Today’s lesson – and dire prediction of grief for the Tory Party to come – is drawn from the pages of Wikipedia. They tell us:
Family values was a recurrent theme in the Conservative government of John Major. It caused considerable embarrassment whenever a member of the Government was found to be having an affair. John Major himself, the architect of the policy, was subsequently found to have had an affair with Edwina Currie.
I make no apology for citing so oft-derided a source. Wikipedia, it strikes me, performs much the same function as Bowdler’s guides, which provided a populist and much-simplified skim through complicated plots (and thereby gave rise to the term “bowdlerisation”).
If you want to know what people think they know about a subject, wiki is as good a place to start as any. Also worth a mention is Back to Basics, which wikipedia also tackles, describing it as an initiative
intended to focus on issues of law and order, education and public probity (especially single mothers)
OK. I seem to remember piggy-backing on that slogan myself, using it in the somewhat dryer context of data analysis as a precursor to urging organisations to improve the quality of their data collection and validation. But that feels like less a hostage to fortune than John Major’s use of same.
If you weren’t around then, the result (thanks, again, wikipedia), was that the Tory Party was “ridiculed by political opponents”. It adds:
The campaign also gave the tabloid media the opportunity to expose perceived immoral activities within the Conservatives themselves with a series of articles as perceived hypocritical Tory “sleaze” came to light.
Do i need to draw the lesson more clearly?
A lot of the outrage i have read in the last week or so at supposedly “liberal” contemplation of the rioting is based on the straw man argument that we are thereby trying to “justify” what went down in our bigger cities. That somehow, us bleeding heart liberals are mere moral relativists, seeking to prove that rioting is OK.
Oh, dear. No.
I have two problems with the government’s response to date. First, in a lot of ways, i agree with Cameron. It IS a values thing – and society IS broken. The problem is that the break in values is not just something afflicting the viler chavvier elements of society: its a top to bottom thing.
Its a simple loss of faith in the idea that law and order are neutral qualities, applied equally at all levels within society. Time and time and time again over the last couple of years, we have read about how “those who have” have sought to have more by riding roughshod over our laws, stealing, hacking, lying – and doing so with the apparently full co-operation with the police.
I’m sure i am not the only person to have gasped in amazed respect at the sheer bare-faced cheek of the Sun, this week, demanding that the law be applied swiftly and hard to anyone found guilty of breaking it. Unless, perhaps, hostilities between the Sun Editorial team and News International management run deeper even than we imagined.
Second, as someone with some pretty opinionated views on spin, this whole campaign sounds and feels like car crash waiting to happen. It really makes no odds whether what Cameron and Johnson et al got up to in the rarefied confines of the Bullingdon Club was precisely as bad as the rioting we’ve just seen.
Memories will fade: and as specifics of the riots recede into the background, the most that the public will remember is a) that Cameron wants anyone guilty of anti-social behaviour to pay the price and b) that the Tories have loads of anti-social and criminal skeletons in their own cupboards.
You read it here first (or early). Any journalist worth her salt will now be researching what the Tories get up to in their spare time, and the slightest hint of bad behaviour will be news as well as evidence of a society broken from the top down.
Nice try, Dave, but you have only yourself to blame.