Coffee House

David Aaronovitch and the social conservative consensus

6 January 2011

6:34 PM

6 January 2011

6:34 PM

David Aaronovitch is one of the preeminent voices of the liberal-left in this country.
He is no social conservative and has been dismissive of those who want a lower time-limit for
abortion. But today he wrote something that reminded me of that famous Peggy Noonan column about the Columbine massacre and ‘the ocean in which our children swim.’

Aaronovitch writing about the Times’ investigation into sex gangs says:

‘Sometimes I look at what the surrounding culture says to our kids and wonder whether we are mad. On the one hand we can be persuaded only with difficulty to give them decent sex education,
so terrified are we by their latent sexuality; on the other, we chuck adult sex and big-money values at them from the moment they turn on the TV or PC. Google “teen girl” and see what
the algorithm of desire offers you. For many, Facebook is a daily trip into the land of WAGs, camera sex and who has given whom a blowjob, on to which they graft their own poignant hopes for love
and romance.

For some girls we seem to offer two choices: boring, dowdy frump, or raunchy Lolita.’


Now, I’m not trying to claim Aaronovitch as a social conservative. But the fact he can see so clearly that there is a problem suggests a growing social conservative consensus. There has been
a move away from the old social liberal and libertarian pieties to a recognition that the cultural and moral environment matters.

The cultural and moral environment is not something that government can, or should be able to, dictate. It is the product of a whole variety of social forces coming together. But in opposition,
David Cameron talked frequently, and to good effect, about this problem. It would be
refreshing to see him use the prime ministerial bully pulpit to call out those companies who are polluting the moral waters of our society.

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Show comments
  • John Smith

    I don’t think anybody has quite grasped Aaronovitch’s point, including Mr. Forsyth, or if they have they have chosen to ignore it.

    There was a point to the liberalisation of sex that took place post-war. Horrible stigmatization and repression of homosexuality, repression of women and unecessary stigmatization of single mothers (not all of whom were in that situation due to their own turpitude), but clearly there was a cost, which we now see in an *excessive* sexualisation of the culture. What Aaronovitch is saying, I think, is that we ought, culturally, to be able to occupy a middle ground which neither hysterically condemns all sex outside of marriage as automatically immoral, nor thrusts hyper-sexuality down our throats at every opportunity. So Mr. Forsyth, does this mean Aaronovitch is now a social conservative? Not quite, I believe.

  • merlinthepig


    Thank you

  • Jez

    @ merlinthepig;



    “Former home secretary Jack Straw has said he believes some Pakistani men in Britain see white girls as “easy meat” for sexual abuse”


    “But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.

    “We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.”



    “The mother of a 14-year-old girl wept in court as a kebab shop owner was heard on tape allegedly telling how he had chopped up her daughter and placed her body, “bones and all”, in a mincing machine”




    “for at least last 15 years Sikhs have been highlighting pakistani pervert gangs grooming non-muslim girls.

    Then we were brushed as racists or “sensationalising” the problem.

    Now every broadsheet paper is carrying these stories. The times had 4 page coverage

    Worst thing is then, even sikh leaders didn’t want to stand up when it was Sikh girls as young as 13 being abused.

    There was a case of a Mentally challenged Sikh girl aged 15, but with a mental age of 10. She was systematically abused by Manchester’s pakistani gangs. Then, no Sikh Leader wanted to make their voice heard and stand with the singhs who were labelled as racists and troublemakers. There were even sly scum on this forum calling them agents of RSS.

    Now they happy to make comments in Broad sheets and media.

    I tell you.. 90% of our community leaders are spineless puppets, desperate for any opportunity for a photo, and ready to jump in anyone’s bed for it. Sad”


    Is that ok merlinthepig?

    A little different direction than Aaronovitch, James and the mainsteam establishment have taken i know- but that is because they are actively collaborating with the Pakistani gangs to cover up their actions- maybe. All in the name of of their god they worship; multiculturalism- in this instance through this publication.

    It certainly seems so with the completely wrong directional piece of misinformation above by James, doesn’t it?



