Speech to the 2022 Richard Edmonds, Colin Jordan and John Tyndall Memorial Meeting

Today, I was among the speakers at this meeting in Preston, organized by Heritage and Destiny.

The review of my speech by Heritage and Destiny said that I “gave a cogent analysis of the burgeoning threats to traditional British values and freedoms – and to the Christian values that are the bedrock of British and European civilization. The dictatorial grip of the political establishment is at last being resisted: the forces of resistance are no longer marginalised – our agenda of maintaining and restoring British traditions is now at the centre of political debate.”

The text of my speech follows below. A video recording can be found here.

“The New World Order”

Mr Chairman, thank you. I want to begin today by drawing your attention to the two greatest shocks that the globalist establishment has received since it began its work in the years after the end of the Second World War.

The first of these events was when, on the 23rd of June 2016, against the combined power of everything the establishment did and stood for, the British people, and largely the indigenous British working class, told the European Union to get lost. The Eurofederalists, every media outlet and every global corporation stood against us. They never wanted us to have a vote. But the British people had had enough. The European Union began as a Common Market but was fast developing into a socialist superstate in which our nationhood would be lost and we would be relegated to a mere region controlled from outside our borders. And the EU’s open border policy meant unlimited mass immigration to Britain.

The second was later that same year, on the 8th of November 2016, when Donald Trump was, again contrary to every media outlet, every global corporation and the vast amount of money and resources deployed against him, elected President of the United States of America, principally again by White working class voters. Everything was done to prevent Trump’s election and to frustrate his Presidency, including two failed impeachment attempts. But he served his term, delivered on most of his campaign promises, and became the first President to defy the political establishment openly.

We should not think that these things have been allowed simply to go unremarked by the globalist establishment. That establishment has spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to ensure that nothing similar can ever happen again. And in doing so, they have identified as their principal enemy the White working class.

The globalists have gained at least a temporary victory in the United States, and they are also well on the way in Britain. The answer is what the World Economic Forum announced in 2020 as The Great Reset, with a launch video by our now King Charles III.  This means among other things that control will move from government to large multinational companies, thus rendering the voting public impotent, that we will “own nothing and be happy” by 2030, that policy will be driven by environmental priorities made by those who believe in man-made climate change, and that taxes, trade and regulations will be harmonized to achieve so-called “fairer outcomes”. It also promotes the idea of implanting our children with microchips and running increasing parts of our lives via artificial intelligence. We are already seeing systems like Facebook and Google turn over large parts of their decision-making not to human beings but to artificial intelligence algorithms. Banks have been doing this as well, and now it is not just “computer says no”, but a situation where humans cannot override the policies the computers implement.

We should not think that all this is driven by any regard for our benefit. It is driven by the billionaire class and by global corporations that long ceased to be about just making money and are now convinced their mission is to tell us how to live our lives. There is a new class system developing, and it is to consist of the super-rich at the top, everyone else at the bottom, and a middle class that people can aspire to if they do what the super-rich want. How will it work? In China, they are rolling out what they call a social credit system that will turn every interaction with authority into a system of rewards and punishments, with dissenters shut out from the privileges reserved for the compliant.

In Britain, there are two Brexits; the one that we voted for and the one the politicians have given us. Our politicians have talked tough, but what they have delivered is far closer to what Brussels wanted than what British voters wanted. We have been landed with a mess in Ireland that threatens our sovereignty and the Union, and this comes after years of our own government selling Ulster out to the Republicans. And in place of mass immigration from the European Union we now see mass immigration, both legal and illegal, from Africa and the Middle East. The globalists are still pulling the strings. But now they have the White working class in their sights. They are determined to destroy our culture so that our people are atomised and isolated, to force multiculturalism on us, and to replace us with immigrants who have no loyalty to our way of life or our nation, but who can be used by their masters to create a society of compliant wage-slaves.

If you are a Marxist-leaning billionaire who wants to influence government and global corporation policy, the methodology is simple. You ensure that the media carries your message both online and in print. You fund supposedly independent think-tanks which produce policy reports which are then used as levers for decision-makers to act. You endow universities with funding to produce graduates and research that conform to an agreed common leftist ideology. You fund scientific research that produces the answers you want to see to questions that you hand-picked. You fund charities that are in fact campaigning fronts for particular ideological views. And that’s without the direct and indirect influence you can have on politicians themselves. There is a web of influence here, and all of it is intimately connected. It is being used to push Cultural Marxism on our society in such a way that it is permanently baked-in to our institutions and anyone who dissents is pushed out.

In our institutions, the priority is now diversity before all else. The agenda is openly anti-White and opposed to the nuclear family. If you are from an ethnic minority, you are promoted as a victim of racial oppression, regardless of whether that is actually the case, and automatically given a superior status because of your race. If you are White,  the only way you can attain a similar status is to identify as a member of a sexual minority, the more esoteric the better, and claim victim status as a result. The media seems to feel now that it cannot create television programmes, advertising or films without representing Black people in a way that used to be criticized as tokenism; where they are given automatic privilege for their race regardless of their actual merits. And even the government seems to follow suit. Could you imagine the governments of Nigeria or Ghana promoting Whites to the senior positions in their cabinets in order to parade their diversity credentials? I have worked closely with both Nigerians and Ghanaians and I can tell you that they have preserved something which should be cherished by all of us – pride in their race and pride in the nations it has created.

Of course, diversity doesn’t extend to opinions. For many years the middle class in Britain has been a class that is not so much defined by money and possessions as by shared opinions and values. To be middle class today means to agree with diversity and wokeism, not least because all of the professions now impose those values on their members, so that they are now socially promoted and accepted as the only way to be. From time to time, one of their members finds that they are turned upon for a real or imagined transgression against these rules, often by a Twitter mob, and thrown out of the middle class club. They are made an example of so that the others will toe the line.

That is not the only way that the New World Order is being imposed. One of the oldest lessons from history is that one of the best ways to ensure compliance is to create fear. Frightened people do as they are told. Now, you could frighten people by creating a totalitarian state, but that’s far too obvious to win mass support. Far better to use an authority figure that almost everyone obeys without question – the doctor.

To further the purposes of the New World Order, it would not really matter what the chosen disease was. It could be Covid-19, it could be flu, it could be monkeypox or almost anything else. The key is the way that this is then used to create mass fear and to destroy civil liberties on a scale never before seen in peacetime. Lockdowns did immense and possibly irreparable damage to our nation. They were vastly disproportionate to the risk that Covid actually posed, and they were imposed in a way that silenced any dissenters.

The response to any objection was fear, fear and more fear. This is how you control people. Everyone deferred to the experts, particularly scientists and the medical establishment, because they had been encouraged by the system to do this rather than thinking for themselves or seeing the wider picture. If they had seen the wider picture, they would have seen that the multinationals were being protected by lockdown rules while small businesses were left to go to the wall. Our way of life and our society, even our family bonds, were being attacked and the damage is still evident. It is time we saw lockdown tactics for what they are, because there are plenty of people who would love to see them reimposed on us. What we need to remember is that a life lived in fear is no life at all. Could you imagine the Britain of even thirty years ago giving up its freedoms so easily? Freedom is hard won but easily lost. Let us resolve that whatever health crises our country may face in the future, as far as lockdown is concerned our answer must be never again.

In 2015, the World Economic Forum was talking about making injectable rNA vaccines to create genetic changes in mice. Every time this technology was tried in humans, it was abandoned because the side effects were too severe. But come Covid, and rNA vaccines suddenly became the answer, despite their very limited effectiveness and side effects that include death and debilitating illness. We are told that only a very small proportion of those taking the vaccines will suffer any side effects, though we will not know for sure until there is any proper long-term testing on them – which there has never been. So effectively, that’s like saying you should play Russian Roulette with better odds against getting the bullet. There is also now significant evidence that the vaccines are indeed bringing about a reduction in the population. Mortality rates per hundred thousand in Britain are lowest among the unvaccinated in all age groups. In UK government data quietly released during the weekend of the Queen’s funeral, we also find that there have been over twenty-four thousand “unexplained” excess deaths since April, while the triple vaccinated accounted for 91% of Covid deaths throughout 2022.

The most important thing I’m going to say to you is this. Yes, the globalists have the money. They have the control over the institutions, the media and the government. But we have something far more important. And a time is coming when our people will tell the New World Order where to go.

