This extempore speech was given by me when one of our invited speakers was delayed at the airport (you will see Gregory informing me that he had just arrived shortly before the end).
“We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict – or merely seem to conflict – with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes.” – Sir Roger Scruton
I wish to state the following in rebuttal of a defamatory article published online in 2017 by one Johnny Vedmore. The allegations put forth in the article are wholly untrue and I will address them in turn below.
My alleged “fake online diploma”
I have never procured any such thing: the Doctor of Education degree that I was awarded by St Regis University, Liberia (for which I paid the fees stated on their website, just as most university students pay fees) was fully earned, not bought. I have written extensively about my experience and views concerning St Regis University, Liberia, and its closure by the government of the United States following Operation Gold Seal. I have made it clear in my article that my dealings with SRU as a student were pursued with integrity and I do not regret my support for SRU. I have known schools with problems similar to SRU overcome those problems and turn around with the right management. I have also known schools that today are very much an established part of the educational mainstream that did not look so very different from SRU during the 1980s and 1990s. It is a tragedy that SRU’s potential was never truly realized.
I have never been contacted on any matter by the FBI or other American law enforcement authorities and therefore I was not contacted at any stage of the investigatory or pre-trial process by anyone connected with Operation Gold Seal. Had I been contacted, I would of course have co-operated fully with any investigation and offered any assistance that I could have provided. None of the vast number of court papers that I have seen (in the course of my own research) identify me or any of my business concerns, which were always fully separate from those of SRU, so I can only doubt the veracity of whatever documents Mr Vedmore claims to have seen.
What is true is that I have consistently advocated for non-traditional distance education for more than twenty years. In my professional practice, I have provided expert opinion on both traditional and non-traditional credentials from all over the world. I have founded and administered several non-traditional institutions myself, and served on the faculties and boards of others. In my exploration of distance education, I have sought quality and distinctive provision among schools that are not part of the mainstream sector, and on quite a few occasions I have found it.
All of my other doctorates are genuine, legally issued credentials, and the status of each one is explained in detail in this website. Three of my doctorates were issued by governmentally accredited universities listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO World Handbook of Universities.
The Traditional Britain Group and my supposedly “far-right” views
I remain a Vice-President of the Traditional Britain Group. I look forward to continuing to serve the TBG and am proud of what it has achieved. My speeches to the TBG, available on this website in both video and transcript, with the videos also on YouTube, show my style as hardly being that of the populist rabble-rouser: I am not, as Mr Vedmore has maliciously asserted, a “hate-filled demagogue”. I do believe there is a need to focus on the problems in our society and their negative effects, and I am happy to widen the debate about them.
It is certainly not the case that I “care only for the English”. I have spent the entirety of my student years and subsequent career in international environments, have studied and worked at foreign universities and with people from all over the world, and have devoted considerable effort to educational projects in Africa. Some indication of my international involvement might be gained from the fact that I have been recognized for my work by four governors of states of the USA and President Barack Obama, who awarded me the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service. I hold several honours of a chiefly nature from Africa, and have also received several of similar rank from South-East Asia, including from an Islamic sultanate.
I have never spoken publicly on the issue of climate change. I believe strongly that all have an imperative to care for the natural environment, and find a number of themes in “green” politics with which I agree.
The charge that I am “obviously homophobic” is absurd and baseless. My friends and family members include people who are homosexual. I have worked as a musician, a teacher and a clergyman alongside colleagues who are gay and lesbian without difficulty. As a former officer of the Libertarian Alliance, I argued in a number of papers and blog posts against state interference in matters of sexual choice and expression that are properly the business of the individual. What I have certainly steadfastly opposed is the political use of minority gender and sexual identities as part of the ideology of leftist identity politics and postmodernism. But I also believe that those who disapprove of homosexuality or of aspects of its practice, whether for religious or other reasons, should be free to say so openly. In religious matters, there is a distinction between the doctrinal and the pastoral. I do not interpret the Christian doctrinal position on homosexuality as being other than disapproving, but equally I believe that our pastoral approach to those who are homosexual should be inclusive and supportive.
The alleged “fake” company
I established Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., in 2005 to undertake educational work, including both consultancy and the provision of distance education. I was the sole director of the company. The existence of this company can easily be confirmed with Companies House using their WebCheck service which includes records for dissolved companies. Mr Vedmore’s statement that Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd. “was never a registered company in the UK” is completely false. I should add that since I was a director of Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., from its foundation in 2005, my personal information was on record at Companies House from that date onward. I would hardly have been seeking to keep my name off records in which it had already appeared for several years.
Certificate of incorporation for Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., issued by Companies House
Companies House WebCheck public listing for Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd.
Initial register of Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., showing me as the sole director
My alleged “crimes”
I wish to refute in the strongest terms the comments made by Mr Vedmore that I have ever been a party to an allegation of fraud. Mr Vedmore’s accusation that I have made “a false representation with the intention of making a personal gain, causing a loss to someone else or exposing someone else to the risk of a loss” is an outrageous falsehood manufactured by him seemingly for the sole reason of sensationalism and to attack my integrity. I have never been arrested or questioned in respect of allegations of fraud by any authority either in the United Kingdom or overseas. Regarding my educational work, I have on several occasions had contact with the Department for Education and Skills and its predecessors, and have always been scrupulous to ensure that my institutions are maintained in compliance with relevant laws in the United Kingdom. Regarding the Traditional Britain Group, Mr Vedmore’s comments were clearly aimed at my colleagues in the hope that his lie that I have “risked exposing” the TBG to loss would be followed by my dismissal as they took fright, which of course has not happened.
My office as a bishop and my title of professor are both recognized by H.M. Passport Office and appear as official observations in my passport. I am not “pretending” to be anything that I am not. As to whether I am a “paragon of virtue” that is for others to judge: as a Christian I am certainly not seeking to portray myself in such a way. If my life contains moments of both achievement and recognition, I see no reason to cut myself down to size – even if others seem to want to do so.
I have never been convicted of any criminal offence whatsoever, and in my former career as a teacher was required to hold a full clearance from the predecessor agency of the Disclosure and Barring Service. There are therefore no “safeguarding issues at stake” as is vexatiously alleged.
The major failure of Mr Vedmore’s article seems to me to lie in its lack of humanity. Mr Vedmore has never met me, does not know me, and knows nothing about me other than what little he has managed to glean from the internet. He has not even managed to get the facts straight as shown above. Rather than subject my ideas to robust criticism and debate, which I would welcome, his choice instead is the crude path of libel and personal attack. Even in the heat of political debate, the act of dehumanizing one’s opponent is the mark of the extremist. Unlike Mr Vedmore, I do not demonize others, and indeed I know from personal experience that friendships can form even across the widest of ideological divisions.
I note that Mr Vedmore, in a particularly nasty and mean-spirited previous article, has taken it upon himself to accuse Theresa May’s dead father, on the most absurdly tendentious of grounds, of being a paedophile. He has also previously come to the attention of the blogger Richard Bartholomew, who has written “There’s no point arguing with this sort of author (and those promoting the garbage on Twitter): they don’t give a damn about what’s true or not…All they care about is…weaponizing a concocted claim for some reason or another, usually to do with politics.” Lastly, and perhaps most directly, I recall the words of Dr Andrew Joyce, writing at The Occidental Observer, who has said of the proper approach to such activists, “Our priority is winning cultural influence and political power, not confronting small numbers of social effluent.”
I am grateful to the person who has brought this article to my attention. If anyone has any further information regarding the dissemination of libellous accusations against me, I would appreciate it if they would send them to me (I will preserve their anonymity if they request it.) This will enable me to take the appropriate action against those doing so by the appropriate legal means.
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.
Education: reasserting our culture and values.
One of the curious things about education is that, having experienced it at first hand, everyone believes themselves to be an expert on it. This is particularly damaging in the case of politicians, whose record of interference in education during the post-war era has offered a prime example of the dead hand of the state going where it has no business to be. Meanwhile, those who supposedly are the experts – those who teach – have effectively presided over the decline of their profession through decades of mistaken ideology and a belief that their profession continues to offer the last resting place for the Marxist spirit of 1968.
It is difficult for us to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when our education system was largely independent of government. The universities, in particular, were held to be self-governing communities of scholars, which is the model of the university we inherited from medieval times. At Oxford, there was not even any formal government instrument that permitted the University to grant degrees; simply the acknowledgement that it had done so since time immemorial and should continue in a similar manner. The history of our schools begins with the grammar schools, established by the Church, and from these our great independent schools developed from collegiate foundations – Eton, Winchester, Radley – which were both closely allied to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and, because they were boarding schools, could accept their pupils without geographical restriction.
Grammar schools have been much in the news recently and it is worth analysing some of the motives behind the debate on them and its wider context within our education system. I must declare a personal interest here: I was myself educated at what was at that time the top co-educational grammar school in the country. It was an academically highly selective school that was tremendously successful and which gave its pupils an outstanding education.
The history of state intervention in the grammar schools begins in 1869 under Gladstone, with the Endowed Schools Act. This Act followed upon the Public Schools Act of the previous year and proposed to restructure the endowments of the grammar schools so that they were more evenly distributed around the country and so that there was better provision for girls’ education. The Act changed many of the grammar schools which had been endowed to offer free classical education to boys into independent co-educational schools teaching a broader curriculum. The 1907 Education (Administrative Provisions) Act then introduced a requirement that all schools aided by government grant must reserve 25% of their places as free scholarships for students from the public elementary schools. This reform effectively brought about the grammar school in its twentieth-century guise.
It is with the 1944 Education Act that we see a designated role for the grammar schools as part of the tripartite system proposed, under which they would educate the top 25% of pupils. At this point there were around 1,200 state funded grammar schools, including not only those of ancient foundation but many which had been founded in the Victorian era, with its strong emphasis on self-improvement. In addition, there were 179 direct grant grammar schools, at which between 25 and 50% of pupils were educated free of charge and the remainder paid fees. All these became the maintained sector’s response to the independent schools; academic powerhouses dedicated to the needs of the most able.
We should now consider this system in its wider context. The tripartite system – divided between grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical schools – was designed to ensure that educational resources were distributed according to the ability of pupils to benefit from them and the state to provide for them. It was predicated upon the assumption that academically selective education produced the best results in terms of educating future leaders of the country in all areas, and above all upon the assumption that a university education should place academic excellence at the forefront of its priorities and should be reserved for those who stood to benefit most from it. It was academically competitive and there were consequences for failure at any level of the process. If, for example, you failed the eleven plus examination, you were unlikely to go to university.
Until 1965, this resulted in a situation where the universities were almost entirely filled by the products of independent and grammar schools. Their reputation was extremely high and their independence in academic terms was unquestioned. In a 1969 contribution to the educational “Black Papers”, Professor Richard Lynn wrote, “British education has been designed primarily to produce an intellectual elite. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, such an elite is necessary to keep going the intellectual and cultural tradition of European civilisation.” There was no suggestion in those days that the universities existed merely to train students for a career. Rather, they provided an academic education and existed for the purpose of propagating academic virtues, of which scholarship for its own sake and teaching were chief. Their graduates were, of course, in high demand by employers, but outside the specific professions, this was as much because of their intellectual calibre and qualities of character as it was because of any specific knowledge they possessed. In those days, the attitude persisted within independent and grammar school teaching that if someone was of the intellectual calibre to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge they were capable of mastering and teaching any subject required at school level within reason. There were many examples of classicists who taught English Literature, or physicists who taught mathematics, and of course many academic staff also coached sport and music to a high level. Indeed, such breadth was viewed as a positive attribute.
We cannot pin the blame for the decline in our education entirely upon the Labour Party. It is quite true that many in the Labour Party have seen opposition to selective and fee-paying education as a cornerstone of their egalitarianism. But the Conservative Party has throughout the past fifty years signally failed to show support for academically selective education and as a result has been as willing a participant in our decline as its political rivals. The expansion of the universities during the 1960s took place under a Conservative government, which accepted the recommendations of the Robbins Report. The major expansion which followed during the 1990s and which is still ongoing has likewise been initiated by Conservatives. While the Conservatives introduced the Assisted Places scheme at independent schools in 1980, they have so far done nothing to bring it back since Tony Blair, himself an alumnus of Fettes, abolished it in 1997.