    The very notion that their very own Dissolute Dave might be in any sort of position to “use the prime ministerial bully pulpit” on moral matters may be all very amusing but it also rather indicates the extent the Speccie is prepared to go to to cheerlead.

  • paulg

    Don’t you follow the news! they already have.

    It was led by the liberal papers, female columnists, to be more precise.

  • Chris lancashire

    David Aaronavitch and a majority of commentators on this site are a million miles away from the problem the Times has been airing this week. I live in the middle of one of the areas highlighted and what we are witnessing is hardline Muslim meets White Underclass.
    For their part, the Muslims perceive worthless white trash who are fit only for sex and do not relate the situation to their religion at all. For the underrage white girls all the sex education in the world would make absolutely no difference; they lack completely any sort of moral framework.

    So forget sex education – or any other sort for this generation. What we can do is seek to stop this underclass creating another generation of itself. Start by making it unattractive for them to reproduce.

  • Biggestaspidistra

    Thank you Jez for bringing some reality to this chatter. @merlinthepig I think this is the remark Jez is referring to, from which the truth has been neathered out.

    “Aaronovitch writing about the Times’ investigation into sex gangs says:”

    ‘Sex gangs’ presumably refers to recent court court cases involving gangs of muslim men in the north of England preparing non muslim girls to work in the sex industry. In journalism worthy of the BBC, this element of the story seems to have been untruthed here and the whole thing turned into a middle class morality tale. Lovely

  • PayDirt

    Aaronovitch says “we chuck adult sex and big-money values at them from the moment they turn on the TV or PC”. No “we” don’t, that is way the global culture is, unfortunately or otherwise. People like Aaronovitch persist in thinking in terms of CONTROL, as in places like Saudi Arabia where kids have religious values “chucked” at them instead. The only hope in arming the young and relatively defenceless against this peril of the 21st Century is to show them the error of their ways, not really too difficult I’d have thought.. worked for limiting the smoking of cancer-causing tobacco, seems to be more or less successful with AIDs, unfortunately excessive alcohol drinking is a problem, though I’m hopeful that a few too many retching in the gutters will teach the hard way. A few more dramas on TV showing the horrors of bringing up baby by oneself stuck in a 1-bed flat would be good to see.

  • MJPH

    But the cause is clear: the rampant consumerism launched by Thatcher in the 80s, where you can’t buck the market and anything goes…

    This is the consequence.

    And the government’s promise to reduce regulation will stop anything happening.

    How does James Forsyth expect change will happen: through legislation and regulation, ‘nudge’, or prime ministerial edict?

  • Yosemite Sam

    I chuckled with recognition and agreement when I read David Ossitt’s submission. How very true for those of us who grew up in the fifties! I guess I am just that bit older than Mr Ossit – old enough for me to have acquired a bit more sex education at the nations expense. National Service taught a lot more than how to carry a rifle and how to salute properly! But one thing we did acquire in those days, whether in the forces or not, was respect for ourselves and for others. At root, this current problem in society is one of lack of respect.

  • merlinthepig

    Jez, what ARE you talking about? Perhaps you can provide an explanatory link (not to a porn site, if possible)

  • Peter Briffa

    Is there a liberal-left journalist in the world who hasn’t written this article? Sex is great, the sixties were great, civil partnership is great, abortion is… if not great, at least far better than the alternative, we need more sex education and “We, as a nation, are far too prudish about sex and talking about sex”, and then proceeds to lambast the young and the media for being obsessed by sex?

    Did he use the phrase “I’m no Mary Whitehouse” in the piece? They all tend to.

  • The Remittance Man

    There has been a move away from the old social liberal and libertarian pieties to a recognition that the cultural and moral environment matters.

    By all means blame the dippy hippies and loopy lefties for the moral decline of the nation, but please don’t confuse “libertarian” with “libertine”.

    Libertarians have always understood that with freedom comes responsibility.

