Sunday, 3 February 2013

The 'Civilised Society'

In 1965 Roy Jenkins began reforms billed the 'civilised society'; 48 years forward the Tories still seem to have problems with it

Civilised: adjective - meaning 'Showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement; humane, ethical, and reasonable'

Roy Jenkins back in 1965 oversaw as home secretary the legalisation of homosexuality, abortion and ended censorship of the theatres. His point went much further, the broader picture was one of normative change. That is, behavioural change at a broad society-wide level - till you reach the tipping point and such attitudes as went before become 'taboo'. Now back in the 1960s, the journey only began and we need to fast-forward 48 years to see the final pieces of the legislative (though not normative) struggle being completed.

Equal civil marriage is obvious, at least for those of us able to understand that apartheid and segregationist principles are always wrong. Not just ethically, but also practicably.  

In 1965 Roy Jenkins explained that the importance of legislating to end racial discrimination was as important as legalising abortion and homosexuality. And here in 2013 the final legislative acts to enshrine the principles of equal rights are verging on enacting (at least for homosexuals, note the work still to be done to legislatively enshrine transgendered rights). You would be forgiven for thinking at this point the primary battle going forward is to complete the normative shift in social attitudes. You'd be wrong. Here in 2013 over 130 Tory MPs are threatening to vote against equal marriage, including cabinet ministers. 

Naturally they shall be defeated, just like the haters in 1965 were defeated - in a permanent way. Yet isn't it worth pondering that a vast bulk of Tory representatives, and supporters are still waging a war against Jenkins 'civilised society' 48 years on? Doesn't this suggest to you that Call-me-Dave 'modernisation' isn't so much to pull the Tories into the 21st Century, but to yank them into the last one?

Tebbit once accused Jenkins of having given birth to the 'permissive' society. Jenkins in true style retorted to the contrary, he gave birth to 'the civilised society'; and asked why the Tories never repealed his legislation if it were "so poor". The answer is simple, even the Tory leadership released back then that times had shifted. Today Jenkins hopes for civil society to progress toward a socially liberal position has been realised; for the most part. Once more, the questions are being levelled at the Tories. And once more, they are being found wanting. 

Question for all of you, is the Tory antics over equal civil marriage demonstrative of  'showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement; humane, ethical, and reasonable'? 

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