And yet, while our politicians can all trumpet that they have got more people into university education, what they cannot address is the fact that when you convert a selective education system into a mass education system you inevitably devalue the end product. In the 1960s it was extremely rare to see graduates working in non-graduate jobs because there was no graduate employment available to them. Nowadays it is commonplace. This transition has involved the creation of a deliberate untruth and its maintenance by an elaborate and costly bureaucracy. The untruth is that a British degree, wherever it is from, is a product of universal value. There is no end of quangos and interest groups – the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, Universities UK, GuildHE – all of which are dedicated to maintaining that premise of “quality assurance”, to continually expanding higher education seemingly without limitation, and ultimately to what amounts to a universal higher education system whereby all who go to school can be admitted to a university.
It is interesting to note that the funding of education has told the truth far more than have the pronouncements from the powers that be. Until the 1990s, it was generally true that if you were successful in winning a university place, you would not have to pay for your education and you could access a grant that would cover your living expenses. With the rapid expansion in higher education and the conversion of the former polytechnics into universities came student loans to replace grants. Now, as the university sector expands even further, students in England and Wales must pay tuition fees in addition to the debts they incur for their maintenance.
Higher education has changed from an experience that was due to our brightest as of right to a commodity which is now available to all if they wish to pay for it, and particularly to foreign students who will pay even more than domestic ones. It is hardly surprising that if higher education is presented as a product within a marketplace – albeit a marketplace that consists entirely of a state monopoly – that the public will assess its value shrewdly and in many cases will decide that it is not worth the price being charged for it. That, however, cannot conceal the fact that for those who can benefit from academically selective higher education, that kind of education is increasingly subordinate to the mass higher education system, in which the scholarly ideal has been replaced by that of the Research Assessment Exercise and the demand for research to result in tangible product. Moreover any higher education is now increasingly out of reach for those without significant financial means or who are unwilling to incur significant debt against an uncertain return.
Education is the visible casualty of these changes, but it is not the only part of the picture. One very practical reason why governments have embraced mass higher education is because our society no longer has a large number of unskilled or semi-skilled jobs available. Where they are available, there is an increasing expectation that they will be filled by cheap immigrant labour. This leaves the unskilled native population to exist on benefits and occasional appearances on Channel Five. The government takes the view that the answer to this is to subject all to more education, hence its raising of the school leaving age. But this ignores the plain fact that of our population, a large number are not capable nor temperamentally suited to continuing their education. What they need is jobs, not an artificial means of keeping them off the unemployment statistics.
One curious characteristic of the decline of British education has been the willingness of those who have benefitted from its excellence to implement measures that have effectively denied the next generation the opportunity to benefit from the same opportunities as them. The losers in this are the academically able but financially impecunious. Social mobility is not something that should be the preserve of socialist politicians. During the 1980s there was much talk of Britain as a meritocracy, and yet the opportunities for those born in poverty to rise through the education system nowadays are fewer than they ever have been. Our politics, law, media and even the Olympics are now dominated by former pupils of independent schools. Since the effective abolition of the grammar schools the number of state school entrants to Oxford and Cambridge has fallen. This is not merely because pupils are not reaching the required academic standard but also because their teachers in too many cases believe that the top universities are elitist and that pupils should instead go to their local university much as they do their local school. In believing this, they condemn their pupils to fail.
An expectation has developed that those who are successful in our society will either pay for their children to be educated at independent schools, or will, usually for ideological reasons where they oppose selective education, send them to take their chances at the local comprehensive. The former option is becoming more difficult, because independent school fees are now pitched at a level that attracts the children of foreign oligarchs, and increasingly international students are taking more and more of the independent school places in this country at the expense of those from our own population who could benefit from such an education if only it were more reasonably priced.
The way in which properties are now sold according to the catchment areas of good schools tells us another fundamental truth; the education system may have abolished selection officially, but another kind of selection – one far less fair and far less transparent – is going on behind the scenes. We should not forget that the grammar schools had no catchment areas; they took everyone who passed the entrance exam regardless of where they lived. If you decide school admissions on the basis of property prices, you will create schools that are segregated by class and you will ensure that the poorest areas have the worst-performing schools.
League tables and OFSTED inspections are the government’s chosen means of reassuring us about the standards of our schools, but they are selective in the story they tell. Some examinations count for more than others, and schools have effectively played the system by entering pupils for them accordingly. On the other hand, weaker candidates have been withdrawn from subjects lest their results should reflect badly on the school’s standing.
And this brings us back to the grammar schools. When the Labour government abolished the tripartite system in 1965, it largely forced the maintained grammar schools to become comprehensives. Only in a few local authorities – just imagine today, local authorities defying central government! – did the grammar schools remain. In 1975, Labour ended the direct grant system and forced direct grant grammar schools to become comprehensives or independent schools if they wanted to continue. This left what remains today: 169 grammar schools in England and Wales and 69 in Northern Ireland.
We should ask why seventeen years of Conservative government between 1979 and 1997 did not see a renaissance for selective education, and indeed why further grammar schools closed or ceased to be selective during that period. The answer is that by this point, our education system had become one of the firmest bastions of the Left in the country. Its official endorsement of comprehensive education has been unwavering despite the eminently visible problems that have resulted from it. Any measure of reform or any challenge to the comprehensive system has been shouted down by the teaching unions, the university departments of education and the quangos – a group which Michael Gove used to refer to as “the blob”. He has said that these people believe 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…the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance.” When I was at school, my teachers were drawn from all parts of the political spectrum. When I became a teacher myself, that was far less the case. My belief is that the comprehensive system exists to benefit one sector of society solely, and that is the teachers who find it ideologically to their liking.
By the end of my time in teaching it was axiomatic that whatever your politics, if you wished to teach, you would accept the Leftist orthodoxy that the profession had imposed and that you would not challenge it. That orthodoxy says, in essence, that all must have prizes and that the excellent are the enemy of the good. It sees education not as an academic pursuit but instead as a means of social engineering and vocational training, and as a means of reducing crime and social disorder. Over the years it has provided a happy home for all manner of Marxist nonsense and has enshrined teaching methods, particularly in basic English, that fail to achieve the same results as the traditional methods they replaced. It is not difficult to see the decline in the standard of written English in public life today compared to that of fifty years ago, and we have those teachers who promoted free expression ahead of spelling and grammar to thank for that.
Any education system will produce winners and losers. If we say that all must have prizes, then we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that those prizes will be of limited value. We cannot create their value merely by attaching government branding to them, for no-one believes that something is good simply because the government endorses it. Indeed, we had a situation in this country for many years where the products of the state monopoly, notably those of British Leyland, were regarded as markedly inferior to those of the private sector. The state can only win in education by deliberately retarding any perceived or actual competition. It does so through legislation – the Education Reform Act of 1988 effectively banned private sector universities – and for those entities that are private or independent in theory, it has devised a web of regulation and bureaucracy that in practice curtails their independence. OFSTED is one manifestation of this. Another is the devaluation that has characterized our exam system.
For many years, O and A level examinations were regarded as a gold standard. They were difficult to obtain and represented a high standard of achievement. They were unashamedly academic and required a high degree of factual recall. They could be taught in a way that stretched the most able and allowed for considerable extension activity. They were tested predominantly through timed examinations and not through coursework or continuous assessment. This was also the model of educational assessment maintained by the universities who were in turn responsible for the examination boards. While the CSE examination taken in secondary modern schools was not regarded as prestigious there is no question that it was a rigorous and well respected credential, as indeed were the awards of the former polytechnics. The fact that those awards were not degrees or were not O and A levels did not diminish their fitness for purpose, but it fostered a belief among egalitarians that they were second-tier qualifications and that they deserved the same titles as would be awarded to the more academically inclined. Unfortunately, this academic inflation has proved very costly. Because we no longer teach woodwork and metalwork in our schools, we end up importing our joiners and plumbers from Poland, and those who want to learn a skilled trade are unlikely to do so during their school years. The truth is that not everyone needs, wants or will benefit from an academic education, and when subjected to one against their will, it is unsurprising that many teenagers become disruptive and unco-operative.
It is interesting to note that while we have moved away from the academically selective model and from traditional modes of teaching and assessment, other former British possessions, notably India, have kept it and benefitted strongly as a result. The government determined to take the examination boards out of university control, to privatize them and to introduce competition. The result has been a race to the lowest denominator. The examinations are not invariably easier, but they have become increasingly turgid and reductive, with an emphasis on turning everything into something that can be easily and transparently assessed in simple terms. The GCSE examination, brainchild of Sir Keith Joseph and strongly opposed at the time by Baroness Thatcher, has been a misguided attempt to merge academic and vocational education, and the fact that a number of selective schools have turned to international examinations to replace it in recent years testifies to its limitations. It is also notable that many academically demanding schools now prefer the International Baccalaureate to A levels.
I believe that Michael Gove will come to be seen as the only Education Secretary of the past fifty years to have genuinely understood some of these problems and tried, in the face of overwhelming opposition from “the blob”, to address them. I hasten to add that this is not a general endorsement of Gove’s views or policy solutions, many of which I disagree with. He has, however, endeavoured to return rigour to our exam system and it may well be that he has, at least in some respects, succeeded. How lasting that success will be remains to be seen. Gove, after all, was replaced as Education Secretary because, so it is said, his approach was seen to be too confrontational; the opposition he had aroused included two votes of no confidence from three teaching unions, voodoo pincushions, anti-Gove T-shirts and an entire Twitter feed devoted to hating him. But the fact remains that we must confront the education establishment and we must win that confrontation if we are to achieve anything at all. The path of least resistance is to go along with the blob and do their bidding. The difficulty with that is that it fails those who lack a voice in this debate but whose interests need to be right at its heart: our next generation of pupils. Perhaps Gove, who was born far from privilege and won a scholarship to an independent school, understood this more than many of his colleagues.
I want to close by noting some aspects of the ethos of the grammar school. For all that academies and free schools may have some elements of it, they are still a long way away. The good grammar school is a highly structured and disciplined institution where academic values are at the heart of the life of the school and these are allied to an institutional endorsement of Christian principle irrespective of pupils’ own religious beliefs. It is formal in its rituals, encouraging teachers to wear academic dress, having a house system that is both pastoral and competitive, and maintaining high standards of uniform and behaviour. Often the school has an extensive history and distinctive, occasionally eccentric, traditions. What it teaches should be what the top selective universities demand. I well remember that my school did not teach certain subjects because those universities did not take them seriously at entrance, and that it disdained vocational studies altogether. Unlike the comprehensives, it is not a school where all are forced to study the same curriculum regardless of ability. Above all, it is a place where to excel academically is the norm and where to aim high is natural, with the expectation that the vast majority of pupils would go on to places at university and the best would go on to those which were rated most highly. If the grammar school is an elite, then it is not in my experience a complacent elite, but rather one where elite status must be earned anew by each generation of pupils and teachers. When such schools work, they offer a beacon of opportunity for those who, on merit, win a place at them. We need more of them. In 1997, John Major promised us a grammar school in every town, a phrase which has since been echoed by UKIP. It is time to restore our culture and values to our education system, and a strong grammar school system is the best way to do this.
With the writer on music Stuart Millson before the dinner
I was the invited speaker at the Traditional Britain Group Annual Dinner at the Royal Over-Seas League on 12 September 2015. Here is the speech given on that occasion:
My Lords, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address you tonight. I am going to address a few words on the current immigration crisis.
Let me begin with some considerations of principle. Freedom and civilisation are based upon a simple premise: that land should be privately owned. If we build a society based on the private ownership of land then there is no limit to our endeavour. For centuries, this was the foundation of the West; land was owned and managed by landowners who had a direct interest in its prosperity and an equally direct interest in the welfare of those who worked that land. If we seek the roots of the England we know and love, we find it most clearly in the private ownership of land.
In our time, this freedom has been challenged. Under socialism, and regrettably under governments that call themselves conservative, we have seen measures that have been designed to break the link between landowner and land, and instead to introduce a very different concept. This is the idea that sovereignty consists not in land but in the person. If the person is sovereign, then we will build a very different kind of society; indeed, we are unlikely to build a society at all, because individualism will cause that society to atomize into multiple and ever-changing identity groups.