  • Pot Head

    James- I would like to point at that another liberal -left columnist in The Times; Janice Turner has been banging on about exactly these issues every Saturday for ages now (particularly on porn and the sexualisation of our children) and long before David Cameron and David Aaronovitch jumped on the bandwagon.

    Is it only worth reporting on Coffee House when a male liberal -left columnist broaches these issues, or don’t you read Saturday’s Times?

  • Baron

    Nicholas, sir, enjoyably superb

  • Jez

    How *dare* you treat us like this.

    You and your colleague far-left, liberal left… now ultra conservative (?) monkey Aaronovitch.

    Would this be connected to the Muslim sex gangs targeting non-Muslim kids (mainly white- but not always as i know a family that have mix race children that have been targeted) but there is no mention of this in the above ‘piece’.

    F*ck you James and F*ck that pile of crap youve promoted above.

    The grooming gangs are an epidemic- that the Times has known about (and the attacks on white mix race kids) for a very long time- i can personally assure you.

    And Aaronovitch pulls one of his ‘blind the masses’ jobs to misinform, yet again?

    We live in this you c*nts.

    Goodbye Spectator.

  • old fogey

    Without commenting directly on Mr. Aaronovitch’s article, or on the scandal of this issue being ignored by the police, the press and the authorities for years , I find it saddening, at the least, that even 12,or 13 and 14 year old girls lack the common sense, the intelligence, the self respect to stop them getting involved with these people. Girls of my generation, indeed every previous generation would have instinctively known who (and how) to say no to . What sort of society are we creating; what sort of people are we becoming.

  • TomTom

    Son of Sam, Exec Committee Member of CPGB and who followed daddy to Balliol. Friend of Mandelson and Charles Clarke, successor to Trevor Phillips at NUS….the New Marxist Establishment cannot face up to the maelstrom their juvenile behaviour has unleashed. May you have a long life David Aaronovitch to enjoy the full turn of the wheel as the Forces of the Distant Past return in full reaction to the chaos you ’68ers have unleashed

  • David Booth

    As we get older our views tend to drift from the left of the political/social spectrum to the right, it’s called growing up.
    I am first to admit I know nothing about Mr Aaronovitch’s private life but I suspect his views are changing as he looks at younger members of his own family be they; children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces etc.

  • David Ossitt

    “On the one hand we can be persuaded only with difficulty to give them decent sex education, so terrified are we by their latent sexuality”


    That is much of the problem, what they are given is indecent sex education, with all of the mechanics and none of the emotion and caring love.

    This error is compounded by the powers that be insistence on teaching that all forms of sex are normal and all of equal importance and value to society.

    I will very soon be seventy-one, at my boys school we had zero sex education, the girls school on the floor below, would send small groups of girls, who were of a certain age to monthly lessons with the school matron, I was told that these lessons were primarily to do with puberty and the basics of the ‘how and why, of child birth.

    I am sure that I am not alone among my peers, in that my parents never ever broached the subject.

    And yet it would appear that we were far better prepared to be able to deal with all of the physical and emotional changes that occur in the transition from being a child to being an adult.

    We learnt about sex, as if by osmosis, from the talk of older boys.

    We were as randy as any today, probably more so, as we had much less to distract us, no computers, telephones and all of the frippery that surrounds the youth of today, also boys who are from an all boys school, were extremely curious about the opposite sex.

    I am absolutely sure that teenage pregnancy was in my youth extremely rare, it was rare for a number of reasons.

    I think that the primary reason was that of shame, you knew that it would bring shame to the family and so great care was taken.

    The second reason was that of respect, any self respecting young woman was not willing to cheapen herself by putting out to all and sundry and no self respecting youth would want a girl that did.

    As a young man you knew that if a girl got pregnant you would be getting married, so this made you not only careful but also very selective.

    We indulged in long courtships, in my neck of the woods, if you got your hand on her boob, you were courting, anything more and you were definitely engaged to be married.