It will not be easy. In fact, it will be the hardest fight of our lifetimes. To win, we must focus on what victory means for us. What are we fighting for? We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.

Now how are we going to do it? The globalists fear us because we have already shown that when we get together and exercise our power, there is nothing that can stop us. When they try to divide us, we will come together. When they try to silence us, our voices will grow ever louder. When they try to make us live in fear, we will show them that the British spirit will never be ground down by faceless authority. To be part of this great nation is to have won first prize in the lottery of life. It is our birthright, and the weight of thousands of years of noble history is on our shoulders. Let us tell our children and grandchildren in the years to come that we faced down our enemies; we looked them straight in the eye and we took our country back.

Featured

Introduction

This is my official website. Other websites that I maintain are listed under the category “Other John Kersey sites”.

In the posts below there will be found links to recordings of piano music on YouTube and on my record label, recordings and transcripts of speeches, transcripts of books and a selection of opinion pieces on music and culture. I have also given detailed information about the academic and professional qualifications I hold and the honours and awards I have received, in order to establish an accurate and verifiable source on these matters, and provided an account of my religious ministry. It is my hope that visitors to my website will find this useful and interesting.

I have maintained a public internet presence for some twenty years now. My long record of advocacy – musical, educational, religious and political – for causes that are strongly opposed to mainstream cultural, commercial and political interests has brought vocal opposition from those who disagree with my opinions or who find them a threat to their vested interests. I was targeted by cancel culture many years before it became fashionable. I continue to believe that the best reply to this is to continue to create, to defend and to encourage, in pursuit of those things that give life and hope to the human spirit and bring honour to our Creator.

Occasionally, people with political axes to grind publish malicious libel and lies about me. Generally, I do not consider these matters to be worthy of response, but since at least some of my visitors are drawn to my website by this, they may like to read the following statement. Concerning other political opponents, there is information here.

Along with a number of other conservatives and nationalists, I have found that the largest technology platforms, often colluding with government, have increasingly sought to marginalize and discredit dissenting voices. Google is the main culprit here, and I remain hopeful that its stranglehold on the search engine market will in time be broken.

As of 2022, I no longer maintain a Facebook account. I have never used Twitter and consider its political bias to be such as to make it unusable. Anyone who claims to be me on Twitter does so falsely. The spread of malicious gossip seems to be one of Twitter’s main objects, and again I refer the reader to the statement linked above.

On marriage

In 2013 and 2014, at the time when the Government was redefining civil marriage, I wrote two essays on the matter that were published on the Libertarian Alliance blog and subsequently included in my collection of talks and essays The Radical Traditionalist Today. Here are those essays, very slightly revised. My conclusion was then and remains that there are now serious obstacles for traditionally-minded Christians (and indeed others who are traditionally-minded) who would want to enter into civil marriage, and my view is that civil marriage as currently constituted in England and Wales does not conform to marriage as that sacrament is understood by traditional Christians.

The trouble with gay marriage

I should begin with a simple statement of libertarian principle. The state has no business being involved in any way with marriage. It has adopted that role as a consequence of the compromise Henry VIII engendered when he merged Church and State. Since marriage within the Church of England is governed by the law of the land, and not simply by canon law, it follows that when marriage takes place between persons who are not members of that church, the state must act as registrar in order that those marriages have equivalent legal standing. One simple answer to the matter would be to disestablish the Church of England and thereby reduce marriage to a matter of private contract with an optional religious component, but this is not under consideration at present.

My purpose here is not primarily a discussion of marriage and same-sex relationships in their religious context, nor the case for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Rather, I want to point out that what is being proposed with regard to same-sex marriage has some important implications for those who are already married (ie. for those of the opposite sex) and further that its hamfisted legal construction is setting up a series of wholly avoidable and undesirable problems.

Let us not forget, however, that the institution of civil partnership has already established a position of legal equality between marriage and same-sex partnerships. Before civil partnerships, there were eminently legitimate complaints that the inequalities that existed in respect of inheritance and status as next-of-kin were iniquitous in a free society, and that there should be a means by which this could be redressed. In civil partnership, an institution was created that was distinct from marriage; indeed that was exclusively and completely a same-sex institution. For those same-sex couples who had said that they did not want marriage with its accompanying associations, but instead something that, while equal to marriage in law, was theirs alone to define, civil partnership could not have fitted the bill better, and its popularity since introduction would appear to have borne this out. Moreover, it was open to those churches that wished to do so to bless civil partnerships, and several have done so. Even the Church of England, which officially forbids such blessings, has a number of parishes where the letter of the law is observed but ways around the prohibition have been found through “services of prayer and dedication”[i]. At their most elaborate, such occasions are so close to the service for the blessing of civil marriage that were it not for the sex of the participants it would be difficult to tell the difference[ii].

Now, though, we find our legislators – without any apparent cause other than the Left’s shibboleth of “equality” – contemplating far-reaching changes to the nature of marriage between both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Marriage as constituted at present has to do with the Christian viewpoint that the primary purpose of marriage is for the bringing of children into the world and their upbringing. Consequently, marriage is construed as a specifically sexual bond between husband and wife. This finds expression in the law in respect of the definition of marriage as a binding contract that is not entered into unless and until the marriage has been consummated. Non-consummation renders the marriage voidable under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, section 12a. Consummation has been defined, both in religion and in secular law, as the “ordinary and complete” act of sexual intercourse, a phrase which needs no amplification.

The problems with regard to same-sex marriage will by now be obvious to the reader. The partners cannot consummate the marriage according to the legal definition of that term. Nor is there any other equivalent sexual act that is universal to same-sex couples. Therefore, the government proposes to create a virtually unprecedented new definition of marriage that has no sexual component to it. Here is the relevant section of the government’s consultation document on the matter:

“2.16 Specifically, non-consummation and adultery are currently concepts that are defined in case law and apply only to marriage law, not civil partnership law. However, with the removal of the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, these concepts will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples and case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery.”[iii]

In other words, the government can see the problem but has absolutely no idea how to solve it. It therefore proposes to foist the entire matter on to the courts to be resolved sine die.

The implications are interesting. As the law would stand under the proposal, for example, a same-sex married partner cannot commit adultery with another partner of the same sex, since any definition of adultery applies only to heterosexual sexual intercourse. But they can commit adultery against their same-sex married partner with a person of the opposite sex. What will constitute adultery or consummation if a definition needs now to be found that applies both to heterosexual and homosexual marriages? The implication is that acts of a sexual nature that fall short of sexual intercourse and which are not regarded as of paramount significance in such discussions at present may come to be seen in a whole new light. Even without my religious hat on, I cannot see this as in any way being a good thing for our society.

I note, incidentally, that Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights organization Stonewall, thinks that “This focus on consummation, in particular on the sexual element of it, seems to exercise heterosexuals more than most lesbian and gay people.”[iv] He does not seem to realize that the reason why this exercises heterosexuals is because we, too, are to be significantly affected by the proposed legislation, and in ways that are as yet impossible for anyone to quantify or anticipate with any accuracy. As such, this is a leap into the unknown. There is still time to pull back from the brink.

[i] http://inclusive-church.org.uk/about/church-services-after-civil-partnerships

[ii] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1026599/Rector-faces-sack-holding-Britains-gay-wedding-Anglican-church.html

[iii] http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage/consultation-document?view=Binary

[iv] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/10/legal-definition-consummation-gay-marriage

The new marriage and conscience

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is one of the most divisive pieces of legislation to have been passed for many years. While the most obvious aspect of this law – that it permits homosexual couples to contract civil marriage – has been widely publicised, there are further aspects whose significance is likely to prove extremely far-reaching.

In preparing this legislation, the Government appears to have considered that, in respect of those religious groups that object to homosexual marriage, it has been sufficient to allow those groups an opt-out, which it assures us is unlikely to be capable of legal challenge. The veracity of the latter claim is currently under test by Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, who intend to sue in order to compel the Church of England, to which they belong, to solemnize their marriage.

While the legislation takes account of religious groups that have an objection to same-sex marriage, it makes no provision for those people who are not religious but likewise object to same-sex marriage. They are expected and indeed encouraged to enter into civil marriage regardless of the fact that said civil marriage has been profoundly redefined by this law. Both they and members of religious groups that are officially opposed to same-sex marriage (including the Church of England and the Church in Wales, many Jews, almost all Muslims, some Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Bahá’is) are now placed in an extremely difficult position. This was, furthermore, something of which Parliament was clearly warned during the legislative process and that it chose to disregard in its rush to embrace the “equality agenda”.

