Magazine article The Spectator

As Funny as an Abattoir

Magazine article The Spectator

As Funny as an Abattoir

Article excerpt

SILLY people, the sort who take nothing seriously except themselves, think that political correctness is a joke. In fact it is about as funny as an abattoir. Those of us who have faced it head on - publishers refusing a book on unashamedly political grounds, microphones switched off in midspeech to please a baying mob, that sort of thing - know better. Political correctness, more accurately termed 'modern liberal orthodoxy', is the fulfilment of George Orwell's most accurate and least noted prophecy, in the Newspeak chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four, that the best way to stamp out thought is to make it impossible to say or write certain things. Then it becomes impossible to think them and conformity is guaranteed for ever and ever.

That is the first and most important objection to Matthew Parris's attempt to manufacture a conservative mirror-image of PC. He thinks, or claims to think, that there exists some sort of Tory orthodoxy which punishes, rejects and ostracises those who fail to use a special type of language.

I don't know how Mr Parris has reached this conclusion. The most hilarious part of his essay are the words 'we on the Right'. If he is on the Right, then I must be on the Left, for I am assuredly not where he is. His portrait of the 'Politically Sound' is culled not from any real understanding of how conservative people think and talk, but, apparently, from Mr Craig Brown's parody, The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold, which, I must hasten to inform him, is meant to be a joke. He should not be confused by the fact that Mr Arnold has an entry in no's Who. This is also meant to be a joke.

Conservatives differ, often on the very issues where he claims we are orthodox. Some of them still revere the disastrous buffoon John Major. Some of them continue to bray that Tony Blair has 'stolen all our policies'. Some loathe fox-hunting; others couldn't care less about it. Many profoundly disapprove, as I do, of Enoch Powell's squalid 'Rivers of Blood' speech. Some think, as I do, that the Kosovo war was wrong and disgraceful; others applaud it. I am still ashamed of the way a Conservative government treated the coalminers who bravely refused to follow Arthur Scargill. I devoted a large chunk of a recent book to attacks on Lady Thatcher. Conservatives who disagree with all these views still speak to me and treat me civilly, and I respond in kind - though, as a member of Britain's extremely small Cornish-Jewish minority, I might make an exception for any anti-Semites I chance to meet.

On the other hand, former friends and acquaintances on the Left, with a few shining exceptions, actively disapprove of me because they believe my opinions are a character fault. We have quietly and tactfully drifted apart because of their belief that I am now a wicked person. Occasionally, a shared loathing for Blairist humbug has brought us back together, but one must be careful not to stray too far into other subjects. There would be doubt, hesitation and pain.

Some, just like Mr Parris, are annoyed because I won't say 'gay'. Like most sensible people, I long ago gave up arguing about the theft of a valuable word. I won't use it because it implies an opinion on homosexuality which I don't hold. But that does not mean I use the Q-word, which seems to me to be a coarse and intolerant expression. Nor do I readily accept the campaigning, prescriptive expression 'homophobia'. …

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