Until the mid 1950s the main divide in British politics was based on economics. The right broadly supported free enterprise and low taxes whilst the left promoted varying degrees of state control and increased public spending. Class was also an important factor in politics with Labour tending to represent the interests of the working class and the Conservatives that of the middle class. Cultural and social issues did not appear prominently in the mainstream political discourse. Women had been given the vote on an equal basis to men by the end of the 1920s, and there was little agitation for government to pursue issues of social reform, or to become involved in the personal lifestyle or behaviour of its citizens, so long as they stayed within the law.
The first break with this outlook came on education when the Labour party started to support the creation of comprehensive schools, and the abolition of grammar schools and selective education. It was argued that selection at eleven was unfair as it branded as failures for life the majority of children who took the eleven plus exam. Moreover, it was also claimed to be socially divisive as it provided working class children with an inferior education to that of the middle class. For those on the left the main concern shifted away from providing educational excellence towards egalitarianism, in which the encouragement of academic ability became subordinate to social engineering.
This period was long before the left openly started to play the victim card or even before they started to coin pejorative words in order to silence their opponents. But as their confidence grew, and as grammar schools were abolished, they branded supporters of selective schools as 'elitist'. In the liberals warped parallel universe it became 'elitist' for middle class parents to want a sound academic education for their children. Instead of' 'grammar schools for all' as promised, what most children received instead was an education on a par with that provided by secondary moderns, but without the discipline. The only exceptions were better off parents who could buy their way into the catchment areas of successful schools. So instead of selection by ability we ended up with selection by parental income, resulting in a noticeable drop in social mobility. It was not unreasonable to have as an objective the provision of a sound education for all pupils, but not at the expense of dragging down children with academic ability, particularly those from a working class background.
The next pillar to crumble was national identity and self government through the growth of various supra-national projects. The most meddlesome were the European Economic Community (later European Union) and the European Court of Human Rights. To begin with support for these organisations came from the broad centre ground of British politics. The original six countries that joined the EEC, also known as the Common Market, enjoyed spectacular growth in the 1950s and 1960s. British governments, on the other hand, were criticised for their stop-go economic policies. Joining the EEC was seen as a panacea for boosting economic growth and the standard of living.
Politicians and the media were beguiled by the economic success of the six EEC countries. In their eagerness to be part of the action they overlooked the small print of 'ever closer union'. Britain joined in 1973 and the British people voted to remain in the 1975 referendum which was almost entirely confined to economic arguments. The Tories were always more enthusiastic about membership than Labour until the late 1980s following the Bruges speech of Margaret Thatcher. At about the same time Labour became more favourably disposed when the then EU President Jacques Delors pointed out that the EU could deliver social and employment rights which the Tories were blocking. Many Tory MPs interpreted this as introducing socialism 'through the back door'.
During the period of Tony Blair's premiership EU membership became a cornerstone of his 'progressive' agenda and opponents were dismissed as 'Little Englanders'. Left wing activists fondly believe in the moral superiority of international institutions empowered to control what they see as the rampant ugliness of nationalistic sentiments. The power and reach of the EU continued to expand, a process that in theory could continue indefinitely, leaving national governments as nothing more than mere agents or cyphers of this supra-national behemoth.
Liberals had come to realise that once an EU law had become established it became almost impossible to reverse it. Thus they could impose their social and equalities agenda through the EU bureaucracy rather than the more risky public and parliamentary debate route, which might later be overturned with a change of government. The end objective was government and control by a morally superior technocratic elite leaving only the facade of democratic accountability. Greater co-operation between European countries and the avoidance of war are noble objectives, but wilfully destroying nation states, parliamentary democracy and national identity is most certainly not the best way to achieve them.
