A plague on the new Puritans
Tories beware! Roundheads are infiltrating the party of the Cavaliers. The six new MPs (Letters, 13 August) who issued a tirade against contemporary decadence claim to be ‘unencumbered by the political baggage of the past’. They are not, for they sing an old song. Their proposed new moral order is full of the dire warnings and prohibitions dear to the heart of Cromwell and his Puritans. Nothing less than a return to the bleak years of the ‘Rule of the Saints’ is proposed.
New moral gendarmeries succeeded the Puritans, all self-appointed moral elites who assumed the right to tell others what to do, read and think. The Society for the Suppression of Vice sniffed out licentiousness in Regency Britain, and Thomas Bowdler purged Shakespeare of anything that might bring a blush to a maiden’s cheek. Victorian purity campaigners patrolled the music halls, bishops predicted that a decadent Britain would go the way of Rome, and local councillors censored ‘naughty’ postcards and deplored diminishing swimwear.
Now the killjoy sextet has embraced the tradition of meddling with and curtailing the pleasures of others. They should be ignored. Rather, the Tories should revive their cavalier spirit and offer themselves to voters as the party that will leave them alone to enjoy themselves in whatever ways they choose. It will have better fortunes as the party of Squire Weston than that of Mrs Grundy.
The letter penned by Messrs Binley, Bone, Burrowes, Davies, Goodwill and Harper concerning the abject liberal concepts that dominate this nation’s politicians with the appalling consequences witnessed daily is in some ways refreshingly bold. The fact of the matter is that Bible-believing Christians have been critical of liberal policies for decades, but are marginalised and ignored and spoken of in pejorative terms. Is it not time that consideration is given to the conservative moral views of this ‘native ethnic minority’ for a change?
Fraser K. Turner
It is hard to know which is the more depressing: the woolliness of the thinking of John Hayes (‘Muslims are right about Britain’, 6 August) and his young acolyte MPs or the woolliness of their language. Words matter, and the unthinking elision of the liberal with the socialist Left is as mistaken as it is dangerous. There is nothing liberal about socialism, and there never was. High-minded egalitarian ideals are all very well, but in a free society they can only be achieved by social engineering of the most illiberal kind.
It is, after all, not the Conservatives who snipe away at the institution of the monarchy and the authority of Parliament; who play fast and loose with ancient freedoms and the common law; who distrust free speech and freedom of thought — for there is nothing liberal about political correctness; who would selectively do away with habeas corpus and trial by jury; who have brought in hate crime, house arrest and internment without trial; who have corrupted state education and our common sense of history; who have banned hunting, and would ban shooting, smoking and anything else that moves; and who increase the dependency of the individual upon the state at every turn. When socialists vaunt their liberal principles, we should laugh in their faces.
Far from unthinkingly blaming our present ills on a ‘liberal establishment’ that does not exist, true Conservatives should rather pride themselves on being the only liberals left.
Conservatives, and I number myself one, should be wary of endorsing any Muslim’s accusation of our society as decadent. It is hard to imagine ideas more decadent than those trumpeted by Islamists in regard to the treatment of women, the treatment of homosexuals, and the treatment of those they term infidels. In comparison with these ideas, binge-drinking, Big Brother and petty lawlessness aren’t even on the scale. Conservatives and our Liberal and Labour opponents should all be proud of their contribution to our liberal society.
As a small ‘c’ conservative, I submit that the kind of ‘freedom’ currently being exercised so gleefully by the powerful men and women who run the advertising, print and broadcasting media urgently needs to be curbed either through state-run censorship or a new legal framework, or both. Yes, Big Brother and its kind should be taken off the air. Pornographic films like Nine Songs should not be given general release. The advertising trade, which has the power to put obscene advertisements along the public highway, should stop being allowed to regulate itself. In general, the large, and growing, section of the free market which takes a free ride on human sexuality and emotion should be called to account. It is we, and in particular our children, who pay the price for the damage done by cynical financial interests which fill their pockets while daring us to challenge their right to free expression.
