.

Few people realise that that, and not any later measure, was the reason why Ian Brady and Myra Hindley could not have been executed. But such was in fact the fact.

The death penalty was already as dead as that. Thanks to the Tories.

Although no thanks to Thatcher.

She voted against abolition, unlike Enoch Powell, who was as strong an opponent of capital punishment as he was of nuclear weapon.

And she continued to defend the death penalty in the same autobiographical chapter that defended abortion and much easier divorce.

Think on.


  1. Remember, a heavy emphasis on youth and lifestyle issues is a product of the Sixties not a feature of them at the time. Politics was bread and butter at home and the many dimensions of the Cold War abroad. So as you say, most MPs of either party hardly noticed these things and nor did most political reporters. That was true of most young people in the Sixties, I was one. If there was a social revolution going on, nobody told us. But you're right the Tories would have done these things at exactly the same time. They might even have gone further (lower gay age of consent, fewer paper restrictions on abortion, no fault divorce from the off), that's what they normally do. Under Thatcher, they actually did legalise abortion up to birth. Under Major, they actually did lower the gay age of consent and introduce no fault divorce.

    1. Likewise, the Government that introduced civil partnerships always ruled out same-sex marriage.

    2. Politics is very much about economics and foreign policy again now.