With the arrival into Britain of large number of third world immigrants from 1948, liberals were presented with a huge opportunity to demonstrate their moral superiority. Yet to begin with it was Labour MPs who first flagged up concern about 'coloured' immigration, as it was their constituents who were first impacted by this new development. The Conservative government of the time casually dismissed their concerns on the grounds that the numbers were low, it was believed that most would return home after a few years, and to take action might stir up trouble with Commonwealth leaders. However, following the Notting Hill riots in the late 1950s, the Conservatives finally started to address the matter by removing the automatic right of entry of Commonwealth citizens. For this they were denounced by the Labour leadership, although when Labour achieved power a few years later they tightened entry requirements rather than reverse them.
In Government Labour introduced race relations legislation to prevent discrimination on racial grounds for public services. This was the background to Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech where he condemned governments for allowing open ended large scale third world immigration into Britain. For his pains he was sacked from the shadow cabinet by Tory leader Edward Heath for the 'racialist' tone of his speech. By the late 1960s left wing activists had coined the word 'racist' to denounce anyone questioning the wisdom of large scale immigration. To begin with the sin of 'racism' was considered to be based on 'ignorance', later such views became 'reprehensible' until eventually they were deemed 'abhorrent'. This, of course, only applied to white people, when dark skinned people identified with their own kind they were a 'community', but when whites did the same it was odious 'racism'.
For the past half century the fight against 'racism' has been at the centre of the politically correct agenda to police public discourse, outlook and behaviour, and to silence opposition. Clearly it is despicable to abuse or harass people because of the colour of their skin, or to deny them access to public services which should be open to all. But this does not mean that the white majority should passively acquiesce in the colonisation of their towns and cities by large numbers of people who are racially, culturally and religiously different, and who for the most part continue to see themselves as separate from the white majority. Nor should those who raise concerns about the transformation of their communities in this way be subject to an orchestrated campaign of vilification. But this is what has happened and politicians of all parties have been complicit in this agenda, which has created enormous problems for the cohesion of our society, not to mention the extra pressures on housing, public services and low skilled employment. To dismiss these concerns as 'hate speech' only demonstrated the extent to which politicians have become out of touch, and in thrall to vocal activists whose objective is the destruction of western civilisation, culture and values.
Liberals are very enthusiastic about the European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR) believing that it protects human rights against pesky democratically elected governments eager to take them away from unsuspecting citizens. However, for over 15 years after the UK signed up to the ECHR the British legal system was able persecute and harass homosexuals for their private sexual behaviour. Apparently, nobody at the time thought that this contradicted the principles of the ECHR. They were probably correct to reach this conclusion as the right to a private life is circumscribed by numerous exemptions one of which is 'the protection of morals'. These exemption are so wide that almost any law can be passed and still stay within the principles of the ECHR.
Judges are no less fallible than politicians, and their decisions will invariably be influenced by the prevailing ethos of the time. Today the dominant establishment mindset is politically correct, but back in the 1950s and early 1960s it was moralistically conservative. So until 1967, when the British parliament reformed the law on homosexuality, it would be true to say that homosexuals as a group were genuine victims of oppression. And it is this sense of victimhood, which liberals have continued to milk for all it is worth, long after the victimisations of the favoured group has ended.
Once homosexual activities had been legalised homosexuals started to proselytize for equality. Since the state should keep out of its citizen's bedrooms it was right that the age of consent should be equalised. But the gay lobby didn't stop there but instead demanded that homosexuality must be promoted in schools as a valid lifestyle, that they could adopt children on the same basis as married couples and, in time, that they could marry one another, despite being unable to procreate, ignoring the obvious fact that the raising of children in a stable background was the traditional justification for society's recognition of couples entering into a life long partnership with one another. But matters did not end there, it became a criminal offence to criticise homosexual behaviour, now deemed in PC speak to be the 'hate crime' of 'homophobia'. To criticise the homosexual lifestyle rendered you unfit to adopt children, guest house owners could no longer decline entry into their homes of openly homosexual couples, or a bakery refuse homosexual propaganda messages on their cakes. So within a few decades society moved from persecuting homosexuals to persecuting those who failed to voice support for their sexual lifestyle. With the rise in feminism the persecution of homosexual men was gradually replaced by the demonization of male heterosexuality.
