Amanda Platell: The new moral correctness

I have an opinion about the Blunkett affair. And why shouldn't I share it
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The Independent Online

The alleged affair between David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Kimberly Fortier, the publisher of The Spectator, was - over the past week - either the love that dare not speak its name, or something not worth reporting at all, depending on which newspaper you read.

The alleged affair between David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Kimberly Fortier, the publisher of The Spectator, was - over the past week - either the love that dare not speak its name, or something not worth reporting at all, depending on which newspaper you read.

While the red tops and middle-market papers have had a field day, some of the serious papers have either ignored the whole saga, writing elliptically about the issues of privacy surrounding it without referring to the story, or run cloyingly affectionate pieces about the Home Secretary under such headlines as "Lothario, no: but he is a romantic". The FT manages to get the best of both worlds in this weekend's edition with a front-page picture of Blunkett and an inside piece salaciously headed "The truth about sex scandals".

Radio 4's treatment of the affair - which has to rate as one of the oddest couplings since John Major showed Edwina Currie his big blue pants - is symptomatic of the moral dilemma. It was first mentioned at 6.15am on Monday on Todayat the end of the informal newspaper roundup. By the more formal 6.45am newspaper review, it was gone.

I don't remember Today cowering behind issues of privacy when the story of the Major/Currie affair broke. However, the BBC and most broadsheets, the intellectual end of our media, did not know what to do with the story not because they found themselves lost inside some moral maze of privacy and public interest, but because our society is suffering from an acute moral malaise.

We feel we cannot pass judgement, that - except in simple cases of murder or paedophilia - there are no clear rules upon which to judge anyone's behaviour any more, especially their sexual behaviour.

And as with all things that begin with the best of intentions, our tolerant, liberal society is now almost devoid of moral structure. In its place is a new moral correctness, where we dare not pass judgement for fear of offending a particular group, type of people or sexual behaviour.

Just as political correctness began as a proper awareness of the sensibilities of minority or socially disadvantaged groups and became a baton with which to virtually bludgeon the majority of decent people in this country, so moral correctness has robbed us of our ability to judge.

And it is tragic that the worst of what we are now stems from the best of what we were. One of our greatest national traits was tolerance, yet it has led to a society that is becoming increasingly intolerant for the majority, the despised white, middle- class majority.

I was at a dinner party recently and one of the guests mentioned that George Michael's long-term lover had just come out of a rehab clinic, where he was treated for alcohol abuse. I said I thought that the fact that they had an open relationship and Michael often boasted in print about his ability to pick up and have sex with a stranger anywhere, anytime must have taken its toll on the relationship.

I was howled down. You can't make judgements about gay relation- ships, I was told. They have different sexual mores.

But being gay does not place a human being on a different moral plane. If one of my woman friends was in a long-term relationship yet going out and sleeping with a different stranger each night, I'd say that was wrong, too. Yet my reaction was not morally correct.

If we were to assume it to be true that Blunkett had conducted a three-year affair during which his married girlfriend was pregnant with not one but two children, one at least to her husband, would not many of us feel a tiny bit of revulsion?

Yet how many of us felt we had the right to express that? No, instead, we read about what a romantic Blunkett is, what a great guy deserving of happiness.

Well, a lot of people say that of Kimberly Fortier's husband, Stephen Quinn, but he doesn't get a look in.

For some reason I can't fathom - it is certainly not the case in other sophisticated democracies such as the US, France, Germany, Canada and, dare I include, Australia - the Brits are full of something approaching self-loathing.

This was perfectly illustrated by author and Booker Prize judge Tibor Fischer last week, when he discussed the nature of the hundred-plus books he had to read for what is arguably the most important literary prize in the English-speaking world.

Asking what he had learnt from his readings, he said: "Distaste for the middle class was one common denominator ... it was curious to see how the middle class (particularly the white, home-counties middle class) got clobbered: racist, xenophobic, child killers or just generally evil. Any prostitute, beggar, asylum-seeker or non-Caucasian was likely to have a heart of gold."

And therein lies the problem. At the core of our society, at it cleverest, most thoughtful, most intelligent end, we are full of self-loathing. And people who don't value what they are lose the ability to judge themselves or others.

We also suffer from an acute case of majority guilt. We feel, as we are the majority, that we must give greater weight to minority values. What a peculiar and counterintuitive position for a society to adopt.

Our ambivalence towards heterosexual marriage is so institutionalised that we had a case last week where Greenwich Council decreed that a boy of three and his two-year-old half-sister must be adopted by a lesbian couple because their mother was involved in a same-sex relationship.

This is not political correctness gone mad, it's the new moral correctness. Believing that the best place for a child to be raised is in a loving home with a mother and a father should not be in dispute. Nor should that belief in any way rule out gay couples from adopting. The two beliefs can coexist.

But just as I accept as a single woman that any child would be better off being adopted by a traditional couple than by me, the same must be true for a gay couple.

Yet we feel incapable of saying such things for fears of appearing homophobic or just plain old-fashioned, and as such not part of the sophisticated new liberal morality.

One of the problems, especially when it comes to sexual morality, is that because so many of us have broken the rules in our own lives we feel it is inappropriate to judge others by a gold standard that we couldn't meet ourselves.

But the logical consequence of that is that we are left with no standards. However much sympathy we have for the participants in the Blunkett-Fortier saga, if having a long-term affair with a married, pregnant mother is not wrong, then what is?

What are we to teach our children about the importance of marriage, partnership, family and fidelity if we cannot point to the Blunkett affair and say, simply and without equivocation, it is wrong?

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