Amanda Platell: The new moral correctness

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

Share
Related Topics

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?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick