Fraser Nelson

Flight’s loose tongue

Flight's loose tongue
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Has Howard Flight just done a Keith Joseph? The latter’s run for Tory leader ended when he made a speech about poor people breeding.  As David said earlier, plain speaking can have its problems. But Flight’s danger is in being mistranslated. He sought to make a simple point: that many working families can't afford to expand their families, while the state provides a substantial cash incentive for those on benefits to do so. But his use of the word “breeding” sounds like he’s into eugenics, and the language – talking about the poor – sounds dodgier still. Given his struggle with foot-in-mouth disease, it’s surprising that Cameron ennobled him.  But still, his quote is a far cry from what Joseph said in Edgbaston. Which was:

"The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened. A recent article in Poverty, published by the Child Poverty Action Group, showed that a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world and bring them up. They are born to mother who were first pregnant in adolescence in social classes 4 and 5. Many of these girls are unmarried, many are deserted or divorced or soon will be. Some are of low intelligence, most of low educational attainment. They are unlikely to be able to give children the stable emotional background, the consistent combination of love and firmness which are more important than riches. They are producing problem children, the future unmarried mothers, delinquents, denizens of our borstals, sub-normal educational establishments, prisons, hostels for drifters. Yet these mothers, the under-twenties in many cases, single parents, from classes 4 and 5, are now producing a third of all births. A high proportion of these births are a tragedy for the mother, the child and for us."

“those men who through general defects are unable to fill such a whole place in industry, are to be recognised as “unemployable”. They must become the acknowledged dependents of the State... but with complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights — including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.”

“the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists”

Flight has not strayed into these waters, but his language was loose enough for people to make out as if he did. That’s politics. If he had a job, he’d probably be sacked right now. But when it comes to eugenics, it is the left who have worse form on this. To me, Flight’s problem was referring to those on the top rate of tax as being the middle class. They are the top 3 million of Britain’s 30 million income earners. They may not feel rich, very few do, but there is a difference between the middle and the richest tenth.

PS - Dennis Sewell wrote an excellent article about the left and Eugenics for the magazine, here.