Here, then, is the root of the immigration crisis. If we say that land is sovereign, then it follows that someone must exercise control over it. There are still substantial private landowners in Britain today, especially so in Scotland. But for our purposes, we should see land as it really is. There is no terra nullis in Britain today. Even that which is owned privately is subordinate to the Crown, and the Crown is effectively a surrogate for the people in its ownership and management of that land which is deemed to be held in common by the nation. I am not talking here of those private estates, such as the Duchy of Cornwall, which belong to the Crown, but instead of the vast mass of common land that we encounter every day of our lives and that is subject to the management of those who are, ultimately, servants of the Crown, whether as politicians, civil servants or local council workers. This is our land, and we are right to care about what happens to it.
This, then, is why as a propertarian, I find the immigration crisis so vexed by unclear thought. Land belongs to someone. If land belongs to the Crown, the Crown has a duty to manage that land in the best interests of the people of Britain, because it is on behalf of the people of Britain that the Crown holds that land in the first place. And that duty cannot be construed otherwise than to the people of Britain as they stand now. It cannot be a duty to foreigners or their governments, for how could that be in our national interest? Therefore we are faced with the prospect that the Crown and its servants believe that in permitting mass immigration to this country, they are actually acting in the best interests of the people of Britain. I believe they are quite wrong in this.
Let us now look more closely at what is going on at the moment. I believe that Janice Atkinson MEP has summed the situation up very well. Here is what she had to say,
“Let’s be clear about another thing: despite what the human rights industry and the massed ranks of taxpayer-funded charities and lobby-groups repeat, this is not a refugee crisis but a massive crisis of illegal immigration which must be resisted for what it is. A man who leaves Syria may be a refugee at the start of the journey. When he is illegally living in Calais and illegally attempting to enter Britain, he is an economic migrant and an illegal immigrant. The humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis are for the countries of the Middle East to manage. Not for Britain, not for France, not for Austria, not for Italy, not for the Netherlands, not for Poland, not for Romania. That cannot be said too often. Oil-rich, cash-rich petro-monarchies of the region must act. They claim to be our allies. Instead, some fund Islamic terrorism and allow hundreds of thousands to come to our countries against the wishes of our people.”
It seems to me that we have, since at least 1997, suffered a concerted political attack on our immigration system. The driving force behind that attack seems to be the belief that the person is sovereign; that anyone who wishes should be able to come to Britain regardless of the skills or abilities they would bring to our country or their cultural compatibility with it, and that the settled population of these islands should simply put up with it. We do not need to look far to find the cause of this. The Labour Party saw that immigrants and their descendants were among their core supporters. They believed that the more they opened our doors to immigrants the more they would create a Labour client state and effectively pack Britain with Labour voters. Others, influenced by the ideology of multiculturalism, saw mass immigration in the same way as theorists such as the Frankfurt School as a means of destabilising opposition to socialism and making the lot of conservatives a miserable one. In an interview in 2013, Lord Mandelson said “In 2004 when as a Labour government, we were not only welcoming people to come into this country to work, we were sending out search parties for people and encouraging them, in some cases, to take up work in this country.”
Now we are seeing the distinction between legal and illegal immigration further weakened. Having encouraged mass immigration, we cannot then profess ourselves surprised when people from countries where life chances are extremely poor decide that any chance to get across our borders is worth taking. We are told that if we send millions of pounds in international aid, and indeed if we intervene militarily in foreign wars, that we will help these people stay where they are and stabilise their countries. Don’t believe it. Those who are coming to Europe believe that the standard of living that their countries provide is inadequate by comparison with that of the West. They do not want mere safety, which is why they do not want to stay in Hungary. Rather, they see the prosperity that Britain and Germany represent, and they want to experience it for themselves.
What is happening to our immigration system is an erosion of its natural boundaries. Time after time, the Prime Minister assures us that we will get an immigration system that is tougher. When he says tougher, what he actually means is fairer; that is to say, fairer both to the immigrants and to those who are already here. And yet the changes made do not have the effect that is claimed for them, nor do they succeed in substantially lowering the numbers who enter Britain each year. I hear constant statistic-based arguments from both sides about whether immigration is economically beneficial. I do not believe that it is, because it artificially distorts our labour market. I certainly do not believe it is in anyone’s interest that we should have a class of super-rich international jet-setters employing an underclass of disenfranchised immigrants to do menial work that the existing population of this country is supposedly unwilling to do. But this is what happens when an aristocracy of land is replaced by an aristocracy of money. We should not think that Tony Blair and his colleagues are motivated by noblesse oblige or care for our society and our environment. Their motivation seems, by contrast, to speak all too plainly of short-term, materialistic, self-interested greed and tribalism in favour of their family and friends. Their interest is not so much in New Labour as in cheap labour. These are not the values we should have at the heart of our society and they are not values that have had any significant place in the Britain of the past.
But it is not the economic arguments that have the greatest impact on me, it is the cultural arguments. These are arguments that go largely unheard in the House of Commons. It is left to Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to voice them. He says “Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity. Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.” His is not the only country to say that it cannot accept more Muslim migrants.
Is it not sobering that our own Prime Minister cannot mount a robust defence of the Christian heritage of our country in this way? It must be admitted that were he to do so, he would not get a lot of support from the Church of England. But this is the crux of the matter. We cannot allow mass immigration by people, whatever their personal merits and humanitarian need, whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own, without a heavy price being paid. And the countries where those values are naturally at home – Saudi Arabia chief among them – are noticeable by their reluctance to assist in the present crisis, even though it is they who should be bearing the heaviest burden. As those rich Arab countries look at Europe, they must be reminding themselves of the old saying, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.
A further argument which is extremely important is that we must learn the lessons of the past when it comes to immigration. The character of Britain depends in large part on the fact that our country is relatively underpopulated. Even our cities, which have always been cosmopolitan in nature, are having to bear a burden that is far greater than they were designed for. The NHS, the transport system and local services cannot be stretched beyond their limit without breaking. We are seeing property prices being inflated by an artificial scarcity, and new housing being built not only on brownfield sites but often as infill development on greenfield sites as well.
As our towns and cities become more packed, our quality of life suffers. It also suffers from the failure to assimilate migrants by enforcing our cultural values. It should be the norm that the English language is spoken on our streets, for example, and it should also be used in commerce, so that we do not have shop frontages entirely in a foreign language. Immigrants should learn English, and we should monitor their progress until they can communicate clearly in the language. We should have the courage to ban the burka and thereby defend the rights and freedoms of women which were hard-fought in this country. We must ensure that immigrants do not jump the queue for council housing or other public services at the expense of our settled population, but that they wait their turn like everyone else. We should also ensure that British values are taught in our schools and that Muslim propaganda has no place there. One aspect of this that I came across recently is that music – singing or playing an instrument – is regarded as haram, or forbidden, by most Muslims. We should be clear that every child should be allowed the experience of singing and the opportunity to learn a musical instrument during their time at school, regardless of their religious beliefs. And we should not hesitate to deport from this country those who use our hospitality to argue against Western values and to encourage terrorism and armed jihad. That has no place whatsoever in this country. If people want to go to Syria to fight with ISIS, they should not be allowed back and should be treated as undesirable aliens. As recent experience has shown, it is very easy for the Home Office to keep people out of this country.
In short, where our cultural values and those of foreign migrants clash, ours should prevail and our national systems should enforce them. We cannot be equivocal about this. If we give in to cultural relativism, we are effectively signing our death warrant as a people and as a culture. We need to understand that the support of our culture requires its positive reinforcement at every level. It cannot simply be absorbed by osmosis, and certainly not if we allow ghettoes to form.
I do not want to deny or diminish the human cost of immigration from the migrants’ point of view. We would not be human if we were not moved by the plight of dead children or desperate people. Those scenes rightly evoke an emotional response in us. But political policy cannot be subject to emotion; it must be made with a cool head and in a climate of calm and reasoned judgement. The decisions we make about immigration, whatever they may be, will always have a cost to pay. My belief, though, is that the balance of those decisions must always be firmly towards the settled population of this country, who look to their government to defend their interests. We cannot accept everyone who wants to come here, and if we do, we will have acted to destroy this country, not enrich it. We must have the maturity and the courage to say, as Hungary has said, that there are good reasons to say no.
Christmas talk to the Traditional Britain Group, December 2014.
It is said that Dom Paul Neville, Headmaster of Ampleforth College from 1924 to 1954, was at a meeting of the Headmasters’ Conference. The theme of discussion was preparation for life, and the various headmasters were vying to show how their schools were at the cutting edge in preparing their pupils for Life, in various ways. Dom Paul rose and said, “Gentlemen, I have been very impressed to hear how your schools are preparing pupils for Life. I have little to add to this discussion, because my school prepares the boys not for Life, but for Death.”
I am going to talk to you today about the significance of death from the perspective of one of the key concepts of traditionalist conservatism, that of legacy. The concept of legacy is as integrated into our society as the family itself; the idea that we may have an influence on generations to come. In a number of important ways, our legacy is not simply genetic in terms of descendance, but can also have significant effects on future generations unrelated to us. If we seek to stand for positive values in our lives, we can also hope that when we are dead, those values will not merely continue (for all true values are eternal) but that our engagement with them can assist others in turn to discover and be enriched by them in various ways.
When Edward Latymer, a London city merchant, died childless in 1624, he made several important provisions in his will. The will left a sum in trust that would provide “eight poore boies” from Edmonton and another eight from Fulham yearly on November 1st with a doublet, a pair of breeches, a shirt, a pair of woollen stockings and shoes. In return for being educated to the age of thirteen at a “petty school” the boys had to wear the red cross from Latymer’s coat of arms on their sleeves. The trustees are under a duty to carry out the provisions of Edward Latymer’s will “unto the end of the world.”
The effect of Latymer’s will has been far-reaching. From the original eight poor boys, the Latymer Foundation now has responsibility for three large and thriving schools; two in Hammersmith and one in Edmonton, and it was at the latter, which is the senior school of the Foundation, that I myself received my schooling. Had that not been so, I should never have heard of Edward Latymer. Instead, as in many other schools of a similar vintage, the Founder was commemorated each year on Foundation Day, which had the notable benefit of being a half-day holiday.
The lesson of what Latymer did can be summarized in this way: he was determined that the wealth he had created would not simply die with him, but would be used to nurture something that he believed in strongly. By establishing what would in modern times be termed a charitable bequest, he ensured that his estate would neither pass to distant relatives (although they did contest his will) nor into the clutches of government. His actions are a fine example of noblesse oblige: the doctrine that holds that to those to whom wealth is given, there falls a concomitant responsibility to administer that wealth in a way that benefits the common good.
It will come as no surprise to those who have heard me talk before that G.K. Chesterton is one of the writers to whom I make frequent reference. In his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton has this to say, “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” He continues, “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”
What Chesterton refers to is the interconnectedness of human existence through the generations. All of us are the sum total of our ancestors in terms of our genetics, but we may well forget how like them we can be not only in our looks but in our character. If we look to the famous families of England these intergenerational traits can often be observed, and are aided by the ability to refer to portraiture from previous centuries that can reveal much about those who have gone before. We also share a more general commonality; not for naught did writers of past generations attribute particular characteristics to the people of the various regions of our island, or refer to the English race, or speak of us as the island stock, or indeed “this happy breed”. For those of us whose ancestry here reaches back some centuries, before the time of widespread immigration, we are each others’ kith and kin far more than is commonly acknowledged, even though it must be said that it is part of our national character to keep others at a certain distance. This shared heritage should not surprise us, since our island is not a large one, and for many centuries the English flourished unconquered.
In truth, we are living links in the chain that binds us from the dead to the unborn; we hold our lives in trust, and should be determined to pass to the next generation that which we ourselves have enjoyed, in as good if not better condition. Indeed, that concept of trust is enshrined in English law and is one of the crowning glories of that legal system. The Trustee has ownership, but his ownership is conceived exclusively as a duty. This remains the embodiment of intelligent conservatism, because it safeguards those things that are of value and prevents them from being dissipated or squandered.
How different our society is now from that which Edward Latymer knew! We should remember that in his day, there was no income tax – that would not arrive fully until 1842 – and few restrictions on what a man could do with his assets; his rights under common law were inalienable. It is still possible for someone to leave their entire estate to charity today, but otherwise there are many pitfalls that work to oppose any idea of legacy. Why should this be?
If we seek to understand how English society has been comprehensively destabilised during the past century, we need look no further than the obscenity of death duties. This Socialist measure is designed to forcibly redistribute wealth; to rob the wealthy of their inheritance, and to smash the hierarchy that is inbuilt into England’s history and character. Countless landed families have gone under; forced to sell the home that was theirs for generations and see their heritage squandered by here-today gone-tomorrow politicians who hate the established way of life of these islands and their people with a fervour I have never understood.
