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1st November, 2020

Gaius Cornelius - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In a dictionary I used to own, definition number two of the word bigot was wonderfully succinct: ‘A person with an obstinate belief in the superiority of their own opinion.’

That sentence floated through my mind when reading a recent Times column by David Aaronovitch. Its gist was that conservatives protest at left-liberal innovations and then, when those ideas have become commonplace or common law, adopt them as if they had agreed with them all along. Aaronovitch cites Boris Johnson, the prime minister, performing a total U-turn on wind power, which he mocked in the Daily Telegraph a few short years ago. That does not surprise me, nor should it surprise Aaronovitch. Politicians tell blatant lies and adopt stances for the sake of expedience. Aaronovitch should know that – he was one of Tony Blair’s biggest cheerleaders for heaven’s sake. Blair it was who sold himself as a responsible social conservative when he was in fact committed to a neo-Marxist cultural agenda.

To demonstrate his argument Aaronovitch cites some totemic lib-left bugbears which are no longer with us. His list is not that long. Capital punishment: he says that when he was a year old Ruth Ellis was hanged two miles from his home. Then homosexuality was illegal and workplace colour bars were legal – though he doesn’t mention the widespread employment of West Indian immigrants, particularly on London Transport from the mid-Fifties. He says that until he was 21 it was legal to discriminate against women in the workplace. After that list, he is reduced to saying that trains and buses were still filled with smoke until the Eighties and children were still caned. Then he is down to saying how awful it was that some people liked the television sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. Suddenly Aaronovitch, the blokey former Trot and Eurocommunist, sounds a bit neurotic.

He proudly says that today’s culture was formed by ‘reformers — liberals, nanny staters, environmentalists, human rights campaigners — [who] would point to a problem and campaign for change and conservatives who would oppose it before being defeated and moving on to the next argument.’ Within half a generation, he says, people had forgotten there was ever an argument about these things.

Yes, conservatives of the past were wrong about some things, wrong about homosexuality, overly obstinate about smoking and its connection to personal liberty. But I am sure that we would find many Labour stalwarts of the past holding opinions Aaronovitch considers wrong. Let’s face it, many on the Left stood against that Jerusalem of the liberal-left, the European Union. Even Blair campaigned against it in his early years in politics. What a change, eh? And some trade unions agreed with Enoch Powell’s campaign against immigration.

Aaronovitch’s boasting of the sheer rightness of his side of the argument is like being browbeaten by the whig interpretation of history. The only bad move he is willing to admit that some on the Left have made is the espousal of the Paedophile Information Exchange and its demand for the legalisation of sex with children. Indeed, some bigshot Labour names were involved in that episode and I have yet to hear a plausible and sane explanation of it.

Mass immigration is Aaronovitch’s special hobbyhorse, and it is significant that he makes no mention of it in his round-up of glorious progressive ideas. Even he must know by now that the vast influx of new arrivals which was instituted out of sheer spite by the new Labour governments of the Noughties and perpetuated by subsequent Tory administrations for economic advantage caused unprecedented political division in this country. This led to the seismic changes of the past few years, in other words Britain voting to leave the EU, the British centre-left’s golden goose. Aaronovitch may deplore ordinary people’s unwillingness to live in a neo-liberal chemistry set but he cannot be oblivious to it.

Mass-immigration is the great tool of the leftist but it will be a hot day in January before we ever get a leftist to admit what they really want it for. Aaronovitch is a classic example. I have several times asked him to spell out why he wants it so badly. Answer comes there none. Clearly, the reason for this silence is that the left’s motives are rather ignoble: they know mass immigration is the best way to permanently alter a society they have always despised and, even better, gain advantage at the ballot box. This is why Sadiq Khan is mayor of London.

Aaronovitch has nothing to say in his article about the failure of multiculturalism – a central policy of the Left for decades – or Islamist terror atrocities such as the bomb attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, or the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan massacres in Paris. Nor does he address the decades-long rows about racism and culture that, however much reform occurs, just become more toxic and inflamed.

He makes no mention of the liberalisation of drug use and all the miseries, disease and squalid untimely deaths it has caused and continues to cause. Many police forces have unofficially decriminalised drug use and prosecutions for cannabis have plummeted by 75 per cent over the past decade. That is why you can smell skunk in every urban area and is surely one reason that mental health problems, such as psychosis, are increasing. Yet the Left have wanted drug use to be decriminalised for years. Young people meet dreadful deaths because adult authority has abdicated its responsibilities in the matter.

