The Supreme Court Coup and the Spirit of '68

October 1, 2019


The extraordinary assertion of the "Supreme Court's" power over the government shows that we have a habit of missing the real revolutionaries, as John Mortimer argues in his latest article:


The protests which swept the world in 1968 brought together a somewhat eclectic range of 'progressive' causes: anti-war; anti-imperialist; feminist and sexual 'liberation' movements took hundreds of thousands to the streets from Washington, to Paris, to Rio de Janeiro. Others took place behind the Iron Curtain, although for rather different reasons. In Britain the protests mainly took the form of university occupations; a feature that was widespread across the continent.


The revolutionary 'spirit of 68' was one of heady and hopeless idealism; yet there was a real revolution that was taking place in more than spirit over a few short years surrounding 1968; one that is rarely appreciated or talked about. It was a revolution not led by flower-power 'hippies' and students but by overwhelmingly Oxbridge-educated men in suits; intent on a transformation of British society no less radical than that envisioned by the students who famously staged the sit-in at Hornsey College of Art (one leader of that sit-in was Kim Howells, who later became a Minister in the Blair government - a point worth returning to).


In a few short years in the late 60s a cross-party alliance of Labour, Liberal and Conservative 'progressives' pushed through a raft of private members bills which sought to overturn the deeply rooted social fabric of our country. The 1969 Divorce Act introduced no-fault divorce, sidelining marriage as a meaningful social institution. The 1967 Criminal Justice Act marginalised justice through the introduction of suspended sentences, which quickly became the norm. Policing followed the 'progressive' trend, as routine foot patrols were gradually scrapped. The 1965 Comprehensives Act railroaded over an effective system of technical, modern and grammar schools in pursuit of 'equality'. The 1967 Abortion Act introduced industrial-scale abortion on demand; to date over nine million abortions (equivalent to around 15% the current population) have been carried out through the legislation; overwhelmingly from healthy, consensual pregnancies. Enoch Powell gave his infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech in 1968 as mass immigration hit record levels; a policy forced upon the British people despite overwhelming public disapproval. Today all of these policies are equally accepted without challenge by Corbyn's Labour and Johnson's Conservatives, and of course Sturgeon's SNP etc.


Never mind student protests, bra-burning or pot-smoking hippies, the architects of this revolution were old, suited, stuffy-looking Oxbridge graduates who dominated the corridors of power in Westminster; steeped in social liberal thought and a loathing for everything patriotic and traditional, which they wrongly blamed for the horrors of the Second World War.


They were generally self-styled "moderates" like the Liberal David Steel (now a life peer) and Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, who later briefly came together under the banner of the Liberal-Social Democratic Party alliance. It styled itself as "centrist" (a meaningless word), adopted a platform of economic and social liberalism, was uncompromisingly Europhile and attacked old Labour and the Tories as nasty, far-left/right and unelectable. It's hard not to see parallels with the New Labour project, or with the Liberal Democrats or Change UK today! Chuka Umunna is today's Roy Jenkins; Anna Soubry is today's David Steel. Alas, it cannot be said that Johnson or even Farage are today's Powell, for Enoch would never share their largely approving views on immigration, devolution, the so-called 'special relationship' with the USA, drugs, social liberalism and a host of other issues.


These comparisons are significant, because it is often those who protest their moderation who are the most radical, and it is perhaps why most people continue to fail to see the real revolutionaries in our own day. The public and the media focus overwhelmingly on Corbyn's radicalism, because he is open about his hard-left views and consciously styles himself as a radical. Yet few people appreciate the radicalism of the self-styled 'centrists' and 'moderates', the Blairites who now compose the Labour backbenches and dominate the other major parties. Consider Corbyn's views on the IRA: they are utterly reprehensible and rightfully targeted for sharp criticism, yet it was the 'moderate' Blairites who put the IRA leadership in government in Northern Ireland, and it is a Conservative government that continues to support this arrangement while at the same time prosecuting Operation Banner veterans in their old age. Nationalisation aside, Corbyn's Labour manifesto is largely similar to Johnson's Tories, and they share all the same social elements: political correctness; equality; feminism; secularism; divorce; abortion; 'progressive' education, policing and justice; mass immigration; multiculturalism, and so on. Their only serious topical difference is over 'Brexit'. Amusingly enough Corbyn opposed the EU for decades while Johnson supported it all of his political career until the referendum.


The much more slick, PR-packaged and effective transformatory zeal of the Blairites has been brought to the forefront recently by the "Supreme Court" ruling over the prorogation of parliament, in which it was able to overrule the government. This is astonishing and without parallel in our history; the idea of an appointed court overruling our elected government is utterly foreign to our British constitution. And there can be little doubt that it ruled so in order to frustrate Britain's exit from the EU.

If it all seems strange and alien, it should. The Supreme Court is a recent invention with a nonsense title, not least because our real 'supreme court' shall be based in Luxembourg so long as we remain in the EU. It was created under the Blair administration through the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; an attempt to Americanise and federalise Britain's constitution through a strict separation of powers. Prior to this there was nothing like it. One of our most foundational constitutional documents, the 1688 Bill of Rights, explicitly forbids any court from interfering in the proceedings of parliament.


But that didn't matter to revolutionaries like Tony Blair, for whom traditions, laws, nation states and such abstract matters as 'sovereignty' were mere barriers to their political ambitions and the transformation which they sought to carry out. But is it only now, after over a decade since his government legislated for the Supreme Court, that the British people are coming to realise just what a revolutionary measure it was, and how much our democracy is diminished by it.


And this is where we may return to the 'spirit of 68' and the cultural revolution of the late 60s. Few people realised at the time just how radical a transformation was being carried out through the raft of 'progressive' legislation by the 'moderates' of the day, because as with all deep social change it took a couple of generations to filter through. Most people who can remember the late 60s look back fondly upon it, because they remember it as a time when we had safe streets, connected communities, stable and dignified (if tough) employment, authoritative education, national independence and a public sphere shaped by our Christian values and a familiar national culture; married two-parent families were the norm and the broadly social democratic post-war consensus kept the nation functional. 


A generation took these things for granted and fell for the charm of the self-styled 'centrists' and 'moderates' like Roy Jenkins and David Steel. A host of respectable, well-spoken Oxbridge elites of their ilk legislated away the foundations of sovereign, industrial, Christian Britain; of the deep family, social and national bonds that society was founded upon.


It is only in the past couple of decades that we have really started to feel the legacy of that cultural revolution in the late 60s, because it's effects have finally filtered down and reached the point of critical mass where we have transitioned definitively to a cold, atomised, disconnected, secular, service sector state.


The Blair government, like the Major government before it (and indeed the Thatcher government) simply built upon and expanded the same revolutionary agenda first implemented in the late 60s. And that is why Kim Howells, who staged the sit-in at Hornsey College of Art in 1968 and played an active role in the Communist Party of Great Britain, later became a Minister in the Blair government; why indeed so many of our current MPs have backgrounds as student Marxist radicals - almost all Trots fixated on cultural transformation rather than the comparatively dull and serious types who remained committed to the industrial Marxism of the Soviet Union.


Too many missed the real revolutionaries in the late 60s, and they continue to do so today. It is only once we appreciate the social radicalism of Blairism and the self-styled 'centrists' that we can recognise the true priorities for a genuine alternative. These are not more rehashed economic and social liberalism; but rather a return to serious issues that have long ceased to be talked about: the married family; abortion; borders and immigration; re-industrialisation; grammar and technical schools; our unitary parliamentary constitution; and so on.  


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