The historical position of English law has been to define civil marriage according to Christian understanding, and in so doing to promote a position which is common to the Abrahamic faiths. That position is based on definitions of consummation (and thereby the validity of marriage), and of adultery (which constitutes grounds for divorce). A couple of the opposite sex who contracted civil marriage before 2013 could have that marriage blessed in a religious ceremony in the knowledge that they had not, in entering into civil marriage, engaged in a contract that contradicted the teachings of their religious faith. With the abandonment of consummation as a test of the validity of marriage, and the non-universality of adultery (since its definition applies only to members of the opposite sex), it can no longer be said that civil marriage for heterosexual couples does not involve the implicit acceptance of concepts that run directly counter to much religious teaching on the nature of marriage.

I will speak particularly of the Catholic faith here, since it is that with which I am most familiar, and I am aware that my remarks will have applicability to other faiths as well. In Catholicism, marriage is defined as a sacrament instituted by Christ. As such, definitions of marriage before the time of Christ, ie. in Jewish law, or in pre-Christian societies where the state undertook a role in marriage, are disregarded as irrelevant. The only definition of marriage that matters today is that which Christ gave us, and it is His standard by which other commentaries on marriage are to be measured.

Catholic doctrine holds that the state of marriage is opposed to all forms of unnatural, homosexual behaviour[i]. It is unambiguous on this point. While the Catholic Church does not permit divorce, it holds nevertheless that extramarital acts – of which adultery would be among the most serious – are to be seen as a violation of justice. It can therefore be concluded that adultery is highly germane to an understanding of the boundaries of Catholic marriage.

Our question now is whether a member of the Roman Catholic Church can in good conscience contract civil marriage in the light of the 2013 law. In so doing, the civil marriage that they would now contract is far from being opposed to all forms of unnatural and homosexual behaviour. Rather, it considers that behaviour to be on an equal footing with marriage. The Pastoral Letter “The Narrow Gate” of the Archbishop of Westminster on the passage of the 2013 law says,

“The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act has changed the legal definition of marriage in this land. No longer does this definition assume or support the complementarity of male and female, or expect sexual fidelity between the married couple, or see marriage as oriented towards conceiving and nurturing of children. The titles ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are now officially gender neutral. This is the deconstruction of marriage as it has been understood for millennia. In effect, this Act completes the privatisation of marriage, so that its central content is whatever the couple wish to construct. Marriage is no longer a truly public institution, at the basis of society.”[ii]

This issue is more complex that it might seem. It should not be thought that the Roman Catholic Church advocates that its members should contract civil marriage in isolation from religious marriage. Rather, the Roman Catholic Church in practice requires that marriages take place in church and are solemnized by a priest, but also that the priest should hold a certificate or license to solemnize marriages from their local Superintendent Registrar. Failing this, it is required that a registrar should be present at the service and should simultaneously complete the necessary paperwork for civil marriage. Under either situation, a Roman Catholic priest effectively performs the marriage service on behalf of the state, under an arrangement that was first agreed in 1895. Whether he should continue to do so given the changed legal position has already been the subject of some discussion.

The present situation requires the acceptance of a moral contradiction that could not be more stark. The acceptance in conscience of civil marriage which directly opposes Catholic teaching on the nature of marriage is a matter of great seriousness. The registrar is taking from the words the priest says during the service those elements that fulfil the requirements of civil marriage as currently constituted. The priest and the couple marrying are therefore actively colluding in the act of civil marriage and not merely treating it as incidental (as would be the case, for example, in France, where church and state are separate, and the registration of a marriage is merely a bureaucratic act). In so colluding, they are forced into a position of the gravest moral compromise.

It may be responded that without civil registration, our Catholic couple would have no standing as married persons in law. Their marriage would be valid in Catholic canon law, but for civil purposes their standing would be as cohabitees. My personal view is that this is now becoming the only route for Catholics that would not involve moral compromise as to the principles of their faith. It would involve a degree of sacrifice – for the legal recognition of marriage brings with it a number of important rights that are not extended to cohabitees – but that is nothing new for Catholics in this country. It would also require the agreement of the Catholic hierarchy, which for all its vocal opposition to the 2013 legislation has tended to take the view that once a law is passed, it must be complied with. While no-one would advocate that Catholics should break the law, there is an important issue as to whether a law that has a distinctive moral element that is opposed to Catholic teaching may be the subject of conscientious objection whereby that law is shunned on those grounds.

It should be mentioned that the existing status of a number of Muslim marriages in England and Wales is of relevance. The Muslim marriage contract or nikah is not automatically recognized as a marriage in English law (in contrast to most Muslim countries, where it is so recognized), and the couple need to contract a civil marriage in order to be recognized as other than cohabitees. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the nikah may be polygamous.

Those Muslims who contract the nikah, and those Christians or others who contract a religious marriage that is not recognized by law, may feel that their religious contract is sufficiently binding in conscience as to constitute all the marriage that they would need. They will need to make additional safeguards in their legal arrangements to ensure that their spouse is treated in the way that they believe is fitting to them, rather than assuming the legal benefits that civil marriage confers, but this may well be an acceptable price for them to pay in order to avoid the moral compromise now involved in contracting civil marriage.

Couples who cohabit have already had to evolve private contracts that serve as alternatives to civil marriage, on whatever terms they may agree. It seems that those who hold religious beliefs that do not equate homosexual partnerships with heterosexual marriage may now be compelled to do likewise. Effectively, we have indeed seen the end of marriage as a public institution in our country, and its aftermath will be one of increasing fragmentation.

[i] See Fr. John Hardon SJ, “Marriage” in  Modern Catholic Dictionary, consulted at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=34750

[ii] http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/content/download/38192/291236/file/the-narrow-gate-reflection-abp-nichols.pdf

Traditional Britain Group Conference 2018

What has gone wrong with our education system? These days more than ever there are profound concerns among the public as to what pupils and students are being taught, and as to the influence of particular political and other ideologies upon both the nature of their studies and the manner in which schools and universities deliver them. In my talk today, I am going to deal with some of these problems and explain some of their roots. In doing so, I will point out some potential solutions. Before any of this, I want to be clear that the reason why these matters are of such concern is because education, above almost anything else, is of crucial importance in establishing our society’s values and in setting the tone for the culture of our nation. We ignore it at our peril. It is one of the most difficult nettles for politicians to grasp, but it is of crucial importance that they do so.

Let us start with the political dimension. Our education system is not run by the government, but primarily by the teaching unions. The prospect of a Secretary of State for Education who is prepared to oppose the teaching unions, to tell them that their comfortable Guardian-reading left-wing shibboleths are harming their charges and selling their pupils short, makes the average teacher’s blood run cold. The only Education Secretary in recent years who dared to take on such a mission was Michael Gove, and I believe the reason he did so was because his own background was one where he had risen from poverty. It was not necessary to explain to him how much education mattered or what difference it made to the life chances of those who received it. He knew those things at first hand, and he also knew that he was facing a wall of left-wing opposition in an attempt to introduce reform and to correct some of the worst excesses of the school system. He called that opposition, consisting of the teaching unions, university education departments, council education officers and myriad more left-wing institutions, “the blob”. Under his tenure, the blob was pushed back and despite its boiling resentment, and voodoo dolls of Michael Gove – made in Brighton – selling like hot cakes, it was contained. Gove’s most important analysis of the problem was when he said that left-wing ideology meant that schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics. These ideologues may have been inspired by generous ideals but the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance.” His plans were radical and rigorous. At one point, they included the abandonment of the GCSE exam and its replacement by a new version of its more rigorous predecessor, the O level, alongside less academic qualifications for less able students, the scrapping of the National Curriculum and the creation of a single exam board in place of the various competing bodies that currently exist.

But politicians are limited by the constraints of the practical. A small but reliable majority in the House of Commons is enough to enable some degree of authority to be wielded. A shrinking and then non-existent majority is a mandate for nothing but the drift of presiding over the status quo. What we have now, in respect of education, is a government that is nominally in charge, but in reality has very limited power. It has withdrawn from the blob, and has let the blob have its own way. Gove could not survive after two of the main teaching unions had passed votes of no confidence in him, 100 academics had signed a letter criticising him for placing too much emphasis on the memorisation of facts and rules, and another 200 prominent figures had issued a further letter criticising his reforms as posing enormous and negative risks to children.

