So Long as There Are More Sinners Than Saints, There's Hope for the Tories

By Worsthorne, Peregrine | The Spectator, June 7, 1997 | Go to article overview

So Long as There Are More Sinners Than Saints, There's Hope for the Tories


Worsthorne, Peregrine, The Spectator


Inclusion' is what New Labour is all about. I have this on the best authority, that of Lord (Ralf) Dahrendorf, distinguished sociologist, warden of St Anthony's College, Oxford. `New Labour isn't actually about social justice at all,' he writes in the current Prospect, `it is about inclusion. In so far as there is a coherent approach, it is about accepting the competitive conditions which have been created, while at the same time paying more attention to inclusion.'

On first reading those words I was a bit baffled as to what 'inclusion' meant, vaguely supposing that it referred primarily to New Labour's plans to get the young unemployed included in the workforce. If that was the case, I concluded, it did not really mean very much, since by far the most effective way to do that was to continue the Conservative policy of allowing firms to offer them low wages and even less security. According to Lord Dahrendorf, however, inclusion means more than just being included in the workforce; it means inclusion on honourable terms. The young French unemployed, he argues, are more 'included', in spite of having no jobs, than are their young British equivalents who have bad jobs. For at least the state, by looking after them, recognises their worth as human beings, even if the market does not.

This could well be true. If inclusion is the top priority, then it probably is true. It may make no sense economically but it does socially. Something similar could be said about New Labour's plans to allow nonlawyers to have a say in the appointment of judges. It probably would not make the system of justice better, but it may well make the hitherto excluded groups feel that at long last they have a legal system of their own choosing. One is reminded of the old anti-colonial refrain about self-government, however bad, being better than alien government, however good. Probably most people prefer to be tried by a judge of their own kind who is legally less skilled and experienced than by a judge of a different kind who is legally more skilled and experienced.

New Labour intends to transform the House of Lords with the same broad purpose in mind. The intention is to get not so much a more skilled revising chamber than the present hereditary House of Lords as one from which the people feel less excluded. That, too, is the purpose behind devolution: to make the Scots and the Welsh feel more included. They may not get better government but at least it will be bad government of their own choosing.

So it is with New Labour's much-publicised intention to have a Christian-name Cabinet. The intention is not to improve the efficiency of British government. It is rather to reduce the difference between 'us' and 'them'; to bring the two closer together. New Labour's Cabinet, like New Labour's judges and New Labour's second chamber, will have less in common with the Crown but more in common with the people. Nor will this process of including the people in the great institutions end there. My guess is that what we have been promised so far is only a foretaste of things to come.

After citizen Cabinet ministers and citizen judges and citizen peers will come citizen chief constables. After all, if the public is to be given the right to have a say in who administers one aspect of the criminal justice system, why not in all aspects - a citizens' constabulary as well as a citizens' court of justice? And perhaps in the next parliament a citizens' army and a citizens' Church as well; even, eventually, as a crowning act of inclusion, a citizens' monarch.

No, I am not joking. …

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