John Hayes, the prime minister’s latest tribune, achieved some fame or infamy, depending on your view, when he wrote the following article for the Spectator on 6 August 2005, a month after the 7/7 bombings. I wonder if he still holds these views, and, if he does, whether the prime minister agrees with him?
Muslims are right about Britain
Many moderate Muslims believe that much of Britain is decadent. They are right. Mr Blair says that the fanatics who want to blow us up despise us, but he won’t admit that their decent co-religionists who are the best hope of undermining the extremists at source — despair of us. They despair of the moral decline and the ugly brutishness that characterise much of urban Britain. They despair of the metropolitan mix of gay rights and lager louts. And they despair of the liberal establishment’s unwillingness to face the facts and fight the battle for manners and morals.
They are not alone. The Windrush generation of Caribbeans came to Britain with the most traditional of values, proud Christians with dignity and a sense of duty — the kind of people so steeped in our history that they gave their children names like Winston, Milton and Gladstone. As vice-chairman of the British Caribbean Association, I recently had the chance to ask such people why so many young British blacks had got into trouble with the law. They unequivocally blamed the licence they encountered almost as soon as they arrived here, which made it so hard to inculcate their standards in the next generation.
The alienation felt by young blacks and Asians is not a result of any intolerance shown towards them, but of the endless tolerance of those who would allow everything and stand up for nothing. It is the excesses permitted by a culture spawned by the liberal Left that have produced a generation that feels rootless and hopeless. The young crave noble purposes as children and need discipline; neither gets much of them in modern Britain and the void is filled by disrespect, fecklessness, mindless nihilism or, worse, wicked militancy.
It is unreasonable to expect Muslim leaders to put right what’s wrong in their communities if we are not going to be honest about what’s wrong with ours.
Some of rural Britain (including the area in which I live and represent) still has strong communities. There, many of the old-fashioned values lost elsewhere prevail. Beyond these heartlands, much else is ailing. A sickening decadence has taken hold. People’s sense of identity has been eroded as our traditions and the institutions that safeguard them have been derided for years. People’s sense of history has been weakened by an education system that too often emphasises the themes in history rather than its chronology, and which indoctrinates a guilt-ridden interpretation of Britain’s contribution to the world. People’s sense of responsibility has been undermined by a commercial and media preoccupation with the immediate gratification of material needs, regardless of consequences — we want everything and we want it now, so we spend and borrow, cheat and hurt. People’s self-regard has diminished as, robbed of any sense of worth beyond their capacity to consume and fornicate, they feel purposeless. We have forgotten that pleasure is a mere proxy for the true happiness which flows from commitment and the gentle acceptance that it is what we give, not what we take, that really matters.
The vulnerable are the chief victims of decadence. Children suffer when families break down. The old suffer as their needs are seen as inconvenient and their wisdom is no longer valued. For the rich, decadence is either a lifestyle choice or something you can buy your way out of. But for the less well off — stripped of the dignities which stem from a shared sense of belonging and pride — the horror of a greedy society in which they can’t compete is stark. The civilised urban life that was available to my working-class parents is now the preserve of those whose wealth shields them from lawlessness and frees them from the inadequate public services that their less fortunate contemporaries are forced to endure.
Safely gated, the liberal elite do not merely turn a blind eye — though that would be bad enough. They voyeuristically feed the masses with Big Brother and legislate to allow 24-hour drunkenness. In answer to the desperate call for much needed restraint, we hear from those with power only the shrill cry for ever more unbridled liberty.
Politicians who should know better, fear debates about values, preferring to retreat to morally neutral, utilitarian politics, as uninspiring as it is unimaginative. It is the kind of discourse which leaves those who aspire to govern reduced — in the heat of a general election campaign — to debating how efficiently their respective parties can disinfect hospitals. Most Church leaders have also given up the fight. Many have convinced themselves that to be fashionable is to be relevant and that being relevant is more important than being right. Is it any wonder that the family minded, morally upright moderate Muslims despair?
So, with little understanding of the past, little thought for the future, little respect for others and virtually no guidance from those appointed or elected to give it, many modern Britons — each with their wonderful, unique God-given potential — are condemned to be selfish, lonely creatures in a soulless society where little is worshipped beyond money and sex.
The roots of this brutal hedonism are in soulless liberalism. Against all the evidence, the liberal elite — who run much of Britain’s politically correct new establishment — continue to preach their creed of freedom without duty, and rights without obligations. Pope John Paul II — perhaps the greatest figure of our age — said ‘only the freedom which submits to the truth leads the human person to his true good’. Freedom without purpose is the seed corn of social decay. It is through the constraints on self-interest and the restraint that good Muslims revere that we can rebuild civil society. The most fitting response to the terrorist outrages would be the kind of moral and cultural renaissance that would make Britons of all backgrounds feel more proud of their country.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.