In the decade after the second world war there was some clearly unjustified overt discrimination against women, for example being paid less for exactly the same work, or being denied a mortgage when a single man in the same situation would have been granted one. There was also quite extensive covert discrimination against women particularly in the jobs market, and women were conspicuously under-represented in many professions outside teaching and nursing.
Prevailing attitudes in society were very different to those of today. Many women considered their main role to be that of a housewife, responsible for looking after the home and the upbringing of children, whilst the husband went out to work as the breadwinner. But with the national shortage of labour many women were tempted to join the jobs market to top up their husbands wage, and they were helped by the increased availability of new electrical appliances which removed much of the drudgery from housework.
With increasing representation in the workforce women, not unreasonably, began to demand the same career opportunities as men. Given that they were still a minority of the workforce, and many still chose to take a career break to look after children, full equality was never likely to be achieved. But with the introduction of maternity leave, job-sharing, flexible working and other measures, employers and governments attempted to make the working environment for women as convenient as possible.
Some of the more strident feminists were not content with this but sought equality of outcome as of right. But they were always strangely selective about the kind of occupations in which they sought equality, invariably cushy or well paid jobs such as the Civil Service, local government, academia, the BBC or the financial sector. When it came to doing the more unpleasant jobs in all kinds of weather requiring hard hats and hi-vis jackets they were strangely absent. They rarely seemed able to find their way to building sites, or to driving heavy commercial vehicles, or emptying wheelie bins or working in the sewers, or clearing vegetation. Women were almost completely absent from the firing line in Afghanistan and Iraq. And in professions in which they were over represented such a teaching, it was very politically incorrect to suggest equal outcomes for men.
But feminists did not confine themselves to seeking out privileges in the workplace. They very early on discovered a means of putting men on the defensive through an assault on male heterosexuality. Initially they campaigned against pornography and rape, opining that the former was directly responsible for the latter. They railed against 'sexist' comments and the 'objectification' of women. Male complements about women's' appearance suddenly became defined as sexual harassment. The trope that we are all living in a 'rape culture' became part of our social mythology. Sexcrime trials became rigged giving anonymity to accusers, corroboration was no longer necessary, hearsay evidence was allowed and similar fact trawling by the police became commonplace. Aided and abetted by children's charities and the gutter press a paedophile hysteria was fanned with the aim of demonising men as predatory deviants who could never be trusted in the company of children.
There should be no doubt that the law should take a tough line with genuinely predatory men who use or threaten violence to achieve sexual favours, and against sex pests who can never take no for an answer. But to brand all sexual advances initiated by men as harassment, which must be addressed by the courts, is to involve the state in the policing of personal relationships which are best left to individuals themselves.
After decades of advancement, with only minimal challenge by those in authority, unchecked political correctness now began to enter the realms of the ridiculous and absurd in a search for new causes to adopt. Thus we have the nonsense of 'transgender' rights, and safe spaces for students who might be traumatised by hearing views which challenge the PC brainwashing they have been exposed to since birth. Since there are only two sexes, male and female, it follows that any individual who attempts to physically change their biological sex must be suffering from a serious mental illness for which the best remedy is psychiatric help. Certainly anyone who allows their body to be mutilated, or injected with the hormones of the opposite sex, meets this definition. With regard to the safe spaces issue this is merely an extreme attempt to stifle debate and should be strongly resisted in no uncertain terms.
Although the full horrors of political correctness have take decades to fully develop they can be rolled back relatively quickly. The first step has already been taken in the vote to leave the European Union. Parliament should also assert that the British Supreme Court is just that and there should be no right of appeal to any extra terrestrial legal body. The new administration has made some positive remarks about the reintroduction of grammar schools, and moves to this end should be introduced as quickly as possible in those areas were there is parental demand. All 'hate crime' legislation should be repealed and laws against discrimination should be confined to the provision of public services to which it is reasonable that all should have access. The motivation of those promoting the political correctness agenda is not a concern for their more vulnerable fellow citizens, but instead a desire to parade themselves as morally superior to others, or virtue signallers, a brilliant new phrase which perceptively exposes these self righteous controlling hypocrites for what they are.