I’ve been so tied up with my financial advisers, getting my bid together for the Dartford river crossing (my plan is to prevent people from Essex visiting Kent, because I don’t like them), that I missed this letter from one of the country’s more thoughtful and free thinking Labour MPs, Denis MacShane. It’s been causing a minor stir in blogsville, not least at Aaronovitchwatch. I know that many of you resent Mr MacShane because of his wish for us all to speak German and live in a fascistic European super state led by Tony Blair, but let’s leave that to one side for a moment. His letter, to the Grauniad, was about the problem of violent, feral youths and street crime etc. Here’s the important bit:
‘The concepts of duty, responsibility, respect, thrift and local solidarity have disappeared. But the liberal-left despise these values, while the right buys itself out of these problems by moving to posher districts or sending their kids to private schools.’
It seems to me that the first 50 per cent of that paragraph is almost incontestably correct (and I’ll leave you lot to carp about his careless and somewhat ad hominem attack on the right). And further that it is a rare pleasure to hear such a thing uttered by a Labour MP, or indeed any MP. The problem for MacShane is that the means of inculcating the first four of those virtues he admires have been removed by decades of “progressive” legislation. That is one reason why they have disappeared – along with the dissolution of any notion of deferred gratification, which has been occasioned by greater affluence. Oh, and the deliberate removal of social stigma from such things as debt, single-parenthood, divorce – again, at the behest of the metropolitan liberal left. It was the metro-left too which sneered at the notion that the young should be respectful to their elders; it was the left which howled “racist” when communities which possessed an awful lot of “local solidarity” were changed beyond recognition by mass immigration. This is the problem; you cannot expect people to display duty and responsibility and local solidarity if both the societal and financial mechanisms for encouraging them to do so have been removed. So what you do, then, Denis? Why should young people offer respect to teachers if the teachers are effectively disbarred from disciplining them? How do you get that stuff back, other than simply hope that one of these days it might return of its own volition?
My own view, incidentally, is that those qualities MacShane talks about are irrevocably part of socialism, or at least the Christian socialism to which I’ve always subscribed. But not part of the liberalism – a different thing – of the last 40 years.