Many today comment on the shallowness of our society; its short-termism and the atomization of its people. Our society penalises those who save money and instead encourages everyone to live on so-called “easy” credit. It privileges two classes of people; those at the bottom who have no money and can therefore obtain the maximum in benefits that is available to them, and those at the top who have so much money that they can either engage in creative ways to hide it or simply not worry about it. Those in the middle are not merely squeezed, they are prisoners of a brutal and uncaring state machine that is designed to exploit their labour and remove their wealth for whatever vain pursuit may be in fashion at the time. Foreign expeditionary wars, High Speed Two, housebuilding on swathes of our Green Belt in order to house the ever-increasing numbers entering our country – these are the things that no-one seems to want and yet everyone is obliged to pay for.
While there is legitimacy to the Crown as a hereditary landowner and centre of wealth in the Britannic realm, there is none whatsoever in the aggregation of wealth by Parliament. The modern State is entitled to nothing; everything it owns it has gained by legalized theft from its subjects. Its sole aim is to keep its subjects in their place, so that the rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and everyone else stays worried, harassed and permanently short of money.
It is no wonder that our society should be shallow and short-termist if the result of aggregating even a modest level of wealth is that death duties of a swingeing forty per cent should forcibly redistribute it against your wishes. It is an absolute scandal that the government that maintains this robbery, backed of course by the ultimate threat of violence, should call itself “Conservative”. It is nothing of the kind: it has embraced a Socialism that Marx himself would have applauded, and it is the embodiment of the politics of envy that are so very popular with the Labour Party these days. Can we be surprised, then, that the most logical response to such measures is to resort to an empty hedonism; if you can neither take your wealth with you nor give it to whom you wish without contortions and expensive planning, it is all too natural simply to spend the lot.
I do not want to talk about legacy simply in terms of money, however. There remain personal elements of legacy that are part of living life as a traditionalist and that apply whatever the state of our personal exchequer. Indeed, these elements are considerably more important than any financial consideration, for they are not only actions taken with a view to the future but also actions that reveal and may indeed form our characters. Not for nothing is it said that success built purely on money and material goods is an empty vessel. Since we cannot immediately hope to displace the state or to abolish taxation, we should instead concentrate on what we can do to create value for ourselves.
The creation of value, of significance and of substance is something that will outlast us even if the things we have created no longer exist. Consider Socrates, a man who wrote nothing that survived him. Everything we know of his thought has been filtered through those who knew and were influenced by him, chiefly Plato and Xenophon, and also Aristophanes and Aristotle. For that matter, consider Jesus Christ, whose words were conveyed to us through his disciples. Theirs may be a barely tangible legacy, but they have created an immense sphere of influence throughout the entirety of Western civilisation. What we see here is a chain not dissimilar to the genetic chain I described earlier, but here it is a chain of ideas whereby one person influences another, and in turn builds those ideas into his worldview. The philosophy expounded by Socrates and by Jesus is not merely a set of dead ideas, confined to the distant past: it is a living legacy, debated and discovered afresh by every generation. To leave a legacy even remotely approaching this brings a satisfaction far beyond that of materialism; it is to know that something of us will remain alive when even our tomb has disappeared.
Even if our accomplishments are, of necessity, considerably more modest than those of Socrates, we can still derive great satisfaction from engagement in work of significance. Creative endeavour of any kind is an obvious means of adding value to life. But there are other ways towards the same fulfilment. Engagement in work that seeks to promote the betterment of our society and the improvement of the lives of others enables us to participate with the same spirit that inspired Edward Latymer. The raising of children who are educated to understand the importance of our core values is another crucial task, and one that must increasingly be undertaken in opposition to government.
If we are to dedicate ourselves to seeking this fulfilment, we must first realize that our lives are finite and that there is no time to waste. This is what my opening quotation means: if we prepare for death, we live our lives with a perspective that looks for the good that we can accomplish in the time left to us, and we actively consider the way we want to be remembered. We may be impelled towards that consideration by a religious belief, or we may simply want to honour life itself, for it is a gift, and one that is all-too fragile.
Whatever the case, we are unlikely to emerge from such contemplation with the view that the way forward is that of pointless nihilism. More likely, we will conclude that the values that are at the heart of us impel us towards a life of integrity. They will be values that, as we explore them more deeply, will reveal a moral code, and will moreover speak to those aspects of our character that we will want to develop. We all begin as deeply imperfect and flawed clay; we can mould ourselves into something that can transcend our past and achieve both self-respect and the respect of others.
We may find our value in a job, but there is no reason why value should be confined there. What people do when they are not at work is an area that continually surprises and intrigues me. Some people balance their lives so that their work is merely a means of paying the bills without interest in career or promotion; their passion is explored outside any environment of financial reward. And as for finance, all of us except the most impoverished can benefit from learning to live on less than we do; the consequence is greater financial freedom and in consequence greater personal freedom.
Whatever we do, its effect is to turn us outward. Spending time with others, particularly others who need us, is often one of the most valuable things we can do. What we are asked to do in such situations is not to give money, but to give of ourselves. We each have qualities and talents that can give pleasure and provide lasting enjoyment. Our lives are better for sharing them. The impact we have on the lives of others is something that will outlast us; it is the most important legacy that most of us will have the chance to leave.
It is not a coincidence that I am delivering this talk in Advent; indeed I did promise to others that it would be morally improving, and I hope it has been so without becoming a sermon. It is easy in today’s world to neglect our common humanity and I hope I have been able to counteract that impulse. Traditionalists may argue over exactly what it is that they are preserving, but I would maintain that it is a way of living in which people have context; where they feel a part of landscape, heritage, society and country in a way that binds them to their roots and enables them in turn to engage in propagation. It is, in short, the opposite of the Marxist society that promotes merely alienation and consequent misery.
And with that, I wish all of you a very merry Christmas.
Why does today’s Western art music strive so conspicuously for cultural relevance? Why are many of our university music faculties more concerned with cultural theory than with applied music? Why have we lost confidence in historical and applied models of musicology, and moreover in the tonal tradition that forms the basis of the greatest musical heritage known to mankind? In this talk, I will trace the roots of this malaise over the past century. I will explore the ways in which an explicitly Marxist agenda has caused Western art music to abnegate its past, and in doing so, to render itself marginalized in comparison to popular music of chiefly African-American origin. I will also show how political influence has played a large part in the contemporary perception of the Western musical heritage as elitist and thereby culturally taboo.
What makes for good music? Until the First World War there was a general consensus that Western societies valued music that was written with cogency, formal command and structure, and that communicates the higher values of those societies – in which respect we might refer to such words as nobility, beauty and complexity, by which latter term I mean the capacity to reveal hidden levels of meaning upon greater exploration. A major work of Western art music does not merely reflect the human condition, but inspires us beyond our own limitations towards the best of which we are capable.
The experience of good music lifts the spirits, challenges the mind and opens us to the riches of Western civilization. Even works of Western art music which may be considered of lesser stature have the capacity to accord enjoyment from their craft, proportion and charm of execution, in the same way that we may derive pleasure from an Agatha Christie novel despite being aware of its formulaic nature. In the best composers we discover a capacity to surprise and constantly renew their chosen forms with a distinctive individual voice. This renewal leads to organic development and also to experimentation, sometimes with dramatic and effective results.
Although an appreciation of music is probably innate to mankind, it would be a mistake to believe that Western art music will yield up its secrets without an appreciation of its context and techniques. Certainly we can appreciate music that is strongly rhythmic, or that relies on simple repetition for its effects, without much in the way of specialist knowledge. But when encountering a Bach fugue for the first time, many of the uninitiated will be put off by what appears arcane, impenetrable and difficult to follow. To traverse the unknown region, a roadmap is necessary.
The roadmap comes in the form of understanding both the circumstances in which that piece came to be written – the details of the composer’s biography and the way in which the work in question fits into his output and the overall genre in question – and the means by which the piece makes its effect. The first consideration belongs to the realms of history and musical appreciation. The second belongs to the realm of musical techniques.
If our aim is merely to appreciate music at the level of the amateur, so that we can enrich our lives as a result, we need to go down both of these routes on the roadmap. If our aim is either to write music that is worthy of comparison with that of the masters, or to perform it in some way that does it justice, we need to travel further and explore more widely.
In doing so, we will discover that much of what we consider characteristic of Western thought as regards the melodic and harmonic components of music is in fact the product of observed phenomena of long standing. Writing in “Dimensions of Paradise”, John Michell says “Long before Pythagoras made his famous experiments with lengths of string and pipe, the relationship between number and sound had been noted, and ancient rulers specified certain lawful scales that had to be followed in all musical compositions. The reason for this was that they recognized music as the most influential of all arts, appealing directly to the human temper, and thus a potential source of disturbance in their carefully-ordered canonical societies.”
The Pythagorean method of tuning is, just like modern equal temperament, a form of syntonic temperament, in which each tuning is the product of powers of the ratio 3:2, giving us the cycle of fifths that is familiar within tonal harmony. Another fundamental of tonal harmony, the chromatic scale, originates in an equalized version of the harmonic series, and this equalization in turn owes its impetus to the just intonation established by Ptolemy of Alexandria. As was established by nineteenth-century theorists Riemann and Hauptmann there is nothing accidental or random about the basis of Western music, or indeed of what we have come to regard as hierarchical tonality. It originates in the observation of mathematical and acoustic phenomena and it is likewise a mathematical sense that illuminates our concepts of musical form, proportion and structure. Sir Thomas Browne had it correct when he said, “For there is a music wherever there is a harmony, order or proportion; and thus far we may maintain the music of the spheres.”
As may therefore be expected, the Western musical tradition places a high emphasis upon codification through a notated score and pre-composition. Indeed, the principal difference between Western and non-Western music lies in the West’s relative disdain for improvisation. Whereas Indian art music, for example, places improvisation at its heart, Western art music relegates improvisation to specific and relatively minor roles – chiefly instrumental cadenzas and melodic embellishments. Because of its codification, Western art music is concerned with music not merely as an act of the moment, to be experienced simply by those present, but as an act of legacy, whereby once a composition has been born, it can enjoy a future that is open to posterity, since its score can be interpreted and reinterpreted by successive generations. This codification is akin to the progression from the collective oral tradition of storytelling at the dawn of mankind to the individual authorship of literary work after writing was discovered. It follows that the interpretation of Western art music is therefore also a complex matter embracing distinct schools of thought and specific techniques with much scope for individual input.
We can see, then, that Western music places a clear divide between its art tradition of codified music and its vernacular tradition of uncodified or improvised folk music. We should not deny the appeal and importance of that vernacular tradition. Indeed, the interchange that occurred between national folk traditions and Western art music in the nineteenth-century brought about a renewal that was far-reaching in its influence. Composers such as Vaughan Williams, for example, not only employ actual English folk music as a basis for art music composition, but also write melodies that are inspired by the contours of folk melody, so that they sound as English as the models that inspired them. This, however, is a conscious transmutation. The use of a folk melody in Western art music is the act of the cultural observer and recorder from the world of codified music, not the act of an authentic folk music exponent for whom notation is incidental to the living improvisatory tradition of that music. Nevertheless, there is a justified claim to superiority for Western art music over that of the improvisatory tradition, in that its premeditation leads to greater melodic, harmonic and structural complexity and thereby to more profound possibilities of expression through an extended form such as the symphony.
The secure foundation established by Western art music has contributed to a flourishing of musical performance as well as high standards of music teaching and of musical literacy in the general public. Even as the growth of radio and television during the twentieth-century made concert-going less popular, the following for Western art music among all sectors of society remained strong, as witnessed by the continuation of the private music clubs (which were a leading employer of young musicians and those with a local, rather than a national, reputation), brass bands, music appreciation societies and amateur choirs and orchestras. Significantly, this was a participatory tradition. Western society viewed engagement with music, even at a modest level, as culturally enriching and as a hallmark of the educated man or woman. Further, music’s strong association with the Church was such as to mark music out as morally improving, for after all were the angels not depicted with harps?