A stronger government, and a stronger Prime Minister, would have backed him, but the political cost had become too high. Gove had become isolated, and it seems to me that he was also being undermined by his own civil servants. His family were receiving death threats from Leftists which his wife described as “vicious and aggressive”. This was the price of a reform that could, if successful, have transformed our education system for a generation. We should salute the considerable courage needed to advance a vision for education that almost nobody actually working in education agreed with. But above all, Gove’s achievement was to say that education did not belong to those who work in it. Rather, it belongs to the pupils who are being educated and whose futures are being decided in consequence. It is their interests which are neglected at the expense of appeasing the education lobby.

Governments with small majorities cannot go to war with the teaching unions. More than that, the Conservative Party knows that if it is to win a majority at the next election it will not do so by appealing to those of us on the Right. We do not meet sufficiently the demographic or numerical targets they need to achieve. In order for them to win, they must persuade people who currently vote Labour to vote Conservative, and the only way they can do that is to appear to be sufficiently soft on areas that Labour traditionally regards as its own – education being a prime example. If the Conservative Party is seen to be opposed to the majority of teachers, it will not only lose their votes but those of many other Labour voters for whom education is a key issue and for whom teachers are put on a pedestal in the same way as those who work in the NHS.

This is why we have seen, particularly over the last few years during which we have had a minority Conservative administration, a veritable tide of damaging nonsense in our schools and universities. We have seen the erosion of their traditional commitment to free speech, with “no platform” policies and crude, intolerant protest silencing voices that do not conform to Leftist orthodoxy. We have seen the rise of grievance studies and the balkanization that results from minority groups being encouraged to seek not merely equality, but dominance. We have seen, in short, the Left in its own ideological bubble, secure on its home turf, playing fast and loose with our young people’s futures and seeking to bring its own ideology to bear not least because traditional education and traditional values have now become the preserve, as the Left would see it, of the “nasty party”. But above all, the issues are these: Trump and Brexit have been two of the most damaging blows the mainstream Left has ever received in recent generations. They have responded to these reversals by uniting and becoming better organized. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn certainly does not appeal to Blairites but it does have a huge appeal to grass roots left-wing Labour supporters who will give him money, time and energy. This is why education, which is seen by the Left as its own territory, has become emboldened in its embrace of lunatic Marxism. They are dealing with a government too weak to oppose them and they are preparing for a time that they believe will come quickly when the Labour Party will be in power again. Against this, the Right is in disarray and the intellectual Right is largely absent. These are things our enemies note and take advantage of.

Let us now consider some of these matters in practice. Until 1990, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organization in its International Standard Classification of Diseases and Related Problems. That reclassification is, broadly speaking, the point at which attitudes towards homosexuality in respect of British public life began to change profoundly. Now consider that the same organization declassified gender dysphoria, including transsexualism, in March this year. The classification or declassification decisions are not made on an empirical basis, as they would be if we were, for example, discussing human disease. They are made on the basis of a consensus view from psychiatrists, particularly American psychiatrists, and the declassification decisions have also taken into account the lobbying efforts of groups representing homosexuals and individuals with gender dysphoria who object to the classification of their traits as mental conditions and wish them instead to be seen as entirely normal. There is too high an element of subjectivity in these decisions for them to be free from political and other biases, and yet such is the deference to expert culture and such is the decline in educational standards in our age, that people with a very legitimate say in how these traits should be regarded in and by society – in other words the general public – are not consulted and their views are unheard, the political consensus across all the major parties being simply to accept expert opinion unquestioningly. To take a Gove-like stand – to reject expert opinion and instead take a wider view with the good of our young people at the forefront – is seen as far too costly a move.

Between 1988 and 2003 in England and Wales, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986, applying to all maintained schools, provided that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The intention behind this legislation was not to persecute homosexuals, but rather to emphasise the following aspects: that childhood and young adulthood are times when pupils should be free from any form of promotion of homosexuality, and that homosexual relationships are inferior to heterosexual relationships in respect of the upbringing of a family. The background to the legislation was the result of a number of Labour councils, notably the GLC, giving substantial public funding to a number of gay and lesbian groups. Perhaps some of us will remember a book that was reported in 1986 as being in use in a school library called Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, which depicted a young girl living with her father and his homosexual partner and which was held by a number of newspapers to be a work of homosexual propaganda.

Against this background, the Labour Party, at that point strongly controlled by the unions which had formed an alliance with a number of homosexual groups, had passed a resolution at the 1985 conference that would criminalize discrimination against homosexual and bisexual people. During the 1987 election campaign, according to the Conservative Party, Labour wanted a number of books that not only promoted homosexuality but described, in a manner to be understood by young children, the mechanics of homosexual activity, to be used in schools. Dame Jill Knight of the Conservative Party and the Monday Club, one of the leading lights behind Section 28, said “I was contacted by parents who strongly objected to their children at school being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated. To add insult to their injury, they were infuriated that it was their money, paid over as council tax, which was being used for this. This all happened after pressure from the Gay Liberation Front. At that time I took the trouble to refer to their manifesto, which clearly stated: “We fight for something more than reform. We must aim for the abolition of the family”.

So here we are in 2018 and it would appear that the problems of thirty years ago have come back with a vengeance. Of course the tone was set by then-leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron in 2009 when, as reported by The Independent, he apologised for Section 28 and hoped that the Conservatives would give Britain its first gay Prime Minister. Now, we are told that forty secondary schools have banned girls from wearing skirts lest this offend pupils who identify as transgender. Toilets have become either unisex or open to pupils to choose whichever gender they identify with. The government’s former mental health tsar has told headteachers they should only use gender-neutral language when addressing pupils, and at least one school, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, has, despite its name, made this compulsory for its staff. “Drag queen story hour” is now a thing in primary schools. Indeed, since 2011, lesson plans have been available from the Training and Development Agency for Schools in maths, science, geography and design and technology to encourage teaching about homosexuality and transsexualism to children as young as four as part of  “LGBT History Month”. And parents  are being told that if they object to their children identifying as another gender, then they will be reported to Social Services! Truly the movement for the abolition of the family is well advanced.

All of this points to one thing: the calculated and intentional sexualization of our children. A traditional view was that matters of sexuality and gender dysphoria certainly affected young people of school age, and that those young people needed to be treated with understanding and support, but that it was not until a good way into adult life that one could arrive at a maturity of judgement necessary to know oneself and one’s nature fully, and to reconcile that knowledge with one’s chosen moral and cultural framework in terms of how that knowledge would find expression. It is generally forgotten in these debates that people may have instincts and deep emotions which they choose for whatever reason not to act upon, and people may not wish to identify with any particular label or cultural movement that deems itself their spokesperson. The prevailing culture of the aggressive promotion of minority rights is allied to a view that these are not private matters for the home and bedroom and for friends and confidants, but that they are matters of public and political discourse in which any repression is unhealthy and any expression of identification with the trendy cause is to be celebrated and acted upon, even when those actions have unwanted, and in the case of surgery for transsexuals, severe medical consequences. I must say the prospect of gender reassignment for children, even for those before puberty, is of great concern. Nothing makes these people happier, it seems, than when a young person makes a declaration of allegiance to their cause. We may speculate, of course, as to why these particular causes would put so much energy into promoting themselves to children.

If we look back to some examples from the last century, same-sex relationships, often platonic, sometimes not, were commonly reported among young people being educated in single-sex environments, as well as intense emotional feelings towards teachers of the same sex. Consider Evelyn Waugh, who had several homosexual relationships while at Oxford, but in adult life, and according to his biographers entirely as a result of his choice and inclination, married twice and had seven children. People are complex and childhood and young adulthood are times of transition and discovery. People who have homosexual experiences do not always choose to repeat them, and may come to the conclusion that they are not, in fact, to be a part of their mature sexual identity. We should never force our young people into making decisions about their identity and preferences that they may subsequently regret, and that may lead them to much greater anguish and distress than if we were to use that saying from my time, “it’s probably just a phase he’s going through”. Whether or not it actually turns out to be a phase, the point is that it should be allowed to be a phase and not something that defines them permanently in their own view or in the view of others. Once that definition of one’s identity has occurred, something will be lost if it is abandoned. The aim of politicised minority groups is to create a culture whereby those who put themselves outside them, particularly those who might come to oppose them, have a lot to lose as a result.

