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The government needs to stop trying to legislate for manners and common sense

24 June 2013

3:08 PM

24 June 2013

3:08 PM

Is there such a thing as the Loony Right? The reaction of those on the Left to Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone’s Alternative Queen’s Speech selection of bills certainly suggested so. But what defines whether something is loony? Is it lunacy because it is unprecedented, out of step with other civilised countries, incoherent? Or just that no one you meet or read advocates it?

I don’t support the death penalty, for instance, but in the case of murder it’s not wacky – most US states still practise it, after all, as does Japan. Some of the other suggestions are not just reasonable, but probable, such as withdrawal from the European Union. The Overton window on that changed rapidly so that by the early 21st century being in favour of an independent Britain was extremism, but it’s turning back.


And many of the ideas that characterised the Loony Left in its 1980s heyday are now so mainstream that opposing them is considered loony. As far as I know even the GLC weren’t in favour of gay marriage, but now politicians talk about it as a ‘core European value’, even though the first gay marriage in history dates to 2001; my haircut is older than that.

The only suggestion I would strongly object to is banning the burqa, although that would put us ‘in line with Europe’, as the saying used to go, face covering laws being common on the continent. It’s un-English to regulate offensive fashion, and then we’d have to prohibit baseball caps, ironic T-shirts, three-quarter length trousers etc.

The problem with that, as with many of these suggestions, is that they assume we can legislate for manners and common sense. It’s part of a mindset whereby government has become addicted to lawmaking; maybe we need to pass a law restricting the number of laws, and encourage ministers to spend long summer holidays reading Homer in north Wales, like in the good old days of hanging and sexual hypocrisy.


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