One of the main aspects that characterizes the pre-1914 tradition of Western art music is its confidence. The majority of musicians and music educators were not generally beset by existential angst as to the justification for their art. Tonality was expanded, experimented with and challenged by such composers as Wagner and Debussy, but it would only be a small number of composers who, led by Schoenberg, would deliberately break with tonality. What has been described as the late nineteenth-century crisis of tonality is in fact an organic process that would find its logical conclusion not in Second Viennese School serialism, but instead in what might be described as tonal freedom, whereby composers such as Scriabin or Hindemith would retain a background context of tonally-derived melody and harmony while seeking to enrich that context through the extension of tonality into less familiar territory. In other words, musical renewal rested ultimately not with those extremists who sought to cast away tonality’s naturally-derived basis and replace this with an artificial construct, but with those who saw the horizons of tonality widening rather than narrowing. The music of Sibelius offers us many examples of this new approach to tonality, particularly in his Seventh Symphony. Other examples of such organic development would be the progressive tonality of Nielsen and the highly distinctive harmonic world of Robert Simpson which is firmly rooted in classicism and often based on the opposition of particular intervals or keys.
The theme of the replacement of an organic order with one that is artificial and man-made is not a new one in modern ideas. The idea of cultural struggle, in which an established order is subverted by direct opposition, is likewise familiar. These are Marxist concepts and should be seen as such. Let us be clear; the nineteenth-century crisis of tonality was manipulated for propagandistic purposes as part of a much wider cultural crisis in which Western civilization and culture and their established order came under direct attack from Marxism. The revolution that brought about atonality and serialism was the same ideological revolution that deposed Europe’s crowns and that, at its point of greatest early fulfilment, led to the Communist ascendancy in Russia. As one of its architects, Georg Lukacs, would write, “Who will save us from Western civilization?”
What Lukacs and his fellows abhorred above all was the unique and sacred nature of the individual within the Christian worldview. Lukacs was determined to reduce the individual to a common destiny in a world which, in his words, “had been abandoned by God”. Another leading thinker of this ilk, Walter Benjamin, tells us that “religious illumination,” must be shown to “reside in a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson.” He goes on, “Do not build on the good old days, but on the bad new ones.” If man were to lose his connection to the divine, his only remaining creative option would be political revolt, which, according to Benjamin and his colleagues, would bring about a Marxist revolution.
Of course these developments were not without reaction and resistance. However, what was to be remarkable was the way in which Marxist intellectuals of the Frankfurt School succeeded in the post-1945 period in discrediting conservative reaction by identifying it explicitly with the Third Reich. For the Frankfurt School, creativity was impossible, anyone who adhered to universal truth was an authoritarian and even reason was subject to the shifting sands of critical theory. Culture was to be abolished; a “new barbarism” was to be created through new cultural structures that would increase the alienation of the people. Before long, from the ashes of a war-torn Europe, a surprisingly broad intellectual coalition had formed that supported and funded the Frankfurt School and its front organization, the Institute for Social Research. This gave the Frankfurt School the means to set in place its intellectual undermining of Western civilization.
The major works in which this is done include Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment of 1944, which gives us the concept of a manipulative culture industry, and The Authoritarian Personality of 1950 by Adorno and others. This latter work was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and sought to connect the Freud-derived concept of the authoritarian personality to conservative and fascist ideology, and to anti-semitism. It should not be thought that Adorno and Horkheimer were writing with the intention of protecting Jews from prejudice. Rather, they, along with Marx, were opposed to all religions, including Judaism. They wanted to destroy the principles of both Jewish and Christian civilization and force the “scientifically planned reeducation” of Americans and Europeans. While the overtly politicized conclusions of The Authoritarian Personality have since been comprehensively disproven, they were not disproven quickly enough to prevent their cultural influence becoming widespread in the post-war years and even today. Indeed, they remain foundations for many of the ideas that are dominant in today’s academy.
We should look particularly carefully at the legacy of Adorno. Adorno as a pupil of Schoenberg and Berg believed that composers should relate to the past as a canon of taboos rather than a canon of models for emulation. His concept of art was also structured on that of Marxist Kulturkampf, in that he saw the duty of art to be “corrosively unacceptable” to the sensibilities of the middle class, and therefore to be a succession of shocking, difficult and obscure events.
The Adornoist concept has the advantage of wrapping music up in an impenetrable web of self-meanings. It means that music structured on these lines is likely to be theoretically extremely complex, divorced from significant cultural reference, emotionally arid and exceptionally difficult both to play and to listen to. Of the thousands of works written during the post-war years in this style, not a single one has attained genuine public popularity. They speak only to an elite, and that elite is specifically ideologically driven. As far as many executant musicians are concerned, they are indeed tolerated but not loved. Indeed, many would say that one might just as well love industrial noise as the work of Stockhausen and the post-war Darmstadt School, for all its undoubted intellectual accomplishment. What is created is effectively non-music, non-art, because of its rejection of the musical values that I outlined at the beginning of this lecture. It preserves something of the colour, the instrumentation, the dynamic variety of Western art music, but it ignores what David Hellewell has called “music’s unique language; the dialectic of notes.” Even Adorno admitted that atonalism was sick, but as he said, “the sickness, dialectically, is at the same time the cure…The extraordinarily violent reaction protest which such music confronts in the present society…appears nonetheless to suggest that the dialectical function of this music can already be felt…negatively, as ‘destruction.’”
Moreover, Adornoism gives itself a license to view the past through its own distorting Freudian prism; for example, Adorno believed that the chord structure of late Beethoven was striving to be atonal, but Beethoven could not bring himself consciously to break with the structured world of Congress of Vienna Europe. For Adorno, an individual such as Beethoven was not autonomous and acting with free will, but was instead the prisoner of unconscious historical forces. Such arguments are merely Trojan horses for Marxism, since they can rewrite history according to an unlimited degree of political interpretation.
The effect of this movement on Western art music has been disastrous. Because Adornoist music cannot exist without significant public subsidy and is explicitly Marxist in its aesthetic, the general tendency of governments to become more controlling with regard to the arts in the post-war period has had a field-day. Without the government supporting the Adornoists, they would have failed in a blink of an eye when subjected to the popular market. When William Glock became director of the BBC Third Programme in 1959 he presided over a decade in which the Adornoist avant-garde was given public support while dissenters were consciously suppressed. Yet this support achieved nothing in terms of producing a wider popularity outside the limited circle of initiates. Rather, it furthered the fragmentation of our musical culture and an alienation of the West from its cultural heritage.
A combination of centralising tendencies and Marxist ideology with a decline in support for composers who do not fit the Adornoist and government image of what they should be, has left multiple generations without access to new music in the classical tradition which has the prospect of speaking directly to them. I can assure you that this tradition has been there – in the music of such post-war figures as Howells, Ferguson, Arnold, Lloyd and Arthur Butterworth – all of which have written vital and much underrated music – but even though all but the last are dead, their music remains largely sidelined by the mainstream today. They have become a narrowly specialist taste, and one that is nowadays increasingly dismissed as socially elitist and thus contrary to the egalitarian zeitgeist.
The concept of an official line on what composition should be – so very Soviet in its way – has led also to a situation where it is axiomatic that musicians be if not actively Marxist, then at least tolerant of working within that ideological framework. This gives us “luvvies for Labour”; it also means that those who doubt the left-wing consensus are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their livelihoods. The constraining ideological framework is not always obvious; it is often a superstructure far above the head of the individual musician, but it is there nonetheless. Orchestras, for example, are highly unionized organizations; the Musicians’ Union negotiates standard fees and terms of employment for orchestral musicians, and it in turn affiliates to the TUC and the Labour Party.
As soon as the Frankfurt School saw the burgeoning of mass entertainment and popular music they seized upon it as a means of Marxist dialectic. One of the most interesting aspects of pop music is that it is concerned largely with a group aesthetic and with the reproduction of the same experiences – musical stereotypes – that are already established as commercially successful. For Adorno, this stereotyping meant that exposure to pop music disengaged the mind, making the experience of music less sacred and increasing alienation, a process which he called “demythologizing”. In addition, pop music was largely non-Western in its origins, consisting of commercialized versions of African, Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean folk music. Adorno says, “contemporary listening…has regressed, arrested at the infantile stage. Not only do the listening subjects lose, along with the freedom of choice and responsibility, the capacity for the conscious perception of music…[t]hey fluctuate between comprehensive forgetting and sudden dives into recognition. They listen atomistically and dissociate what they hear, but precisely in this dissociation they develop certain capacities which accord less with the traditional concepts of aesthetics than with those of football or motoring. They are not childlike…but they are childish; their primitivism is not that of the undeveloped, but that of the forcibly retarded.”
It is significant that every time mainstream pop music has tried to move beyond stereotype – as is the natural tendency of human creativity – there have been powerful forces dragging it back. Time and again during the 1960s and 1970s, jazz and pop music moved forward because of engagement with aspects of the Western art music tradition. The work of George Martin, Gil Evans, Charles Stepney, Claus Ogerman and those working in progressive rock drew directly on Western art music to create art music from the roots of pop music. In addition, an entire genre of music grew up – labelled “easy listening” – that presented jazz and pop music in arrangements that were considered more acceptable to those whose ears were attuned to art music. All of this resulted in a brutal record industry reaction in the late 1970s in which the nihilism and Leftism of punk and electronic music was vaunted and primitivism embraced once more. In the past two decades a further development has taken place, in which we are for the first time confronted by the phenomenon of all but the elderly having grown up in the post-1945 era and thus having been targeted since youth as consumers of pop music. This has allowed pop music finally to displace Western art music within the media and within our education system, as pop is now held by the decision-makers concerned to be culturally equal if not superior to its art music counterpart.
Those who perform Western art music have inevitably seen the landscape of their profession altered totally by this cultural shift. The former confidence in the cultural value of what they do has been replaced by an insecurity of purpose; a questioning of their very reason for existence. The contemporary focus on the physical appearance of classical artists and on short, memorable pieces as the vehicle for their success belongs to the world of pop. What it is not is the popularisation of classical music. Rather, it is the dumbing down of the Western art music tradition by presenting it with the same commercial values as pop music, with attendant assumptions of limited shelf-life and quick profits rather than long-term viability. What more can we expect when the Chairman of Universal Music Group considers that classical music is “rather unwelcoming” and “a bit like an elitist club”.
Artistic quality is now judged more on the basis of record company and media hyperbole than by an educated public, because that public has been systematically disempowered from the ability to exercise meaningful artistic judgement. The loss of the live concert experience as part of our culture has been more visible in Britain than on the Continent, but it is perhaps most obvious in the loss of community and amateur music-making dedicated to the Western art music tradition and even home listening in the form of the radio and recordings. Increasingly, that tradition is losing its hold as its exponents and enthusiasts become older and die off, being supplanted or even replaced altogether by pop music. One has only to listen to Desert Island Discs to become painfully aware that for many men and women who occupy leading roles in our society, who are otherwise educated and sensitive human beings, Western art music is something as remote to them as the planet Jupiter. Indeed, the Culture Secretary tells us that he never listens to Radio 3, and prefers Classic fM, which he finds “accessible and informal” – and this despite the fact that today’s Radio 3 falls over itself to dumb down, fetishize youth and employ announcers whose gauche chumminess must be making Cormac Rigby and Patricia Hughes turn in their graves.
Shortly after the election of the New Labour government in 1997, those responsible for British music education were essentially told that they would be compelled to embrace the Government’s educational priorities. Those priorities were towards Leftist multiculturalism and political correctness, and to the replacement of education with vocational training in pursuit of a social engineering agenda. Institutions would no longer be permitted to be determinedly exclusive in their admissions policies; the focus on excellence was seen as “disenfranchising people”.
Interestingly, this development presaged the cult of the amateur and the disparaging of expert status that has since become such a prevalent feature of the Internet. It owes its roots, of course, to the prevalence of postmodernism, itself an ideology owing much to Marx. Once the idea that there are central concepts of value or meaning that run through all good music can be thrown aside, or that critical rationalism is a basis for assessing the worth of a statement that lies outside of the realm of pure opinion, the ground is clear for all sorts of phony replacements.
Above all, what is promoted is a closed, totalitarian arts system. It is a system where government funding creates an expensive elite based on ideology, not ability. It remains dedicated to the Adornoist means whereby Western art music is to be subverted: firstly by the promotion of art music whose ideology is that of alienation, which is by definition anti-populist, and where complexity and obscurity of method are valued highly. Secondly, pop music is endorsed by the arts establishment and with it the concept that anyone, regardless of ability, can become a pop star instantly simply through winning a television talent contest and receiving media promotion. Music education now gives less emphasis to the history and techniques of Western art music and more to free expression and improvisation. Indeed, there are in our schools, according to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, “music teachers who thought that even to teach standard western musical notation was to indulge in extreme elitism, claiming that it would inhibit the children’s creativity, and was alien to the “working class values of ordinary people”.