Of course within the Left’s adoption of postmodernism, such fixed ideas about personal identity are cast aside. The traditionalist understands personal identity to be rooted in one’s racial heritage, genetic stock and a culture which perpetuates enduring values discovered anew by each generation. Traditionalism teaches that childhood and adulthood are different, and that adulthood is characterized by maturity, duty and purpose. Postmodernism, on the other hand, holds that identity is essentially a construct to be adopted or discarded at will. Nothing in the postmodern view of identity endures, and nothing is necessarily preferable to anything else. You may, and some people do, say you are a woman for five days of the week and a man for the other two. And if the Left are in power, they will take you seriously. Because of this weakness concerning identity, this view relegates adults to perpetual children. It teaches that there is no need to grow up, to take responsibility or to assume any form of duty towards others. If one wishes to change one’s identity or cast off responsibility then the state will take up the slack.

We should be clear that what is going on in our schools is effectively the promotion of minority sexual and gender positions, and that this is being done not through any explicit legislation but through a creeping political correctness; a commitment to equality and diversity that actually means that the majority is deliberately hindered and inconvenienced for the sake of the minority. This of course is explicitly Marxist; the majority is held to be the oppressor and the minority cause justified because of its perceived victim status. Even when the apparent victim is deliberately advanced by being given special treatment, that does not mean they can ever stop being seen as the victim or being oppressed. This in turn is allied to the creation of a myth surrounding the supposed utopia of equality and diversity that is being created; that it is under constant threat, and that it can only survive if a safe space is created whereby any expressions of dissent or criticism are censored and designated as “hate speech”. The reality is that the threat is of a rather different nature – it is the threat that the shibboleths of equality and diversity will be shown to be absurd and counter-productive if subjected to rigorous critique. Truly, the emperor has no clothes.

This Marxist viewpoint in turn gives rise to the poison of identity politics and to what has been referred to as grievance studies. It originates in our universities and it runs riot in the humanities and in education. The recent expose by three academics shows this for exactly what it is. They created fake, but achingly trendy, research papers and submitted these to leading peer-reviewed academic journals in the humanities. At the point where the hoax was revealed, they had had seven papers accepted and several further papers likely to be accepted. Among those published were papers suggesting that men should be trained in the same manner as dogs, that white male college students should be punished for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort, and that superintelligent artificial intelligence should be programmed with feminist and leftist nonsense before being permitted to rule the world. Each paper was chosen to be deliberately absurd, and yet its absurdity was merely an exaggeration of a genuine leftist concept.

In their essay explaining their hoax, the three academics make some trenchant comments. I was particularly taken by this, “This problem is most easily summarized as an overarching…belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed. These constructions are seen as being nearly entirely dependent upon power dynamics between groups of people, often dictated by sex, race, or sexual or gender identification. All kinds of things accepted as having a basis in reality due to evidence are instead believed to have been created by the intentional and unintentional machinations of powerful groups in order to maintain power over marginalized ones. This worldview produces a moral imperative to dismantle these constructions. Common “social constructions” viewed as intrinsically “problematic” and thus claimed to be in need of dismantling include (amongst others) the understanding that there are cognitive and psychological differences between men and women which could explain, at least partially, why they make different choices in relation to things like work, sex, and family life, and that Western liberal cultural norms which grant women and the LGBT equal rights are ethically superior in this regard to non-Western religious or cultural ones that do not.”

In brief, what they point out is that what is now going on in the humanities is an attempt to replace scientific theory with critical theory in the name of so-called “social justice”. It is an attempt to smear science and the scientific method as sexist and racist and to abandon any impartial pursuit of truth in favour of grievance-based identity politics. Likewise, the Western philosophical tradition is rejected because this also emphasises rigour and reason over solipsism and superstition. We might very well see in this the opposition to Michael Gove’s emphasis on facts and rules over what his opponents wanted instead – “understanding”. Of course what is meant by “understanding” is something much more easily manipulated to political ends than facts and rules. But what is for sure is that this movement against science and rational thought is deeply dishonest. It is concerned with setting up imagined conflict in society that is then used to fire others up with the powerful emotions caused by believing that they are not themselves responsible for their misfortunes but that they can blame them on their sex, gender, race or other protected characteristic. In turn, this is then exploited to take advantage of middle-class liberal guilt, and there is little that is more easily manipulated than that. The peer review system in academia has long been defended as a means of ensuring reliability in research, but at least in the humanities it was always in danger of becoming an echo-chamber filled with ideological conformity.

This is not a problem, however, that is confined to academia. It has a direct influence on society as a whole, because these ideas inevitably leak out and gain wider currency, which is exactly what academics intend them to do – they are, after all, charged with educating the next generation. When we look at television advertising at the moment we might believe that the government had issued the advertising industry with a directive that every advertisement must contain at least one member of an ethnic minority, preferably a couple of mixed race, or a homosexual couple, or people with a visible disability. No such directive exists. Nor has this been in response to particular campaigns by minority groups, or particular complaints about given advertising campaigns.

What has happened is that corporations have realised that their audience is one that is led by these trends that have begun in academia, then been extended through the media, and that now require promotion as politically correct social norms. They are terrified that deviation from those norms will lead to them being accused of being homophobic, racist, transphobic or whatever other made-up term is current with the Left today. They are, indeed, so terrified of this that they will prioritise the avoidance of any perceived bigotry even over appeal to their target audience, thus defeating the prime objective of advertising in the first place. We are told that when surveyed by The Times, half of the advertisers said they were no longer using white people in their adverts because they “no longer represented modern society”. What has happened to the advertisers is the same as what these academics want to do to our young people. They are not responding to actual racism but to “perceived” racism. In other words, they are promoting ideology, not responding to fact. And in doing so, they are perpetuating a monstrous and grievously offensive falsehood, which is that to be white, to be male or female, and to be heterosexual, must be irrevocably racist, homophobic and transphobic, and, while those people must forever do penance for the fact, they can never atone for it.

There is a further aspect to this that might give us all pause for thought. Our schools no longer allow transgressions to be forgotten, as they were in my day, or dismissed as the excesses of youth. Nowadays, every punishment and every failure is recorded permanently in a form that travels with the pupil from childhood through to their university years. This is Orwellian, but moreover it is likely to be a precursor for something much more sinister. Communist China is already introducing a computerised Social Credit System, and this has nothing to do with Major C.H. Douglas or distributist economics. China’s social credit means that every citizen has a computerized publicly-available reputation score based on their credit score and so-called trustworthiness, which is generated from their social behaviour. The Chinese government says violations of the social order will be punished by a lower score. This score is then used, at present, to determine whether a person is allowed access to such things as good school places for their children, travel outside the country, access to credit and even fast internet speeds. One important criterion for China is ideological conformity. If you challenge the prevailing orthodoxy, you lose points on your credit score. What China wants, and I do not think it is so different from the Left over here, is for all of the behaviour of its citizens, online and offline, to be monitored and controlled so that people compete with each other according to indices of virtue. In literal terms, the more you conform to the politically correct ideal, the higher your social credit score becomes, and it is your score that will determine access to almost everything you need in life. In the kind of society that leftist academia in Britain is promoting, violation of the safe space and opposition to social justice will make one into a technologically updated version of the Soviet non-person. This is what the future holds.

What can then be done? The weakness of opposition to these matters is above all seen in a lack of intellectual firepower among those in power and their lack of the necessary courage to challenge so-called experts whose expertise has been gained within an ideological bubble. The humanities and the social sciences have become rotten to the core with this ideological cant. Anyone who speaks out against it is no-platformed and it has become, as Sir Roger Scruton has long pointed out, impossible to pursue a career as a conservative intellectual in this country. The only reason why it has remained a possibility in the United States, incidentally, is because of the strength of traditional Christian institutions within their education system. If we look to the churches to exert a similar influence in this country we will look in vain.

