2 NOVEMBER 1974, Page 15


Puddings for the poor

Ma Linklater

An acid-faced Mrs Barbara Castle

aa Castigating Sir Keith Joseph on '-ne television screen last Friday. I ,e)cPlained the background to my L°Lirteen-year-old daughter on alf-term holiday from Felixstowe. „I es, daddy," she repled, "but what °,1.1 Must understand is that many !13,1,t. hese girls actually want a baby. °Is evident common sense made pe realise that when Sir Keith tPaePh had, in his speech, men fled the need to give free contra

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,"Pion especially to young girls n rve 10-economic classes four and Who made least use of birth controi, we had witnessed yet an example of the subtle way INI1 which the views of Thomas althus have persuaded society for 11„earlY 200 years. Self-righteous, r,"ea-Malthusian thinking towards "ar own poorer classes is by no 11(15eealls as dead as I had imagined e report from Bucharest, Spec-;,,or, September 7).

Sir principal arguments which er Keith Joseph had so lucidly :Pressed, however, were certainly op_the right lines. He spoke chiefly th,triotism and national pride, of 0 "11, industry and ethics, and of dtir heritage and its deliberate yea, trUction. He thus echoed the cr%eivgs long advocated in these an—al:1111ns. All right-thinking persons so";',„ organisations will wish to

'Pert and encourage him. But it was not for these views that he has apparently been criticised. Indeed, the Lilac Establishment appear to have ignored the substance of the speech, as Mrs Castle did and, when Sir Keith Joseph himself appeared on television, he was interrogated in such a way that most viewers would have concluded that he had spoken about nothing except pregnant teenagers in the lowest socio-economic classes.

The trouble is that there is no half-way position such as Sir Keith Joseph assumes when he wags his admonitory finger in much the same way as did the United Nations when they set out to shame the underdeveloped countries of the Third World by comparing their birth rates with their means of industrial and agricultural production.

The Indian peasant who prays daily for more sons to lighten the load of his unrewarding agriculture and to provide long-term security in old age does not, and cannot, think in global terms. He does not want contraceptives. He wants more sons, So, the teenage girl of poor background in this country, whose life has no real meaning and who has no real prospects in any terms that she can understand, does not usually want contraception either. She often wants a baby. She was taught at school that traditional morality is dead, that the family is out of date and that Christ has been explained away by science. The evidence of her own eyes tells her that if she works hard she will probably have less money

to spend than if she is idle. She feels cheated.

She may well have been brought up in a home where the only communal activity was to sit in silent, serried ranks, hypnotised by the flickering inanity of the Great God Gogglebox, where mother and father were both out working all day, or both out of work. Who shall blame her if she retreats into the comfort of some archetypal response, and compensates for her frustration by having a baby of her own? Free French letters are not the answer to the problem when there is no spice to life. As a former Director of Health and Social Security, Sir Keith Joseph will know the difference between the cause of a disorder, the precipitating factors, the signs and symptoms and the sequelae. Yet he points to the corrupting effect of pornography and the permissiveness of the media as if these were the principal Causes instead of precipitating factors, and he describes the birth of a child to such a girl, as Malthus did, as if it were a horrid example of reckless, ignorant fecklessness. It may be no such thing. It may be the sign of an ancient, human need, most acutely felt when our social philosophy fails.

A more charitable attitude is required. Of course it is true that these girls "produce problem children, the future unmarried mothers, delinquents, denizens of borstals, subnormal educational establishments, prisons and hostels for drifters." This is well known. But these girls who bear children

in impropitious circumstances do not always do so through ignorance. The immediate cause of their disorder is probably widespread loss of faith exacerbated by our grotesque, experimental, post-war structure of society.

Sir Keith Joseph was too vague when he spole of "remoralising whole groups and classes of people." Let him now specifically say how he proposes to build a society which sets a tangible premium upon the qualities and abilities of most value to the community, and which teaches these at school.

We might do worse than begin, as Rhodes Boyson has suggested, by raising the standards of teachers by selecting them more carefully and paying them more generously: morality would then tend to take care of itself.

We went off the rails in the enthusiasm of our collective adolescence, under the influence of the pseudo-scientific social engineers of humanism. Until we once again accept man for what he is, instead of what he ought to be, and until we once again see him as a competitive, evolutionary animal with a soul and a need to believe in an absolute morality, we shall flounder in an uncertain, philosophical half-way house, forever thinking doublethink and talking the twaddle of doubletalk, forever passing bewildering, bright, new laws.

Sir Keith Joseph's speeches are the first sign that the tide may at last be turning against deliberate, doctrinal promiscuity and anti-patriotism. Let us hope that the new

flood waters also wash away the last debris of neo-Malthusianism. To preach contraception and abortion as a social remedy denies the dignity of womanhood and is not, after all, very different from the smug, soup-kitchen concept of treating poverty symptomatically, by giving puddings to the poor.