Increasingly, cultural relativism is a third means of attacking the West; non-Western music is given equality if not priority with Western art music both in our education system and increasingly in arts funding. Concepts such as “diversity” and multiculturalism in general are part of this trend. In his excellent book, “Cultural Revolution, Culture War”, Sean Gabb reminds us that, “In October 2003, the Association of British Orchestras organised a symposium on Cultural Diversity and the Classical Music Industry, and effectively required attendance from every classical music organisation in England larger than a string quartet. Among those addressing the symposium was Professor Lola Young, Head of Culture at the Greater London Authority. She said: “We must change the look of the classical music industry”. She was supported by Roger Wright, head of BBC Radio 3, who confessed that everyone at the BBC now underwent “diversity training”.” Practitioners of Western art music have a new-found obsession with “relevance” – they must make the case for their existence in a society that once considered them a vital element of their culture.
In a climate of austerity and cultural hostility, the vital structures that support and nurture Western art music have been placed under unprecedented stress. Local councils have discontinued elements of their music services and, driven by opposition to elitism, ended their support of assisted places at the junior departments of the conservatoires. Western art music classes and activities in publically-funded adult further education have been cut drastically. Meanwhile, the Church, once responsible for the development of young musicians through its choral tradition, has also increasingly replaced Western art music with pop. Our present Archbishop of Canterbury, who had African drummers and Punjabi music at his installation ceremony, has declined the customary office of vice-patron of the Royal College of Organists that his predecessors have held since the foundation of the College in 1864.
Let us move on to consider what is taught in our university music departments that concern themselves with Western art music – that is to say, those which have not closed under the recent funding pressures. Presaging New Labour by a couple of years came the movement entitled the “new musicology”, also called cultural or critical musicology, a jackdaw hybrid of gender and queer studies, cultural theory, post-structuralism, postcolonial studies and the theorising of Adorno and Benjamin.
What is notable in the “new musicology” is how little of originality it contains. It is as if someone were to gather up the most leftist elements of university teaching and then unite them in a single Marxist behemoth. There is psychology, of course, and pointless theorising as to whether one can tell whether Schubert was gay or not from his use of the German sixth. There is cultural theory a-plenty, the return of extended prose written in numbered paragraphs, and the meaningless, self-referential cant of structuralism and post-structuralism. Indeed, Professor Lawrence Kramer has said that in order to survive, musicology must embrace a network of “postmodernist strategies of understanding”. To appease the multiculturalists, ethnomusicology has now taken much of the space and funding formerly allocated to dead white males, meaning that the folk songs of obscure Third World tribes are now accorded the importance that the powers that be feel they deserve. Feminism of a particularly assertive kind has been allowed free rein, determining among other things that sonata form is sexist and misogynist. Here, we are no longer talking about music as music, but instead music, in the words of Professor Susan McClary, “as a medium that participates in social formation”.
What the new musicologists have done is effectively set up a straw man in order to justify their ideological lurch. That straw man is the idea that music has no meaning and no political or social significance. As Charles Rosen points out, with the exception of nineteenth-century critic Hanslick, it is doubtful whether anyone has ever actually believed this. Rather, there has always been what we might refer to as a divine fusion in the performance of music between what is deemed to be the composer’s meaning and significance and that overlaid or recreated by the performer, and then a third overlay of meaning and significance by the listener. Not only are those perceptions likely to differ between individuals, they may well differ among the same individuals on different occasions, depending on emotional state. Even the eminent may legitimately see different and contradictory things in a musical work.
The authoritarianism inherent in Adorno’s vision is equally prevalent in the new musicology. New musicologists usually seem to be telling us what to think and what to feel when we listen to music. By imposing meaning they present their opinion as dogma. By refusing to acknowledge the essential subjectivity that is at the heart of musical meaning they deny the individual the right to experience music in his or her own way and – heaven forbid – to use cultural references that are not chosen from the fashionable Left. The result is an edifice built on sand; once one does not accept the authority of the critic to dictate significance and meaning, much of what remains is merely ideological cant. Does the recapitulation of the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth represent “the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release”? Susan McClary published just that analysis, which to my mind is an excellent illustration of the way that this mode of discourse has a tendency to lapse into self-indulgent fantasy.
The aim of all this is, of course, to offer a further justification for the Adornoist position. By connecting music with other disciplines, links are created that are harder to break and that make music harder to isolate within the academy. By borrowing highly obscure modes of language and reference from those disciplines, and talking about music in terms of cultural or critical theory, new musicologists make it more difficult to discuss their work in anything other than its own terms, unless the critic stands wholly outside their viewpoint. They also fulfil Marxism’s inherent self-hatred by focussing on the effort expended in method and execution rather than the value or intelligibility of the results. And by ensuring that those disciplines chosen support the broadly Adornoist view – in other words that they support the concept of paternalistic, nanny-knows-best culture ruled by experts who tell the underclass what to like and what to think, they create a perfect ideological fit with academia’s Leftist zeitgeist and with the culture industry as defined by New Labour and left unchallenged by our present government.
What we are witnessing is effectively the continuation of the process that drove Western tonal music underground under the weight of post-war ideology. Traditional musicologists and music historians are no longer welcome in British academia unless they are willing to accept the new musicology. Indeed, Lawrence Kramer has said, “The theories that ground [postmodernist] strategies are radically anti-foundationalist, anti-essentialist, and anti-totalizing. They emphasize the constructedness, both linguistic and ideological, of all human identities and institutions. They insist on the relativity of all knowledge to the disciplines–not just the conceptual presuppositions but the material, discursive, and social practices–that produce and circulate knowledge. While often disagreeing with each other, poststructuralists, neopragmatists, feminists, psychoanalytic theorists, critical social theorists, multiculturalists and others have been changing the very framework within which disagreement can meaningfully occur.” Once you can control disagreement, there’s not much else that isn’t within your power.
I conclude, then, with an exhortation. To listen to and to play or sing Western art music is now a counter-cultural act. It is an act of profound rebellion against our politically correct Cultural Marxist zeitgeist as well as being a source of pleasure, moral and spiritual improvement and enhanced appreciation of the connection between the human and the divine. Let us not be afraid to relegate pop music to its proper place, to embrace our Western art music heritage and to resolve to make it a central part of our lives as educated men and women. Whether in our local community or nationally, let us support those who perform and teach this heritage, and let us give particular attention to the riches that are to be found in the music of our own island and culture; supporting organizations such as the English Music Festival which celebrate it, and independent record companies such as Chandos and Hyperion who have devoted much time and expense to producing first-rate recordings of it. And let us never forget these words of Bulwer-Lytton: “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.” If we care for our souls as we should, let us nourish them with good music, and let us then become better people for doing so.
A functioning aristocracy is fundamental to a traditionalist society, and its structures and concepts have greatly influenced the development of British society over the centuries. In this essay, I intend, while showing some of the difficulties that have come to occupy the British aristocracy today, to consider whether the aristocracy as a class may be useful to our nation in firstly seeking to challenge the prevailing structures of the state and secondly offering us a model and structure for a projected traditionalist replacement of it.
This essay is written from a secessionist perspective. It addresses both partial secessionist or regionalist solutions, and also explores a limited number of total secessionist solutions. In doing so, it is concerned with secessionism on the basis of geographical regions that form a part of Great Britain, and is not concerned with secession that is not based upon the ownership of land and that therefore applies solely to a non-geographically constituted individual (sovereign individualism) or group.
This paper adopts a secessionist perspective because it recognizes the following conditions to apply:
1. that the government and institutions of Britain have effectively been captured by an enemy political class that, regardless of party affiliation, is dominated by Left-wing ideology and permanently subject to the European Union, as well as supporting a form of global oligarchy that runs counter both to British national interests and to a genuinely free approach to trade;
2. that there is active support from the political class for the destruction of the historic culture, precepts and way of life of the British people, together with the absorption of the British nation into an European super-state, and that it is a fundamental right that the British identity should be able to be preserved against such threats;
3. that there is and has been ineffective control over the borders of the British Isles, such that mass immigration both from within and outside the European Union has been politically sanctioned, as has been admitted, as a means of attack upon the traditional values of Britain;
4. that there is, for the present, little prospect of sufficient mass support against the political class being mobilized through democratic structures, and even were such support to be forthcoming, any political solution would depend to a large extent upon the co-operation of political class itself and its substantial client state;
5. that despite the absence of mass support, there remains a substantial minority of traditionalist conservatives, paleolibertarians and others who are effectively disenfranchised by the political class and who seek alternatives to the prevailing status quo and direction of political so-called “progress”;
6. that this substantial minority is already concentrated geographically in particular areas and regions, such that those regions or subdivisions thereof could potentially produce majority support and therefore consent for a partial or fully secessionist solution;
7. that even if these minority areas were to be small and their secession only partial, nevertheless the gains in returning to a small or human-scale organization of society as distinct from centralized governance from London or Brussels would outweigh the disadvantages of such independence;
8. that such a secessionist solution would offer a peaceful answer to the ideological and cultural division that has come to affect our nation, and would therefore be preferable to any solution that would involve violent conflict or indeed civil war. It would end the current position whereby traditional conservatives are subjugated and disenfranchised by means of the exercise of force by the state, and at the same time seek separation from, rather than the subjugation of, opponents of a broadly traditional way of life, who would be free to continue to administer those areas and regions where their followers were most concentrated;
9. that the proposed solution would be complimentary to existing long-term cultural strategies that aim towards the support of British national heritage and institutions through the creation of an active counter-establishment, ensuring that any secessionist entity could in time grow beyond its initial boundaries;
10. that the proposed solution would look to essentially British and traditionalist entities, in particular the aristocracy and feudal structures, and would thus promote an indigenous settlement of the problems facing us rather than seeking the adoption of any form of modern ideology or historical model that was either so far removed from our era as to be incompatible with it or that was based on a foreign or artificial construct.
Aristocracy – its landed origins and Parliamentary downfall
The origin of the aristocracy is inescapably feudal. The titles of our most venerable nobles are rooted in the land. The Dukes of Norfolk, the Dukes of Somerset, the Dukes of Devonshire, the Earls of Derby, the Barons Hastings; all speak of the feudal past of our country, and of a time when to be an aristocrat was inextricably linked with the ownership and management of territory. The greatest of these landowners sat at the top of a pyramid of feudalism that extended down to the lesser feudal overlords – in England and Wales, the lords of the manor, and in Scotland, the barons and lairds.
The major change that has come to influence this situation has been the gradual alienation of land-ownership from the concept of aristocracy, and the absorption of the aristocracy into a political class. Lords of the land became Lords of Parliament; as the barons were summoned to parliament, so that summons became in time the distinction between peer and commoner. This change was wide-reaching, and ultimately, as I shall show, would prove destructive. The old system was based upon a direct link between the sovereign and the landed aristocracy. The new system interposed a layer of parliamentarians between the two. Initially, the parliamentarians were, of course, themselves landed aristocrats, but that was not to remain the case, and the twin developments of constitutional monarchy and universal enfranchisement served further to weaken the traditional role of the aristocracy. In time, the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 would serve to subjugate the House of Lords entirely to the House of Commons, a reversal of the natural order that has assisted in the decline of our nation.
This is not to say that there have not remained to this day aristocrats who are great landowners. Particularly, but not entirely, in Scotland, this link has remained extremely robust. However, the move towards the parliamentary concept of an aristocrat caused an anomalous situation to arise, whereby a man could be a great landowner, indeed a feudal lord, yet not be a peer on account of the lack of a summons to Parliament. This gave rise to the class which from the sixteenth-century onwards was termed the landed gentry; a class of landowners that includes several notable families who had either never been peers, or whose peerages had become abeyant or had been attainted due to political factors – the family of Scrope of Danby being perhaps the most notable example of these latter conditions.