If we are to combat this movement in our schools nothing short of radical action will suffice. It may, indeed, take a boycott of the maintained school system before government takes notice. In the meantime, concerted parental pressure must be applied to ensure that our children are educated in a fit and proper manner, and not subjected to Leftist indoctrination when they are at a formative age. If the headteacher’s day is spent dealing with correspondence and angry representations from parents, and the governors and local education authority with complaints about the school’s lack of action, this will create a problem that will need to be addressed. The only reason this is being imposed upon our schools in this way, is that those imposing it believe they can get away with it. But a school can only work on the basis of consent. It covenants with its pupils and with its parents and it must learn that a necessary part of that covenant is treating their views with respect even when those views are not the same as those of the teaching staff or leadership team. And above all, the political bias in our education system must be countered. Already, we have all but driven men out of primary teaching for fear that they be labelled paedophiles for wanting to work with young children. An all-female school is not a healthy environment for young boys to be educated in. More significantly, it is now near-impossible for people of conservative political views to become teachers or lecturers. There is an ideological conformity imposed not just in training but in practice, and it has already done great damage to the culture of our nation. Unless we have the will and the means to fight it, it will soon be too late.

Talk to the National Liberal Club

Photo credit: © John Lubbock (CC BY-SA 4.0)

On 2 September 2015, I was the invited speaker at a lunch at the National Liberal Club. Here is the talk given on this occasion:

NLC 2 September 2015 – Music in education

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this lunchtime. I am going to venture a few remarks concerning music in education. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to teach music at all levels from junior school to postgraduate, and have examined it for graded examinations, A level and degree level, so I hope I have picked up the odd point of value along the way.

I should begin by emphasising that music is arguably the most important subject that can be taught in a school. Why do I say that? Because music engages the whole person and not merely the intellect. It also calls upon the emotions and, where singing or playing an instrument are concerned, the body. Moreover, it requires us to balance and control all of these elements of the whole person at once. Some of those who encounter music in school will go on to make careers in music. But many more will continue to enjoy music as members of amateur choirs and orchestras, or playing for their own pleasure at home or with friends, or simply listening to live or recorded music as a means of enriching their lives. It is not difficult to be an evangelist for music, because its effects are so comprehensively beneficial. I believe that music is also an important way for us to process emotional and spiritual events in our lives, leading to greater well-being and fulfilment.

It is unfortunate that these benefits are not as widely acknowledged as they should be. That this is the case is due to a philosophical difficulty on the part of government. If we look back to a Liberal Party report of 1974, we find the following,

Once the basic needs of food and shelter are met, the individual’s greatest satisfactions are to be found in love, trust and friendship, in beauty, art and music, and in learning, none of which are served by the mythology of growth for its own sake.

We are no longer living in a society where politicians make statements of this kind. Indeed, they are afraid to do so. Education in the contemporary sense has become interchangeable with training, and as such it has one purpose only, and that is to produce workers who will aid Britain’s economic growth. The concern is no longer with individual development but instead with the subordination of the individual to the aims of the prevailing system through mass social engineering. Our government supports participation in higher education not because it believes that it is an aim of a civilised society that those who can benefit from a university education should have that opportunity, but because it holds that young people in higher education are less likely to commit crime and become involved in anti-social behaviour.

Furthermore, education and society in general have increasingly accepted the agenda of mass commercialism. Western art music fares very poorly when judged by commercial standards. It is expensive to perform large-scale works and difficult to turn a profit from those performances; most instruments are relatively expensive to buy and maintain; instrumental tuition costs money, and there is also the time cost involved in the many hours of practice required to gain proficiency. Against this, pop music in particular succeeds because it makes few if any demands on its audience and is designed and marketed for nakedly commercial ends. Its exponents, who rarely need to have an advanced technique, enjoy obvious success and fame, while a career in classical music, for all its greater demands, rarely garners such rewards.

Economic arguments for music education are, to my mind, doomed to failure. But for the first time in the post-1997 period, we have also lost the cultural arguments. It was bad enough in the 1980s where politicians asked why opera should receive a greater place in the nation’s cultural life than football, given that football was both self-supporting economically and demonstrably more popular among the electorate. Now we are in a position where the question is not even asked. Austerity politics means not only that Western art music has lost much of its central funding but – and I would argue more importantly – its lack of support from the establishment has led to its disappearance from our cultural agenda. When politicians and other establishment figures appear on “Desert Island Discs”, their choice of records nowadays generally centres on pop music, which is no longer regarded as the preserve of the young. And yet to experience music merely through the series of shallow three-minute formulaic commercial vignettes that constitute mainstream pop music is merely to scratch the surface of an art form that encompasses the entirety of the human experience.

This position has been accompanied by the adoption of an ideology whereby education is measured and assessed according to reductive criteria. Success or failure are subject to what is essentially a tick-box system; we see this through our public exams, and also through the league tables by which our schools are judged. This is driven partly by an emphasis on accountability and a desire to make clear that public money is being spent wisely. But it is also driven by a mindset that is fundamentally soulless. It rejects music, which is pushed to the margins in the national curriculum, because music is too hard to quantify, because music’s benefits are too difficult to assess in reductive terms, and because music, and particularly Western art music, is now culturally alien to those making policy. For years, a special case in education was made for Western art music because of its perceived benefits and cultural status. Now, a false parity is maintained in our education system between Western art music and other forms of music, where in reality there is no valid comparison.

Western art music is differentiated from other types of music, such as non-Western art music and Western and non-Western popular music by one particular aspect: it is written down, or codified. Our culture has, for centuries, regarded codification as important. It is an act of preservation, but it is more than that: it is the means by which a work of art enters the public domain. Through codification, a piece of music is replicable by others who may never have met the composer and may indeed be several centuries removed from him or her. It can thus be discussed with reference to a central written text that permits detailed analysis and comparison with other similar works. Codification matters because it constitutes a definitive statement, even if that statement may be subsequently revised.

Codification is fundamentally alien to Western popular music and those non-Western art and popular musics, such as, for example, Indian classical music, that rely upon improvisation for their source. It is also, incidentally, alien to those recent developments of Western art music that incorporate aleatoricism, or chance events. It is symptomatic of the malaise of our current culture that we too often confuse chance events with creativity, where in fact they are simply the random or idiomatic exploration of a sound medium. Why should we be confused in this way? Firstly, because we lack the critical apparatus to assess creativity, a default which is due to inadequacy in musical education. Secondly, because of our reliance on sound recording. We confuse sound recording with the process of musical codification via a score. In fact, sound recording is like a photograph of a bird in flight. It depicts a given moment in that flight, but cannot capture the mechanism by which the bird flies. By contrast, a musical score does just this. The mechanism of the given work is captured within its notation, enabling it to take flight again and again when presented to a performer of sufficient ability.

We are ultimately doing uncodified music a disservice through the way in which it is studied. Where works in a jazz or pop idiom are set for study in GCSE or A level, they are first notated into score by transcribers employed by the exam boards, and then subjected to the same kind of analysis as any other notated score. This is absolutely not the way in which jazz or pop musicians think about their music. It ignores the most fundamental element of that music, which is that jazz in particular is by essence of the moment and is dependent upon a living interaction between performers (often also composers) and audience. For all that jazz and pop are frequently recorded, they are essentially subordinate to the live experience; because they rely on improvisation, every recording is essentially a “live recording”. The decision not to codify substantial aspects of those musics is therefore entirely deliberate. As a result, all too often we are trying to understand an improvised art form not through a genuine encounter with that form itself but merely through an artificial and constructed description of it; we are re-living the dictum that talking about such music is like dancing about architecture.

I am not seeking to imply that uncodified music is not worth studying as a cultural phenomenon. Nor do I say that it cannot appeal to the emotions or provide a source of enrichment as composer, listener or performer. But I will illustrate my point with an example. What if we were to say that we would study English literature based not on books, on novels, poems and short stories that have been codified, but instead on improvised poetry, folk tales or hip-hop lyrics? Would doing so, and thus depriving the next generation of the time that would otherwise be spent studying Shakespeare and the Brontes, not be seen as the utmost folly? If that is the case, then it is the more unfortunate that we are depriving that same generation of the means to understand and to enjoy Bach, Mozart and Beethoven because we are giving them insufficient emphasis within the musical curriculum.

The reason why this dumbing-down is taking place is fundamentally because our politicians do not see the difference. They, and unfortunately some musicians who should know better, have jumped on the bandwagon that music knows no division other than good or bad, in other words whether you like it or not. This is a philistine’s approach to artistic endeavour. What you like and what is easiest to understand are generally synonymous. We do not teach mathematics or science on the basis of what pupils like about them, but on the basis that each constitutes a body of knowledge from which our curriculum selects vital information and techniques that are necessary to grasp the subject to the level concerned.

