Friday, June 23, 2006

The blue-rinse maiden aunt

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News. You can find a fuller extract from Roger Scruton's memoirs on my anthology blog Serendib.

Bad News

Child pornography. Binge drinking. Under-age drinking. Paedophiles. Rape. Knives. Sexual assault. That was the bill of fare on Monday.

If you believed everything you heard in the Commons, you would be sure Britain is going to hell in a handcart – or to the dogs at very least. Fortunately, life is never as black as it’s painted at home office questions.

It’s not just that the British Crime Survey shows the number of offences is falling: it’s that ministers insist on putting the worst slant on anything to do with the subject.

Take the fact Joan Ryan unwrapped: “The majority of 10 to 17-year-olds who have drunk alcohol in the past 12 months reported that they had obtained that alcohol from their parents.”

She was obviously proud of this. We were supposed to find it striking – even shocking. Yet a little thought reveals it is good news.

As the Tory Andrew Turner pointed out – and another minister Tom McNulty agreed – the best place for children to learn to drink is in the home. Would Ryan rather they learnt it from their friends?

But leaving parents to raise children as they think best is the one thing New Labour cannot do. Hence Ryan’s confusion at the dispatch box.

* * *

With all this talk of the Conservatives’ ‘A List’, let’s look at how they used to conduct things. In his Gentle Regrets, the Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton recalls his attempts to become a candidate.

He found himself confronted with: “A veteran Member of Parliament, Dame Something Something, who conformed exactly to the image of the blue-rinse maiden aunt.”

She looked him up and down “with angry sniffs” as he answered her questions. What had he done for the Party. Had he joined the Young Conservatives? Spoken in Union debates? Attended Party Conferences?”

Scruton had done none of this. Instead, he told her, he had founded the Conservative Philosophy Group, reviewed for the Spectator and written a book on aesthetics.

“Her stare became suddenly vacant. She closed the file containing my application and turned to her colleague, a young MP who had remained silent throughout, occasionally sending out a pitying glance in my direction.

“‘I suppose he could apply for this new European Parliament thing, could he?’”

1 comment:

Simon said...

When reading Gentle Regrets, it was the bit about the dog that worried me most. That and the fact that Roger Scruton is just the public face of his internal alter-ego, Vernon. A strange man.

Amusingly, I read it as part of a book club with old university friends, most of whom are Tories. Curiously enough, Scruton's lament for England left some of them somewhere between rather cold and questioning whether they were Tories at all....