The loss of the feudal basis for the aristocracy was the beginning of their slow decline. It signified a loss of power, and moreover a loss of that measure of individual sovereignty that the landed aristocrat exercised as an immediate vassal of the king. Administration, which under the feudal system had included the administration of justice, became monopolized through a centralized structure, and the traces of feudalism were in time relegated to the exercise of mineral and fishing rights over particular land and the occasional quaint custom, such as the right of the Lord of the Manor of Worksop to place a glove on the monarch’s right hand at his or her coronation. Appointments to peerages became a matter of political favour and were before long entirely independent of the ownership of land. With the coming of constitutional monarchy, this process accelerated to produce the ancestor of the modern “honours system”; one in which the sovereign was eventually relegated to a mere rubber stamp for appointments made entirely by, and for the benefit of, the political class and its attendant establishment.
Nation and state, and the values of the aristocracy
It is perhaps useful at this point to draw a distinction between the terms nation and state as they are to be used in this essay. The state is that body of administration formed by the political class and its extensions. Those extensions constitute the following entities: large corporations, which cannot flourish without the active support of the state; the supportive administrative apparatus, both local and national, that implements the decisions of the political class; the legislature; the military and the police; the state’s church, and the major institutions that are dependent upon the state for direct or indirect patronage, such as our education system and the majority of the arts establishment. These, then, are the clients of the state; their relationship with the political class is symbiotic and effectively unbreakable. And moreover, the state, for the past few decades and for the foreseeable future, is the creature of the philosophies and ideologies of the Left, both indigenously and as expressed through the European Union.
The nation is not the same as the state. It is a much looser term, defined by a common culture, the origins of its people, their customs, character and manners, and to a large extent influenced by the very land itself and its variety. The feudal system, and the feudal aristocracy, are part of the nation far more than they are part of the state. The nation is less easily defined in purely tangible terms; rather, it is almost a matter of instinct. We might say that we know it when we see it. The nation represents a true and authentic expression of traditionalism and conservatism. It is free from ideology, immune from fashion, a greater entity than those men and women who serve it. Even though we can trace specific events in its history and even pinpoint some of its origins precisely, it feels as if it is independent of the constraints of time; it is our ancestral memory expressed through a living experience.
It is from these broad values as a nation that those specific values develop which we most readily associate with the patrician archetypes of the aristocracy and with noblesse oblige; an ability to take the long view, an independence of mind, a deep sense of rootedness to place and people, and following from this latter a duty to those for whom the aristocrat has responsibility, be they family, tenants, his peers or indeed the nation itself. That is not to imply that all aristocrats are paragons of virtue; far from it. Within aristocracy as a class, nevertheless, there is an expectation of virtue, a code, if you will, that if disappointed causes us to regard the exception to the rule as aberrant; both aristocrat and non-aristocrat understand the high standard that is expected of those who enjoy privilege as of right of birth. In turn, the sensible aristocrat will also realise that his own interests and those of his family depend upon his choices and behaviour, and that excess and greed will result in detriment, whether immediate or delayed until the next generation. The aristocracy did not survive for centuries simply because wealth and position propped it up; its survival was dependent upon the consent of the nation as a whole, which would hardly have supported it had it been seen as merely a narrow self-interest group for the rich. It is because the aristocracy lived out its code that it established such a basis of consent. That code can still be of service to us today.
The sovereign, to a certain extent, is also carefully positioned to epitomize the nation and not the state. Yet here this is a false distinction, for while the sovereign has in theory an independence from the state, in practice the sovereign is bound to agree with the state lest a constitutional crisis be provoked and the supposed will of the people be countermanded. Can it truly be said that a sovereign who has consented – without an apparent murmur – to such heinous wrongs as the absorption of Britain within the European Union, and thus to the effective extinction of our national independence, is not effectively indivisible from the state?
The hereditary principle
Fundamental to our understanding of the true principles of aristocracy, and indeed of the nation of which it is a part, is the hereditary principle. Aristocracy represents, at its origins, the logical means by which land is preserved intact from generation to generation. It is the enshrining of what Roger Scruton has cogently described as the rights of the dead. The fundamental concept in effect here is that what one owns should be conveyed intact not so much to an individual member of one’s family, but to the family itself as represented by its most senior individual. The family name – perhaps seen most clearly in the Scottish clan system – is seen as the primary quality to be preserved in inheritance. The aim is to avoid a situation where, as a result of marriage, the estate passes out of the family and one’s kinsmen by name are thus dispossessed, perhaps losing their lands to another rival clan that will treat them as aliens and give their positions and tenures to their own kinsfolk. It is more desirable, therefore, that the estate be held by a male member of the family than a female, because this is the only way by which the family name may be continually allied with the estate in question. Inheritance by successive males in order of seniority is thus the main system by which both land and peerages have come to be organized. It is through this system that permanence is assured as best it can be; when implemented it means that stability should be the defining characteristic of our land rather than the uncertainties of political whim and opportunism.
In recent years there have been attacks on descent by primogeniture in the case of peerages of the United Kingdom, notably in the case of the Earl Kitchener, whose title became extinct even though there were female descendants of the second Earl living[i]. Legislation has also been introduced to establish “gender equality” in the case of succession to the Crown[ii]. Of course, where land is not in question and the peerage is simply “an award of the state”, one may ask to what extent it matters; the Crown is no longer seen as truly dynastic per se – else, by strict Legitimism, our monarch would be a Jacobite heir – and indeed there was no established surname for the Royal Family at all during the Hanoverian years. Nonetheless, there is in peerage primogeniture more than a vestige of the importance of ancestral name, of descent, of blood – all of which are fundamental components of identity not merely for individual peers, but for the peerage as a class. There are ways around these problems – the Dukes of Northumberland, after all, would but for an eighteenth-century Act of Parliament be Smithsons and not Percys, for their Percy descent is through the female line – and many of the oldest English baronies may descend either to male or to female heirs. But nevertheless, it is primogeniture that is a part of our national warp and weft. It is not a perfect system, yet it still serves to maintain land, family and title as a single unit more than would any other.
The state and aristocracy in opposition
It is the intervention of the state that has caused the acceleration of the slow decline of the aristocracy. That is not to say that the feudal system would not, of itself, have changed and evolved over the centuries. It would be imaginable, though, for Britain to have developed more along the lines of pre-unification Germany had our peers not instead have been absorbed into the political class as Lords of Parliament, with regional autonomy much more a feature of our land. And moreover, as my colleague Sean Gabb has written recently[iii] it is possible to imagine a Britain where the Industrial Revolution happened differently. Without the massive intervention of the state, global corporatism would not have taken hold in the way that it did. Certainly, there would be some centralized production, some international specialization, but this would be taking place within a framework that was still essentially and historically indigenous to the British nation and not simply as an alien extension of the political class.
The relationship between aristocrats and their serfs and franklins would certainly have developed differently in these circumstances. It would more than likely take the form that today’s landed estates have adopted, where the bonds of co-operative endeavour establish common interests between individuals, whatever their class differences, and the permanence and stability offered, not to mention the charity often shown to aged and infirm workers, stands in stark contrast to the mercantile alternatives, with their care for workers defined strictly by the boundaries of contract and legal obligation, and those of pensionable age offloaded to the responsibility of the state. A landed aristocracy would have had more to concern itself than simply profit and competition for their own sake, not least because the majority of the supply for its products would be local and domestic rather than national, thus reducing the number of its likely competitors, but also because the long-term and inter-generational nature of aristocratic interests contrasts starkly with the short-termism of elected politicians concerned with five-year leases upon office.
Of course, we can look to the French Revolution as a major watershed in the spillover of anti-aristocratic sentiments, and the consequent adoption by the Left (notably under the influence of Marx) of class war as a major means of discourse, still very present in the Labour Party of today. The futility of the First World War deprived the officer class of many of its brightest and best. The introduction of punishing death duties robbed many estates of their natural heirs. Legislative change separated both English lordships of the manor and Scottish baronies from the ownership of the lands that went with them historically; they can now be bought and sold simply as titles.
The last days of the aristocracy
What is crucial, however, is this: an aristocracy is an exclusive club, certainly, but it can never be a closed club. There must always be a route in, if an aristocracy is to live. Yet if it was the Left that sought the disestablishment of what was left of the aristocracy, it was as much the Conservative Party that cut them off at the knees. By closing the door to the creation of hereditary peerages, the state has killed our aristocracy through an infinitely slow and tortuous asphyxiation. Every time Debrett’s and Burke’s Peerages are published they list those peerages that have become extinct since the previous issue for want of heirs, or, in the case of life peerages, simply through the death of the holder. The list grows ever longer. Just as some peerages are well supplied with heirs, others hang by a thread. The Dukedom of Westminster has only one heir at present; if he should die without male issue, the dukedom will die with him. We have already lost the Dukes of Leeds, Portland and Newcastle within the past century. And it is doubtful as to whether life peers, for all their profusion, are aristocrats in any true sense of that word.
Just as long ago, the peerage had exchanged a position in the nation as territorial administrators for one as parliamentary governors; now in turn the logical conclusion of that process is working itself out: the hereditary peers are gradually being lost from even that role and it seems that the majority of life peers view their role as akin to members of an appointed senate rather than being in any sense part of the nation’s permanent settlement. This, then, is the beginning of the end; those peers who are great landowners will doubtless be able to withstand even this change, but those who are not will increasingly need to look for a redefinition of their role within a country that has decided that they are surplus to requirements.
Peers stand up to Parliament
This is not to imply that there are not within our peerage today those who have a very sound view indeed of their obligations to our nation and a willingness to act upon that duty. In 2001, four hereditary peers, acting under the settlement of Magna Carta, clause 61, and with the pledge of support of many more, presented a petition to the Queen to urge her to block provisions of the Treaty of Nice which they rightly pointed out would destroy fundamental provisions of British liberties[iv]. The clause in question provided that if the Sovereign did not observe Magna Carta, the people would be justified in waging war upon her, seizing lands, castles and possessions until they obtained redress. A period of forty days was given for the Sovereign’s response, but response came there none.
As will be obvious, there has been no outbreak of civil war and certainly no recorded response from the peers in question, but this position serves amply to reinforce my earlier comments about the sovereign as part of the state, and only symbolically part of the nation. A number of individuals have entered into a common law state of Lawful Rebellion as a result of these events, in which they have served petitions upon the Queen declaring that their allegiance is now to the Barons’ Committee rather than to Parliament, and that they are therefore exempt from various forms of taxation and state charges[v]. In doing so, they have not gained the endorsement of that committee or any individual member of it, but have instead relied upon the same provisions of Magna Carta as formed the basis of the 2001 petition.
We may at least derive some degree of comfort from the fact that the intricacy of the legal arguments that surround Lawful Rebellion can be used by its adherents to impose delay and confusion upon what is already a strained and inefficient system, but the eventual results of these endeavours, should they embrace any form of widespread popular movement, will surely ultimately be the same as any others that seek to oppose the state; since the state has a monopoly on force, it will use that force against any threat to its position regardless of any moral, historical or legal legitimacy that might otherwise prove an impediment. We should not forget that the power of the state is based entirely upon force; those who resist, and keep on resisting, will be imprisoned, and those who resist imprisonment will be killed.
The prospects for the aristocracy
We must be clear, then, that our aristocracy is today in an extremely difficult position. It is largely excluded, and will before long be entirely excluded, from its legislative role. It has lost much of the territorial role that it once had. The feudal system that once gave it vitality has been dismantled. Year by year, hereditary peerages become extinct and no more are created. The state promotes an egalitarian ideology in which aristocracy is less important than mere celebrity, and pays court to an elite of wealthy globalists who show little regard for the historic British ways of life. The outlook does not appear promising.
Before we discuss solutions, let us point out one additional factor. This is that the opposition to any aristocratic counter-establishment is likely to come from at least some of our existing aristocrats. State patronage and position is a heady brew, and it is not easy to wean people off it. There are still many conservatives who have not grasped that a loyalty to the institutions of the political class is a loyalty to style and not to substance. They remain within, and supportive of, the current establishment even though that establishment has – across all parties – actively supported their disenfranchisement and eventual extinction. Perhaps some hope that things will, in the end, turn around and that if only the right people are in the right positions some progress may be made. I do not share that optimism, and indeed at this stage it would appear to be the last gasp of a drowning man.
How can the aristocracy be saved to useful purpose?