One thing that distinguishes the great works of the Western musical tradition is that they do not give everything up at first hearing. They seek to express something that requires concentration, analysis and contextual understanding. They require hard work to pick apart, and similar work if we want to write something that emulates them. It is easier to take a music lesson where the pupils are given percussion instruments and encouraged to make some noise than to teach them musical notation, structure and harmony. But if we do not emphasise those aspects that need to be taught in order to be understood, we are not teaching them anything of value, merely providing them with an extension of the playground. To return to my comparison, if we want pupils to write English and to genuinely express themselves, we must first introduce them to grammar and structure so that their writing is comprehensible and cogent. If we want to provide facilities for pop music on top of a sound foundation, all well and good. But it is worth remembering that most of our established pop musicians succeeded on the basis of a secondary education in Western art music, not in pop. Indeed, I think many of them would recall that grounding as having given them the best opportunity to succeed in their field.

Much of these developments are due to the flight from formality that characterized the past decade. Entirely wrongly, both politicians and educators have seen the formality of musical grammar and structure as a negative attribute. They associate it, and indeed they associate much Western art music, with elitism. But it is not elitist to want for our children the best of our culture and its values. In the 1920s, coal miners and their families in Yorkshire used to form amateur string quartets, choirs and brass bands so that they could hear and play the music that they valued. No-one forced them to do it, and indeed their actions were the ultimate in anti-elitism; they brought Beethoven to the working person. They said that the best things in life were rightly theirs to aspire to, and we today should be saying the same. We live in a world where commercialized music has become a mass market product. But when we teach music, we should not simply see our role in terms of producing fodder for a system that judges quality by the yardsticks of the media and the flashy materialism it promotes. We need to aspire to raise standards, not just within schools but within our society in general. As part of that process, we should not accept unquestioningly the commercial pressures placed upon our young people, often by global brands, to become consumers of a mass market product.

The irony of the current system is that because it is depriving pupils of the means to understand and appreciate Western art music, it is making that music and indeed the musical profession ever more the preserve of those educated at independent schools, where an emphasis upon classical music is seen as a very strong selling-point. Nor are those schools embarrassed to present classical music because of the cultural relativism that seems prevalent within the maintained sector. Independent schools, indeed, have an extremely diverse student body these days because of their overseas recruitment. Those students rightly view the experience and understanding of Western art music as an indication of what it is to receive an English education. We should take note of their view.

If we are to bring about a change in musical education, several things need to be done. Firstly, we need to ensure that the foundations are sound. That means teachers who are fully and properly trained in the history and techniques of Western art music. Sadly, at the moment, many are not, because some of our university music courses lack rigour and do not, for example, prepare their students to conduct a choir or an orchestra, which should be a basic requirement of a school music teacher. Secondly, we must ensure that it is part of every primary school pupil’s experience to sing in a choir and to learn to play an instrument that can be bought cheaply and played in a group. In my day it was the recorder. It could equally well be the ukulele. Thirdly, we must ensure that music regains priority at secondary level. Each school should have a good representative selection of recordings of Western classical music and offer pupils the chance to listen to them. There should be the opportunity for choirs and orchestras in which all can participate. And there should be the opportunity to learn an instrument for all who want to do so, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Talk to the Central School of Religion Reunion

I was the invited speaker at the Central School of Religion Reunion at St Jude’s Free Church of England, Balham, in November 2014. Here is the talk given on that occasion:

Ambrose Philipps de Lisle, 1809-78

I am going to talk to you today about a nineteenth-century English pioneer of the ecumenical movement, Ambrose Philipps de Lisle, and give a brief account of his life and achievement.

Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps de Lisle was born on 17 March 1809. He was the son of Charles March-Phillipps of Garendon Hall, Leicestershire, and Harriet Ducarel, a lady of Huguenot descent. The de Lisle family of Leicestershire were originally simply the Phillipps from London. The Garendon estate near Loughborough, was inherited by Thomas March, who adopted the name Phillipps, and married Susan de Lisles. Their son, Charles, adopted the de Lisle crest and arms. Steady accumulation of landed property made him one of the ‘wealthiest commoners’ in England and a member of that class known as the landed gentry. When Charles March-Phillipps died in 1862, Ambrose took the additional name of Lisle, becoming Ambrose Charles Lisle March Phillipps de Lisle. For the purposes of this talk, I shall take the liberty of referring to him as Ambrose, not least because in doing so I will also recall the saint and Doctor of the Church after whom he was named, one who provided a model for him in his famous saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

Ambrose spent his earliest years at his birthplace and was brought up as a member of the Church of England, receiving his first religious instruction from his uncle, William March Phillipps, a High Church clergyman of the Church of England. The Bishop of Gloucester, having married Sophia March Phillipps, was his uncle by marriage, and so the boy spent Sundays and holidays at the bishop’s palace. In 1818 Ambrose was sent to a private school in South Croxton, whence he was removed in 1820 to Maizemore Court School, near Gloucester, kept by the Rev. George Hodson.

At school he met for the first time a Catholic, the Abbé Giraud, a French émigré priest. A visit to Paris in 1823 gave him his first acquaintance with the Catholic liturgy. The effect on his mind was shown on his return home when he persuaded the Anglican rector to place a cross on the communion table, but this first effort to restore the cross to English churches was stopped by the Bishop of Peterborough. He converted to Catholicism, and immediately removed from Mr. Hodson’s school, and returned home with his father, who arranged for him to continue his preparation for the university under the private tuition of the Rev. William Wilkinson. He was obliged every Sunday to attend the Anglican church, but did not join in the service.

Ambrose was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in November 1825, though he did not go into residence there until 16 October 1826. At the university he found a congenial friend in Kenelm Digby, author of Mores Catholici and The Broadstone of Honour, who was, like himself, a member of a long-established family of the landed gentry and a recent convert. In those days there was no Catholic chapel at Cambridge, and every Sunday for two years these two young Catholics used to ride, fasting, over to St. Edmund’s College, Ware, a distance of twenty-five miles, for Catholic Mass and Communion. It was on one of these visits to St. Edmund’s, in April 1828, that Phillipps was seized with a serious illness, having burst a blood-vessel in his lung. The doctors recommended his father to take him to Italy for the winter, and this necessarily cut short his Cambridge career, so that he had to leave the university. It should be remembered that at this point, because he was not an Anglican, he was debarred from taking a degree at the University.

On his return to England in 1829, he became acquainted with the Hon. George Spencer, then an Anglican clergyman, and his conversation was largely instrumental in leading to Spencer’s conversion to Catholicism, as the latter admits in his Account of my Conversion – he says “I passed many hours daily in conversation with Phillipps and was satisfied beyond all expectations with the answers he gave me to the different questions I proposed about the principal tenets and practices of Catholics.” The following winter (1830–1831) Ambrose again spent in Italy, on which occasion he met the Blessed Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, the philosopher and founder of the Rosminian Order, who made a great impression on him.

On 25 July 1833, Ambrose married Laura Mary, eldest daughter of the Hon. Thomas Clifford, son of Hugh, fourth Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, in the Church of St James, Spanish Place, London. Charles March Phillipps gave his son possession of the second family estate, the manor of Grace-Dieu in Leicestershire, which before the Protestant Reformation had been the Augustinian Grace Dieu Priory. Here Ambrose Phillipps built a new manor-house Grace Dieu Manor, 1833–34, and in the meantime he and his wife resided at Leamington, or at Garendon Hall. Writing a few years before his death he summed up the chief aims of his own life in these words: “There were three great objects to which I felt after my own conversion as a boy of fifteen specially drawn by internal feeling for the whole space of forty-five years which have since elapsed. The first was to restore to England the primitive monastic contemplative observance, which God enabled me to do in the foundation of the Trappist monastery of Mount St. Bernard. The second was the restoration of the primitive ecclesiastical chant, my edition of which is now recommended by the Archbishop of Westminster for the use of churches and chapels. The third was the restoration of the Anglican Church to Catholic Unity.”

