When it comes to sex, Britain now seems to be gripped by a dangerous form of schizophrenia. On the one hand, there is mounting panic over the issue of paedophilia, where a media-driven climate of hysteria means that even the mere allegation of child abuse can be enough to destroy careers and wreck lives. Yet, on the other hand, we have a youth culture that is obsessed with sex. In the relentless promotion of adolescent sexual freedom, all moral boundaries have disappeared, pornography has been brought into the mainstream and the law on the age of consent is derided or ignored.
It is this grotesque double standard which makes the witch hunt against the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly so sickening. In recent days she has faced a barrage of calls for her resignation over claims that, through her incompetence, she has allowed an army of child abusers to be employed in our schools. ‘How many more perverts?’ howls the Sun, leading the tabloid pack against Kelly.
But, instead of focusing their rage on Kelly, the self-appointed guardians of public morality should examine their own role in helping to build a modern Britain where childhood innocence has vanished, youthful promiscuity is rampant and young women are told that flesh-baring exhibitionism and availability are ‘empowering’. For the downmarket tabloids to pose as the champions of decency is like Robert Maxwell claiming to be the protector of our pensions.
Apart from the hypocrisy, what is equally disturbing is the way that the furore over child abuse has undermined any concept of natural justice. Along with racism, paedophilia has been elevated into one of the most sinister crimes of our age, so that normal rules about the presumption of innocence, judicial fairness or rehabilitation of offenders no longer apply.