Now, let us examine how the drowning man may yet be saved. In the first place, we should be clear that we are advocating the preservation of aristocracy as a defined class, with its accompanying context and structures, and not simply endorsing individual peers, however worthy they may be. We can then establish the following steps:
– The preservation of aristocracy and the re-establishment of aristocratic structures as a partial or complete alternative to the state as I have defined it, and as a means of solving the current difficulties that have arisen through power passing into the hands of a centralized political class;
– The need for aristocracy to continue to represent an exclusive and defined class, but also an open class, ie. that there are circumstances where someone who is not at present an aristocrat can become one. If we do not do this, the aristocracy will face etiolation and eventual extinction, and it will also risk becoming a monopolist body;
– We are not proposing a return to a medieval feudalism or to serfdom, but rather that feudal principles can be re-interpreted with regard to our own age, on similar lines to the management and organization of many of the major landed estates today;
– We are concerned with this preservation firstly because it will re-establish a future for our country that is based upon long-term interests and sound, sustainable principles, and secondly because it returns our country to its natural, historic and time-honoured order and rejects the egalitarian ideology that has done it such harm;
– In our process of preservation and re-establishment, we must accept that the aristocracy of our projected future will not be the same as that of its parliamentary past. We must be prepared to be radical traditionalists.
A future society that seeks to establish traditionalist principles must be based initially on a strict interpretation of propertarianism, as set out by Murray Rothbard (“Ethics of Liberty”) and Hans-Hermann Hoppe (“Economics and Ethics of Private Property”). A private property society establishes a means of social organization that does not depend upon a political state. Indeed, it is above politics altogether. Individuals, families and in some cases covenanting communities own land and determine the use of that land, including who will live and work on it, who will exercise rights over it, and under what conditions those grants will be made. The state ceases to be a surrogate for its people in exercising land ownership or establishing a monopoly on its use. It ceases to exercise a role in centralized taxation.
The role of feudal structures in a revived propertarian aristocracy
If we seek an indigenous solution to the issues of property, the basic land unit of this future society would most naturally be the manor. Manors, being a feudal structure, are among the oldest dignities in England and Wales that are still extant, and all date to before the statute Quia emptores of 1290. Ownership of a manor within a propertarian neo-feudal structure is likely to engage the owner in a range of responsibilities, relating to commerce and trade, the local administration of justice through courts leet (in accordance with a specific bill of rights or code of private law), the maintenance of or contribution to a militia, the payment and housing of employees, and provision (typically organised through the voluntary sector) of healthcare, education and welfare facilities for the sick and elderly. There would also be significant responsibilities for the spiritual welfare of the manor, through the responsibility of the lord of the manor to appoint the parish priest or other clergy, as well as to establish provision for religious worship of those kinds that are held to be desirable. There would further be responsibilities for border control and relationships with neighbouring communities, enabling co-operative alliances and ensuring that areas where centralization was considered essential could be conducted through shared facilities and access agreements.
It should not be thought that this is anything terribly unusual. Several of the Crown Dependencies have implemented something that – at least until quite recently, and perhaps even still – is not dissimilar to just such a plan. Life in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey is not by any definition medieval, and yet these places are far closer to the model of propertarian feudal governance that I have proposed than they are to the state control of mainland Britain. Indeed, until external pressure was applied in 2008, Sark was governed via a wholly feudal system, with the Seigneur ruling it as a fiefdom of the Crown. All of these places have a provision for representation of the people, and in most cases this consists of a formal parliament. That parliament has distinct differences from the mainland state structures, however. On Sark prior to 2008, for example, representation was confined to those who were landed tenants. Likewise, the powers of representation in such small bodies can be limited in ways that seek to concentrate upon areas of common interest rather than any infringement upon the rights of individual landowners.
There will be some who may say that this is all too agrarian, that it makes no allowance for industry or for large-scale business. We should be realistic in that almost all of Britain’s heavy industry has now been lost and that it is not likely to return. Certainly, there are foreign businesses that choose to bring their industrial requirements to Britain. But the system I propose can accommodate this. When we speak of a manor, that entity can as easily be formed of industrial plant or a major shopping centre as farmland. None of this alters the fact that a propertarian system can encompass any type of commercial activity. It simply alters the means by which the land upon which that activity takes place is governed, and results in the landowner having the effective power and responsibility concerning the use of that land without being disenfranchised by the state.
Is secession as a Crown Dependency possible?
If an area of mainland England were to find the proposed form of organization attractive and to decide that it wished to take advantage of it, it could perhaps seek to remove itself from the United Kingdom and to redesignate itself as a Crown Dependency. There is no apparent minimum size limit on a Crown Dependency – some of the Channel Islands are very small in population as well as in geographical area. A single manor or group of manors could in theory constitute a Crown Dependency. A Crown Dependency also has a different relationship with the European Union from that which applies to the United Kingdom. The existing Dependencies have chosen to permit the free movement of goods but not the free movement of people, services or capital. They are exempt from the Common Agricultural Policy and in the case of the Channel Islands, from VAT.
But we should not imagine that this would be an easy process. The first challenge would be to secure effective ownership of the land in question. Purchasing the relevant Lordship of the Manor is not enough to do this. The Feudal Tenures Act 1660 abolished feudal tenure. Today, manorial lordships can be separated from their lands, and the last of the effective structures of the manor in the form of copyhold tenancies were abolished in 1925. The right to manorial incidents – that is to say, rights held by a lord of the manor over other people’s land – lapsed in October 2013 unless those rights had by then been registered with the Land Registry. As a result, we must look to freehold ownership to establish the necessary basis for action. Supposing that this were done – after all, it is not unknown for substantial landed estates and interests to be held in private hands in Britain – and a petition for Crown Dependency status submitted to the Queen? What next?
We have already established that the Queen made no response to the petition by the Barons in 2001. In 2008, Stuart Hill, who had purchased the Scottish island of Forewick Holm, maintained that the island and indeed the entirety of Shetland were illegally incorporated into Great Britain in the Act of Union of 1707, and presented a Declaration of Direct Dependence to the Queen seeking to establish what he has designated as Forvik as a Crown Dependency under his Stewardship[vi]. The Queen has not made any response to this document, but the Department of Justice – in other words the state – issued a statement the day before Hill’s declaration was published saying that Forvik is an integral part of the UK. Hill has since declared full independence for Forvik in view of the lack of any response from the Queen to his declaration. Because Hill is seeking to contest this point in law, and believes that he is in the right with regard to the relevant historical and legal arguments, he welcomes any resulting conflict with the UK government. However, in the only court case so far to hear any of Hill’s arguments, they were simply rejected out of hand without any investigation of their merits; the court assumed jurisdiction and proceeded to jail Hill for traffic offences relating to driving what he has designated as a Forvik consular vehicle on the Scottish mainland. This again establishes the principle that the state will not engage with arguments about its authority, since its authority is primarily established and exercised by means of force.
It seems highly probable that were another attempt made to convert part of the United Kingdom to Crown Dependency status, particularly if that part were relatively small and sparsely populated, it would meet with non-response from the Queen and hostile action towards those involved from the authorities. There would appear to be a case for regarding the Queen not as superior to the constitutional settlement but in fact something closely approaching a prisoner of it, in that she can take no action of governance that is not specifically countenanced under that settlement – and is thus effectively subject to the state, even when the interests of the state run directly counter to her own views as to what may be in the best interests of the nation. The state will not give up any of its territory without a fight, and it is uninterested in the Queensberry Rules. Only if the territory were substantial and fairly heavily populated would it become an option that would stand a chance of success; even in the case of Scotland itself, which is large, populous and has elected a nationalist government, the road to independence appears to be far from smooth.
Can the Barons’ Committee offer an alternative?
If the concept of a Crown Dependency is not available, we might instead look to place our territory under the authority of the Barons’ Committee acting as a surrogate for the Crown, and effectively holding that we had entered Lawful Rebellion. But to do so would by now to have entered into open conflict with the powers that be, and it would rely on the robustness of the Barons’ Committee to step up to the role that was now expected of it. The Barons’ Committee would need to engage in an active opposition to the British government, providing an alternative (and more legitimate) source of governance and guardianship of the nation’s conscience. It would need to be able to govern those who wished to place themselves under its authority efficiently, with widespread consent, and without the ensuing crisis of power provoking open conflict with those loyal to Parliament. A central question would inevitably be whether the Barons’ Committee was up to the job. Are our present generation of aristocrats the heirs to the spirit of their ancestors, or simply the parasitic beneficiaries of generations of political patronage? It may well be that such a challenge would produce interesting results.
Some indication of likely outcome might be gained from the approach of the Barons’ Committee to their petition to the Crown. A brief survey of press coverage of the matter shows that this is sparse. None of the members of the Committee appear to have given an interview to the press on the outcome of the matter, or considered its implications given their earlier stance. No website or published journal represents their interests. Significantly, none of the members of the Committee have, apparently, exercised their claimed rights under Magna Carta, entered Lawful Rebellion, or advised others to act in furtherance of these rights. We must ask: was their rebellion merely a publicity stunt or empty gesture? It seems too serious a matter – and they too serious a body of people – to be subject to such a response. If the Barons’ Committee meant what it said then, it would have to either follow through on those principles or openly recant them. Perhaps we shall yet hear from them as to their plan of action and proposals for our country’s future. Until we do, any allegiance that is pledged to them would appear to rest on insecure foundations.
In a strange way, any bisection of Britain caused by the Barons’ Committee forming an alternative government would re-open precisely the same sorts of historic questions that were at issue in the English Civil War, in which Crown was set against Parliament, except that in this case, the very position of the monarch would be one of the issues to be decided – could the Queen be liberated from her position as a “prisoner of the constitution” and reinstated as the head of an aristocratic feudal structure? Or, indeed, as might well be agreed to be preferable, could she in fact combine both roles? Just as Sean Gabb imagined a position in which the Industrial Revolution had happened differently, can we perhaps imagine a position in which the culmination of the strife of the 1640s was not regicide and the Puritan dictatorship, to be followed by the compromised Restoration of 1660, but instead a voluntary separation between Royalists and Puritans, with each determining to live within their own communities and to allow their opponents their differences?
Such a suggestion raises again the issues that we set out at the beginning of this essay, and specifically whether secession can be achieved peacefully and without rancour by those who wish for a non-violent means of living in the manner that they choose. Logic and libertarian theory says that this must be possible. History is less favourable, pointing to the tendency for the assertion of human difference to result, sooner or later, in armed conflict and bloodshed between different groups. Yet this is where, perhaps, we can learn history’s lessons and determine that such an end is not inevitable. It is, indeed, the forcing of human difference into an artificial and often oppressive state hegemony that is the most likely means of bringing about unpredictable and destructive revolt. Alternatives to that hegemony, be they cultural, territorial or, indeed, secessionist, are a means of releasing pressures that would otherwise be overwhelming; they are ultimately the expression of the self-determination that lies at the heart of any humane vision of mankind.
It seems clear that Crown and Parliament will not be separated, at least in their present state. The Queen has shown herself unwilling or unable to act independently of Parliament; all attempts to appeal to her directly have been met by a wall of silence and by the action of the state. It is not impossible that a future settlement may change this. Equally, it would be wrong if we did not, given the facts, judge that the Queen, having so comprehensively supported her government throughout, did not bear the joint responsibility with that government for its actions in abdicating our national sovereignty and other rights. We can conclude that the apparent distinction between Crown and Parliament is more illusory than its public image would have it seem.
The revival of aristocratic structures in a neo-feudal propertarian society is not entirely a retrograde step, nor should it be seen as a panacea for all of our present malaises. It would, nevertheless, offer a way forward that is so deeply rooted in the British culture and people that it would probably preserve much that would otherwise be lost and restore a good deal that had already been consigned to history. It seems that such an appeal to aristocracy cannot rely entirely upon the present aristocratic class, for this is composed of those who are the beneficiaries of the patronage of the current system, but should instead look to a renewal of the aristocratic feudal impulse within the modern age and in the light of propertarian theory, knowing that such principles would likely bring about a society that was traditionally structured, stable and sustainable.
[i] “Julian Fellowes: inheritance laws denying my wife a title are outrageous”, Anita Singh, The Telegraph, 13 September 2011: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/celebritynews/8757793/Julian-Fellowes-inheritance-laws-denying-my-wife-a-title-are-outrageous.html
[ii] Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
[iii] Sean Gabb, Traditionalism and Free Trade: An exercise in libertarian outreach, Libertarian Alliance Blog, 3 November 2013: http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/traditionalism-and-free-trade-an-exercise-in-libertarian-outreach/
[iv] “Peers petition Queen on Europe”, Caroline Davies, The Telegraph, 24 March 2001: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1327734/Peers-petition-Queen-on-Europe.html