In crime progressive ideas have generally led to more transgression, not less – unless of course you abolish the offence, as we are seeing with drug crime.

For instance Aaronovitch deplores capital punishment but the fact must be faced that homicides rose steadily after the shadow of the noose was removed from criminal affairs. Government figures tell the tale. In 1955, the year he mentions in which Ruth Ellis was hanged for shooting her boyfriend dead in North London, there were 279 homicides in England and Wales. In 1966, the year after capital punishment was suspended, there were 364, a rise of 30 per cent. In 1970, the year after its abolition, there were 393. By the late Seventies the homicide figures were running at more than 500 a year. By 2002 there were 1,047 – a 275 per cent rise. In the year to March 2019 there were 671. Many of these latter day killings will be of young people, caught in the knife, turf and drugs wars that rumble on around us, and which the police seem to merely contain and not fight.

I am largely against capital punishment but I feel that had it been left on the statute book for the occasional deserving monster, it would have maintained killing as a crime of enormous gravity in the eyes of criminals.

Pre-lockdown London was bedevilled with gang disorder – it also has one of the most politically correct police forces in the western world, led by Dame Cressida Dick, who blamed black street crime on middle class drug users – users the law says she could pursue and arrest but oddly enough did not, at least not on a scale commensurate with the problem she alleged they constituted. Before British institutions were captured by the Left Dame Cressida’s doublethink would have been exposed for the absurdity it is. Now it largely goes unremarked.

Political correctness, hackneyed term but as good as any synonym, is one of the liberal left’s prime weapons yet it has poisoned public debate and obstructed truth in an alarming number of areas. The Pakistani sex gangs scandal, when it was finally exposed and examined in a public inquiry, found that police forces and a Labour led council had conspired to cover up the abuse as they were afraid investigations would be perceived as racist. If that is not a case of dogma poisoning human affairs and creating injustice, I don’t know what is.

In terms of culture the Left’s prioritising of equality over talent, and dogma over standards has been ruinous. Whole areas of the arts are now wastelands of dreary propaganda fuelled by critical theory and endless ‘isms’ and leftist jargon – often paid for by the taxpayer as per socialist principles.  The Left’s rampant neophilia led it to embracing some of the ugliest architecture ever seen. In education it is committed to the mediocritising of talent and it exhibits a sinister and pathological desire for controlling what children learn that rivals all its criticisms of organisations such as the Catholic Church.

Woke culture continues the march on publishing begun by Marxist literary criticism long ago. Sensitivity readers are employed by publishers so that works of art do not offend anyone and appear models of political correctness. University reading lists junk the great texts of Western civilisation with drives to ‘decolonise’ education. Free speech is under attack everywhere in the West, and it is the leftists who are facilitating the onslaught.

Here Aaronovitch would likely say he represents a different strand of thinking to the college bawlers and Antifa headbangers. Certainly he is at his most agreeable when debunking conspiracy theories and nutter-left tropes about Jews, but he cannot escape the fact that these elements spring from his side of the argument, the idea that espouses ongoing social revolution, which of course he would call reform. All of today’s far-left craziness has sprung from the broad church of leftism and its prime human gearbox: resentment and hatred of others or the self. One hundred years ago Lenin was at least open about these motivations.

You may find the odd leftie who is prepared to admit that things have not gone entirely to plan, that the country is now less civilised, not more. But you will likely find that their answer to that is rather depressing. Question number of one of your socialist ‘O’ level paper is as follows: what is the answer to problems caused by socialism? Answer: more socialism. Public policy bears this out. Since the 7/7 terror attacks there has been nothing but a stepping up of immigration and multiculturalism.

The juggernaut is not stopping. The cultural revolutionaries are proud of themselves and they mark themselves on how annoyed non-leftists are. By this metric, they are flushed with success. Aaronovitch’s column is testament to that.

Take trans lunacy: will we, as Aaronovitch’s argument suggests, get used to pubertal children electing to change sex and being enabled to do so without their parents’ permission, as the trans lobby desires? Will we get used to a pluralised, terror-blighted society of ghettoised identity politics – another gift from the Left – in which  beheadings and stabbings are ‘part and parcel’ of life, as London’s Mayor Khan said in 2016. Perhaps we will, but in that case Aaronovitch’s argument starts to look less like the triumph of reason but that old observation that maintains that humans can get used to anything, however hellish.

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