  • Fergus Pickering

    My daughters got lots of sex education.They put the condom on the carrot through many a long afternoon. My elder daughter explained to her friend what it was that lesbians did when both were ten years old. I didn’t even know what the word c*nt meant at that age. And what difference does it make? Not much, as far as I can see. Silly liberals suppose that knowing about something will make it go away. The best way to stop children having sex is to keep them ignorant of it. But there’s not much chance of that, is there?

  • Nicholas

    Oh, I know Beadle, let’s censor the internet. Go and have a chat with that mascara painted idiot in the fascist party. He had similar ideas and also tried to build himself into flavour of the month on that platform of bible-thumping hysteria.

    It’s a pity the goggle-eyed idiot isn’t more concerned about the deadly effects of high explosive or worse, which the party he espouses exposed the country to for nigh on ten years with its amusing jape of uncontrolled immigration “to rub the right’s nose in it”. Google him and you’ll see he’s been trying to bite this particular cherry for a rather long time, probably as long as he has had children. Nothing like a bit of impartial reason from an over-protective, lefty “father” with the privilege of bleating in public.

  • Magnolia

    “The cultural and moral environment is not something that government can, or should be able to , dictate.”
    This is profoundly wrong and could only have been said by a young person who’s grown up in the decadent morass that passes for life in this country over the last decade.
    I believe that the government has a duty to shape the moral environment through policy because if we have a free for all where anything goes then we will have no alternative to a big state government because there will need to be something to pick up all the casualties of the failures. This is essentially what we have in place now and the ‘big Society’ might be the small brake that will set us off into a better direction. Government and citizens can still be liberal, loving and free and forgiving but it is the government’s job to set policy and law within a moral framework that will result in citizens that do not do harm and who can enjoy a good ecomomy.
    This is the profound problem with governing from the centre in that you have to be all things to all men and so you daren’t say what is right and what is wrong because there’s too many people to offend and so on we drift into nothingness of people which is as arbitrary as molecular Brownian motion.

  • mitcheltj

    Vulture – I totally agree.

  • High Tory

    It’s so refreshing to see someone say this. It’s just a shame that it has to be someone on the Liberal-left who realised it, rather than an actual conservative.

    The culture of permissiveness just hasn’t worked. Instead, everyone is lot more miserable from short-term pleasure rather than long-term happiness.

    For the benefit of society we need to bring back stigma for excess sexuality, immodest behaviour, illegitimate parenthood and rude, anti-social behaviour.

    Only that can help improve the happiness of the population.

  • KingandCountry

    Hello Vulture,

    David Aaronovitch is a great columnist and worth the Tuesday purchase cost of The Times in his own right. Also highly influential – even beyond the party divide.

    You on the other hand, seem to be about as original and pleasant as your bird namesake…

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Yeah, I hope they get around to that just as soon as they get on top of the things that are the governments actual business. Oh. and after they stop fiddling their expenses and shagging their secretaries.

  • Holly ……

    I agree we do ‘confuse’ the message.
    You name it,I’ve done it.ALL in the privacy of my home,with my husband.
    Somewhere the messages children see are mixing up sex with loving someone.
    And the parents are allowing this.Why would they do that?
    Surely you love someone,THEN have sex?
    Maybe I should take up knitting or HRT?

  • Pot Head

    “It would be refreshing to see him use the prime ministerial bully pulpit to call out those companies who are polluting the moral waters of our society.”

    All very well, until comes to taking their money: have a look at the Top Shop website, which i can’t get my 14 year old daughter off..And refuse to deal with the Express until Desmond sell his porn intrests,.. But of course none of this will happen because they are friends of the Tory party..

    But, as father of two Tweenage girls I worry about these issues constantly, and Aaronovitch is right..

  • dg

    Thank you Mr Forsyth.

  • Vulture

    Please don’t couple Blair wars apologist and Tone’s official arselicker-in-chief David Aaronobitch and the word ‘morality’ in the same sentence.

  • salieri

    How very profound.

  • James

    It’s an interesting point, but the point he makes doesn’t really work, because it isn’t, on the whole, the same people who are both afraid of sex ed yet tolerant of it in wider consumer culture – people are either more relaxed (social liberals) or more concerned (social conservatives).