Regime change in Iran
Bruce Anderson (‘Let them build nukes’, 13 August) writes that neither military force nor sanctions are feasible means of rolling back Iran’s nuclear advances. He may be right. But Mr Anderson also hastens to discount the potential power of Iran’s liberal opposition, based largely on its performance in the June elections.
That would be a mistake. Iran’s opposition groups may indeed be outgunned. But with the proper external support, they could yet develop into an alternative to that country’s repressive and unpopular theocracy. Because, as Mr Anderson points out, ten years from now Iran will assuredly be a nuclear power. The question is whether that nuclear Iran will be governed by a regime that considers itself to be at war with the United States and the West.
Considering how much is riding on the outcome, empowering regime alternatives is certainly an option worth trying.
Vice-President for Policy
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC
Yes, Bruce Anderson, it is dangerous to try to stop aggressive fundamentalist terror-exporting fascists obtaining nuclear arms. It was also dangerous trying to stop Hitler.
Death in Dresden
Andrew Kenny (Letters, 13 August) repeats the long-held belief that the bombing of Dresden caused more deaths than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was not so: terrible as the raid on Dresden was, it now seems certain that it caused the deaths of between 25,000 and, at most, 40,000 people, rather than the figure of 100,000 or more which was for so long the received belief; the ‘official’ figure has been 35,000 since 1955. The full evidence is authoritatively set out in Appendix B of Frederick Taylor’s Dresden, published in 2004.
How to grow democracy
In your leading article last week you highlight the problems when you say: ‘If the Shias, the Sunnis and the Kurds can resolve their differences …’. Let’s all hope that they can, but hope will not build a lasting democratic state; it took us centuries of civil strife to build ours, to sort out and accept the balance of power and to come to terms with the checks and balances needed for a democratic society to function. Our democracy was not imposed from on top; it grew from beneath, well-rooted in our culture.
The religious and racial tensions ever-present in Iraq and unleashed by the ill-advised invasion could take generations to resolve, and the result could be that our soldiers might need to stay there for a long time; and while they are there, real power will not devolve to the Iraqi government, and dissatisfaction with the West will continue to grow.
Luddism and the greens
George Monbiot (Letters, 13 August) misses the point of my article, which is that the rock of modern environmentalism is infused with a thick anti-scientific and Luddite vein. Of course technology will not solve all our problems. Of course there are terrible dangers involved with nuclear power, and of course many of these proposed technologies will not work. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give them a try. People like Monbiot want to turn the world back to some sort of mythical pre-technological nirvana. A nirvana where we will all starve.
Mind you, for what it’s worth, I share some of his misgivings about hydrogen fuel cells — they will only ‘work’, in an environmental and economic sense, if we can find some cheap way of generating and transporting hydrogen without producing carbon dioxide.
British isn’t always best
Mark Steyn (‘All men are not equal’, 13 August) is very entertaining indeed. But as a Dutchman I feel somewhat put down by his pro-British stance. The Dutch legacy in Indonesia is not something to be proud of and indeed Malaysia has fared much better. On the other hand, Nigeria and Zimbabwe are bad examples of what the British have left behind. The British legacy in matters of law and literature is an aspect of their culture we should admire. But let us not also forget what the Jewish, Germanic and Roman cultures have brought us in terms of music and painting (aspects of culture on which the British have had less impact). The impact of French administration and government on Western societies and some colonies should not be ruled out, either.
Clifton Beach, Australia
Mark Steyn’s article reminded me of a Flanders and Swann song which was popular in the 1950s, the chorus of which went:
The British, the British, the British are best;
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.
This was sung at full volume, with strong emphasis on ‘tuppence’.
Feasting on perch
Simon Courtauld in his Food for Thought column (‘Perchance to eat’, 13 August) seems unaware that in the second world war, perch were caught and canned in Windermere as part of the war effort. The operation was based at Wray Castle and the product in oval cans was marketed as ‘Windermere Perchines’. Excellent too. The Fresh Water Biological Association had its roots in this patriotic effort. As children in the Lake District in wartime Britain we often caught perch on simple bamboo rods, using minnows as bait. We ate the fillets rolled in oatmeal and cooked gently in bacon fat, or poached in a little milk. A great breakfast, only bettered by trout caught with a worm bait.