Friday, 14th November 2008
Twenty years ago, I started writing about the breakdown of the family, the systematic undermining of moral constraints and the ascendancy of ‘lifestyle choice’, a doctrine which forbade condemnation of any lifestyle as harmful. Non judgmentalism was now mandatory; the only judgment to be permitted henceforth was that judgment was discriminatory, and only disapproval was to be disapproved of. Stigma and shame were considered an affront to individual rights; disapproval of adultery or elective lone parenthood, for example, were dismissed as ‘Old Testament fundamentalism’.
During the past two decades, I warned repeatedly that the fragmentation of family life was in general a source of pain, damage and acute danger for children in particular but also the women in whose name modern feminists were promoting female independence from men; that mass fatherlessness was creating deserts of depravity and highly damaged children who were growing up to become highly damaged parents; that the collapse of social and moral controls was destroying the most fundamental values of civilised behaviour, with individuals raised in such emotional and moral chaos that they were incapable even of feeling the empathy with other people that is the very foundation of social relationships of the most basic kind; and that the welfare system was actually incentivising such wholesale destruction of individual lives and society itself.
Then as now, I was scorned and vilified by the ‘progressive ‘ intelligentsia. I had become reactionary, right-wing, ultra-right-wing, a harker-back to some mythical golden age of the fifties, a moraliser, an extremist, a bigot, a fascist, demented. Bien-pensant opinion spoke with one voice. Progressive politics meant the freedom to behave exactly as one wished in pursuit of instant gratification, and to destroy all external constraints, both formal and cultural, which got in the way. Anyone who, like me, spoke of the essential civilising force of stigma and shame in providing crucial informal constraints on the infliction of harm was demonised as a throwback to a cruel age of social ostracism. Government policy, egged on by activist judges who deliberately voided family law of ‘moral judgments’ on the basis that that there was no right or wrong in family life because it was always just too complicated to untangle, accordingly penalised marriage, rewarded adultery, further incentivised lone parenthood and systematically normalised irregular relationships.
Wickedly, to cover its tracks that same political/intellectual class stopped breaking down official information about household violence according to married/unmarried status so that it became impossible to show what previously official statistics had clearly demonstrated: that women and children are at vastly greater risk of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of unmarried and unrelated men passing through the household (a recent US study found, children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents). Indeed, we have now reached the point where official forms increasingly fail to use terms such as ‘mother and father’ or ‘parents’ in favour of the non-discriminatory euphemisms of informal ‘relationships’. Britain has simply written orderly, married, normative family life out of the script.
I also wrote years ago about the institutionalised incompetence of social work, in the grip of a political correctness so extreme that it was wholly incapable of responding to situations on the facts that plainly presented themselves, with catastrophic results. From the death of Maria Colwell in 1973 inquiry after inquiry has been convened, made recommendations and been ignored as atrocity has followed atrocity on the social workers’ watch. Then as now the same excuses were made - that social workers were under-funded, under-resourced, under-trained, under pressure, damned if they did and damned if they didn’t, unsung heroes who should not be condemned just because, hey, from time to time a child was sadistically abused or tortured to death on their watch, it was all the fault of government penny-pinching, we’re all guilty, etc etc. Then as now I was vilified as a heartless social worker-basher, extreme right-wing lunatic etc etc.
And now we can all see the truly terrible results. This week we have been presented with the life, systematic torture and death of baby P, a case so harrowing that many of us can hardly bear to read the details and cannot do so without weeping.
We read that he died at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger. We read that the mother expressed no remorse and boasted she will be free by Christmas. We read that she had another child while she was in jail.
We read that the Director of Children’s Services at Haringey council has refused to apologise and insisted that no-one was to blame, despite evidence that social workers ignored doctors and three employees had received written warnings.
We read that four government ministers were warned that Haringey council’s child protection service was out of control seven months before baby P’s death – by a council whistleblower who was sacked and gagged for issuing this warning and who is prevented by court injunction from giving evidence to the official inquiry into the baby P case.
We read commentators falling over themselves to express horror, shock, revulsion, incredulity, outrage. Where have they all been these past two decades? We read of political point-scoring and righteous indignation at the political point-scoring.
Of course the political point scoring is obscene. Of course the book should be thrown at Haringey council.
But we also read this week of another household in Manchester where a baby and his two year-old brother were stabbed to death by a mother suffering from mental illness.
And we read of Shannon Matthews’ mother and her boyfriend’s uncle, on trial for abducting that poor child and keeping her locked up in order to extract a reward for her safe return.
The truth is that it is all far, far too late. Britain has simply undone the fabric of civilised life. And the most bitter reproach of all must be for the people at whose door the ultimate responsibility for this catastrophic state of affairs must really be laid -- not the wretched politicians, not the council officials or Ofsted inspectors or other negligent or incompetent professionals, not even the sadists who actually killed baby P or who murder or maim countless other children, but the amoral and criminally self-regarding so-called ‘progressive’ intelligentsia, who have bullied, smeared, intimidated and manipulated Britain into a truly dark age of barbarism.