IT IS surely cause for celebration that the moral
hypocrisy of the Tory government has recently
blown up in the faces of several ministers. The case
of Tim Yeo for instance, is well enough known not
to need rehearsing.
But, there are also strong reasons for tempering our joy
at Tory distress with a little concern about the political
implications of what increasingly looks like a right-
wing “moral" backlash.
It is not, in and of itself, a good thing that ministers,
even Tory ministers — - or anyone else for that matter
— should lose their jobs because they have had a sexual
relationship, or have helped generate a child outside mar-
riage. The same goes for sex with someone of the same gender.
Those who believe that there is nothing to worry about
here because Yeo was the victim of his own hypocrisy
are missing the point.
The standards against which hypocrisy is judged are
as important, and possibly more important, than the act
of hypocrisy itself. For instance, if a trade union official
were to be hounded from office for corruption and
betrayal of the union's members, that would recommend
and reinforce certain values: workers' control and democracy.
The fall of Tim Yeo, in this way and for this reason,
inescapably reinforces the values of the hard Tory right.
More, the recent round of scandals has helped to
encourage popular disillusionment with politics and
with politicians, as such. Contempt for the inhabitants
of the Palace of Westminster — a handful of genuine-
ly honourable members excepted — is well-deserved
and healthy. But if it can fuse with religious and moral
bigotry then we have the raw material out of which
authoritarian and even fascist movements can grow.
The antidote to all this is not to abandon the ground
of morality but to insist that people — even Tories! —
have the right to determine their own sexuality.
Similarly, talk of "family values" is best countered
not by rejecting the family as such, but by insisting on
the social support that parents and children alike need
in terms of jobs, education for children, and adequate
housing if their family unit (be it one parent or two) is
to provide a loving and caring environment.
Socialist Organiser 20 Jan 1994