According to Edmund Purcell’s 1900 biography of Ambrose, “In that early day no one did more for the Catholic revival in England, almost single-handed, than Phillipps de Lisle”. In the foundation of the Cistercian Mount St. Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire he received generous support from his friend John, Earl of Shrewsbury, but it was Ambrose himself who conceived the idea, believing it necessary that the ascetic aspect of Catholic life should be presented to the English people. Mount St. Bernard Abbey was the first monastery built in England since the Reformation. Ambrose gave both land and money, severely depleting his own resources in providing the necessary buildings. This work was begun in 1835 and completed in 1844, while, during the same period, he founded missions at Grace Dieu and Whitwick. His disappointment was great when he found that the Trappists were prevented by their rule from undertaking active missionary work, because he attached the greatest importance to a supply of zealous missionary priests who would labour in English villages; he said, “I would have them go about and preach everywhere on the foreign plan, in the fields or in the high roads even”.

In 1838 Ambrose joined his friend Rev. George Spencer in establishing and propagating the Association of Universal Prayer for the Conversion of England. In a continental tour he and Spencer made together, accompanied by Mrs. Phillipps and two of her children, in 1844, they passed through Belgium, Germany, and North Italy, meeting many distinguished Catholics and enlisting the sympathy of prelates and clergy in the cause. Nicholas, soon to be Cardinal, Wiseman was co-operating in Rome, and soon the movement spread widely through the Catholic world. Ambrose was for some time the only Catholic who was in confidential correspondence with the leaders of the Oxford Movement, including Blessed John Henry Newman, receiving them at Grace-Dieu. He saw the Oxford Movement as a step towards his desire of reconciling the Anglican Church with Rome. As his son stated: “National Conversion by means of Corporate Reunion he likened unto the Apostolic practice of fishing with a net ‘gathering in multitudes of all kinds of fishes.’ And this he considered to be his own special call from on High, to prepare the way and hasten the time when the Divine Word should again be spoken to Peter, ‘Cast your nets into the deep’.”

In a letter of 1841 to John Rouse Bloxam of Magdalen College, Oxford, who was, in the words of Lord Blachford, “the grandfather of all Ritualists”, Ambrose explained that for him, the Church of England was the true Catholic church of the British nation, despite its lack of communion with Rome. He regarded Anglican Holy Orders as valid, and the eucharistic service of the Book of Common Prayer as a true Catholic sacrificial Mass. It was the State, for Ambrose, that had impaired the Catholic witness of the Church of England; if reunion could be achieved, he saw the possibility of all churches and cathedrals being united in the celebration of the Sarum Rite in Latin, while some portions could be given simultaneously in English translation. He also foresaw circumstances in which the Anglican clergy would be permitted to retain their wives. These insights came about because Ambrose was closely in touch with European thought on these matters, in contrast to the British Establishment which was much less cosmopolitan in its inclinations. Equally, the capacity of Ambrose and his wife to offer lavish hospitality at Grace-Dieu Manor helped secure him a greater measure of support, even among the clergy of the Church of England.

As well as his Catholic works of translation and compilation, Ambrose in 1855 authored a work entitled Mahometanism in its relation to Prophecy; or an Inquiry into the prophecies concerning Anti-Christ, with some reference to their bearing on the events of the present day. This is an interesting work, and I will quote a few words from its conclusion, “If Mahomet be not Antichrist, may humanity be spared the revelation of something worse, of something still more horrible ! But if the imagination of my reader would be satisfied with something less horrible than Mahomet, let me, at least, congratulate humanity that it has already seen the worst phase of evil, while I leave it to the contradictor to adjust the balance between the statements of prophecy, and the phantoms of his own brain.” In fact, this was a longstanding preoccupation of Ambrose, who as a boy had seen a bright light in the sky and heard a voice say “Mahomet is anti-Christ, for he denieth the Father and the Son”.

Ambrose welcomed the restoration of a Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom in 1850, and tried to reconcile to it some of the Catholic laymen who thought it inexpedient. He saw great significance in the fact that Pope Pius IX had not named any of the new dioceses after any of the medieval Sees, since he surmised that the Pope must therefore share his view that the Church of England was the true church of the English nation. During the debates that ensued throughout the country he wrote two pamphlets: A Letter to Lord Shrewsbury on the Re-establishment of the Hierarchy and the Present Position of Catholic Affairs, and A few words on Lord John Russell’s Letter to the Bishop of Durham. The progress of events raised his hopes so high that he regarded the reconciliation of the Anglican Church to the Holy See as imminent, and to hasten its fulfilment entered on a new crusade of prayer, in which the co-operation of non-Catholics was desired. Following Ambrose’s eirenic pamphlet “On the future unity of Christendom”, “The Association for Promoting the Unity of Christendom”, (A.P.U.C.) was founded on 8 September 1857, by fourteen people including Father Lockhart and Fr. Collins; the rest were Anglicans, with one exception, a Russo-Greek priest. Cardinal Wiseman gave it his blessing.

The only obligation incumbent on members, who might be Catholics, Anglicans, or Greeks, was to pray to God for the unity of the baptised body. At first the association progressed rapidly. Ambrose wrote to Lord John Manners and said, “We soon counted among our ranks many Catholic Bishops and Archbishops and Dignitaries of all descriptions from Cardinals downwards; the Patriarch of Constantinople and other great Eastern prelates, the Primate of the Russian Church … I do not think any Anglican Bishops joined us, but a large number of clergy of the second order” – that is to say, presbyters. He gave the number of members as nine thousand. The formation of this association was, however, regarded with distrust by Cardinal Manning and a good number of other influential Catholics, who also took exception to Ambrose’s treatise On the Future Unity of Christendom. The matter was referred to Rome by Cardinal Manning and was finally settled by a papal rescript addressed Ad omnes episcopos Angliæ, dated 16 September 1864, which condemned the association and directed the bishops to take steps to prevent Catholics from joining it.

As might be expected, this was a great blow to Ambrose, who considered that “the authorities had been deceived by a false relation of facts”. He however withdrew his name from the A.P.U.C. “under protest, as an act of submission to the Holy See”. The ground on which the association was condemned was that it subverted the Divine constitution of the Church, inasmuch as its aim rested on the supposition that the true Church consists partly of the Catholic Church in communion with Rome, “partly also of the Photian Schism and the Anglican heresy, to which equally with the Roman Church belong the one Lord, the one faith and one baptism”. His own pamphlet was not censured, but the condemnation of the A.P.U.C. was regarded by him as the death-blow of his hopes for the reunion of Christendom during his own lifetime. But his own belief in it persevered and influenced his views in other Catholic affairs. Thus he warmly supported the attendance of Catholics at the English universities, and he even approved of the abortive project of a Uniate English Church. He pointed out that his prophesy of 1841 had come true, and that at least a few parish churches were now using the Sarum Rite in the vernacular. Writing in 1867, he noted that within the Church of England we could now find churches that were “restored in all their grandeur. The sweet perfume of holy incense is again inhaled in our ancient temples, the names of Mary and the Saints are again honoured and invoked, and men are once more called to the practice of sanctity, and the imitation of the Saints”, while “Catholic morality is again inculcated in pulpits that used to utter only the errors of Calvin or Luther”.

During the remainder of his life, Ambrose continued ever to take an interest in public affairs as affecting the fortunes of the Church, and in the same connexion he carried on intimate and cordial correspondence with men as different as Cardinal Newman, William Ewart Gladstone, and Charles Forbes René de Montalembert. He counted among his friends John, Earl of Shrewsbury, Cardinal Wiseman, Augustus Pugin, who provided designs for Grace-Dieu, and many other well-known Catholics, and though he differed on many points from Cardinal Manning and Dr. W.G. Ward, the professor of moral philosophy at St Edmund’s College, he remained on friendly terms with both. In 1868, he was appointed High Sheriff of Leicester, and chose Dr Frederick Lee of Lambeth, one of the founding prelates of the Order of Corporate Reunion, as his chaplain. Lee’s second son was named Ambrose de Lisle Lee after him. Ambrose’s plans for a Uniate Church continued to occupy him and his colleagues, and he was among the first to propose that the clergy of the Church of England should be conditionally reordained in order to secure their validity. This proposal, too, would eventually be adopted by the Church of England following the 1931 Bonn Agreement with the Old Catholic Churches.

On 5 March 1878 Ambrose died at Garendon, survived by his wife and eleven of his sixteen children. His achievement was to be the prophet of much that was to follow him, and that would eventually find expression in the current Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.