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Friday, March 12, 2004
The common ground in the culture wars

I have for some time been planning a piece here on the prospects for a backlash in the culture wars, with particular reference to the experience of Keith Joseph, who ushered in the economic backlash against the left. In a week or two, I will probably find time for that.

In the meantime, keen Burkean MP John Hayes has a good Spectator piece emphasising a similar point, in which he focuses on how and why British Conservatives should emulate their more successful counterparts in Australia and the United States by resisting the objectives of the left in cultural as well as economic and foreign policy issues. Making a point Margaret Thatcher and Iain Murray have both made, he advocates 'Social Thatcherism' - the rejuvenation of responsibility and self-reliance in the social sphere - as a counterpart to her achievements in restoring those qualities to economic affairs.

Of particular note is the point he makes about Sir Keith Joseph's distinction between the 'middle ground' - the midway-point average of where politicians lie - and the 'common ground' - the values of the people of this country. The two are far from the same thing, and something supported by the great majority of politicians can still be vigorously out of step with public opinion, as demonstrated by the issue of capital punishment above all. Indeed, it is difficult to think of any social issue on which the political class is not to the left of the voters.

It certainly is the case that every political advance of the social liberals for many years now has been against the wishes of most voters. Be it the lowering of the age of consent for anal 'sex' to just sixteen, the denial of parental consent to contraceptive and abortion pills handed out in schools, the quasi-legalisation of cannabis, the scrapping of section twenty-eight, the great wave of migration and asylum cases or the widespread introduction of early release and tagging as an alternative to proper sentencing, all these measures were opposed by the majority.

In addition, encouraging research is now suggesting that the curious phenomenon in the United States of most members of Generation X being considerably less liberal than their Baby Boomer parents is true in this country, too. On issues ranging from abortion, marriage and illegitimacy to asylum and the monarchy, it seems the sons and daughters of Thatcher are more children of the twenties than of the sixties. (Thanks to DumbJon for the link.)

Whatever else might be said of the culturally liberal agenda, it isn't being pushed through because the voters demand it, and nor is its opposition restricted to church-goers, pro-family campaigners and the elderly.

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