Monday, 8 November 2010

Katharine Birbalsingh again - how Labour have a monopoly on morality

The Left think people on the Right are twisted and mean – even if they spend their lives helping the poor – Telegraph Blogs

Katharine Birbalsingh gets it right again.  This is the sort of attitude I come up against again and again and again.  Several of my friends are like Birbalsingh's - wealthy, middle-class, well-educated, doing well-paid jobs either in the private sector or the cushy part of the public sector. When I explain to them what it is like teaching in an inner city school, you can see that they are itching to make excuses for the kids, to justify their bad behaviour in terms of poverty or lack of resources.  When I suggest that the money that has been poured into state schools in the form of new buildings and expensive ICT equipment has had absolutely no impact on the kids' behaviour or attainment, they look shocked and assume you are evil. The fact that I, like Birbalsingh and Theodore Dalrymple, who she quotes, spend every day of my working life dealing with these kids doesn't seem to matter to them.  I say something that Tories once said, ergo I am evil. I suggest that chucking money at social problems has been tried for 13 years and has failed, ergo I am evil. I suggest that cutting money won't have a negative impact and might possibly have a positive one, ergo I am evil.  Never mind I spend my days and too many of my nights worrying about why my kids aren't learning, I am evil.  And evil really isn't too strong a word - well obviously it is too strong a word, that's my point, but it is the sort of word that Polly Toynbee, CIF commentators, Guardian editorial writers, Labour MPs and assorted bloggers and twitterers do use

What's happened is that the Labour party have got a monopoly on morality. Take Iain Duncan Smith, for example. I might disagree with aspects of his welfare to work plan. But I do not believe for a second he is motivated by 'evil' or by a desire to do down the poor.  Actually, I don't believe many politicians are - after all, the flip side of 'they're all as bad as each other' is 'they're all as good as each other' and on the whole, most people in Parliament could probably have had an easier life and more money outside politics. What I believe is that on the whole, when politicians get stuff wrong, it's because they're misguided. They think that something will help the poor, and then it turns out not to. On balance, most parties are subject to this kind of misguidedness, and it can be compounded by stubbornness.  But being misguided and stubborn isn't being evil.  Thus, Ed Balls, a man I loathe, is not evil - he just has the two aforementioned qualities in spades. It did result in pupils and teachers suffering but I really don't believe that was his intention.

People seem happy to believe in this view of things when you are talking about Labour politicians. So, even when Labour cheerleaders do admit to flaws in their plans, they will attribute it to being misguided and assert that their heart is in the right place. This was frequently a defence of Gordon Brown - he might be a psychopath, he might be dangerously unhinged, he might have just increased tax for the poorest people, but he's in politics for the right reasons.

But when it comes to pretty much anyone from the Tories - and now from the Lib Dems too - the default assumption is that they want to kick the poor. I simply do not believe this.  Iain Duncan Smith has set up his own think tank and spent six years doing detailed investigation into the lives of the poor.  He has come up with ideas that he thinks will help the poor. He may be wrong about them - I certainly have my questions about some aspects. But there is no way he is motivated by hatred, in the same way that I am not motivated by hatred when I suggest it would be a good idea for the pupils I teach to stop making excuses and do their homework. And he has a far greater understanding of the problem than very many of his adversaries, just as Theodore Dalrymple has a far greater understanding of the problems of inner city Britain than many of the assorted bloggers and media types queuing up to call him evil on Twitter.


  1. You are so right about the left's assumption of its own nobility.

    'Leftwing people find it very hard to get on with rightwing people, because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with leftwing people, because I simply believe that they are mistaken.' Roger Scruton.

  2. I too have encountered this strange dynamic between left & right. Scruton hits the nail on the head.