7 AUGUST 2004, Page 23

State of decay

Peter Hitchens says that allowing secret abortions for minors mocks the rule of law, and adds to the corruption of national life

There has seldom been a time , when responsible, intelligent people were less interested in serious politics. The main opposition, gripped by some Freudian delusion because reality is too hard to bear, behaves as if it were still the government and so cannot oppose or even think about doing so. The discourse of the mainstream parties is duller than congealed porridge. They seek, above all, to hide their real intentions and so must shun controversy. Many still act and speak as if any firm opinion is a sort of bad manners, like talking shop in the mess, It is left to buffoons like Robert Kilroy-Silk, ruffians like the BNP or fanatics like George Galloway to address the subjects that matter, and for the most part to get them wrong. While the worst are as usual full of passionate intensity, the best are more interested in the menu.

So forgive me for interrupting your holiday thoughts when I say that last week was one of the most alarming I have lived through in recent years, perhaps since that August in 1991 when I woke after a strangely troubled night to see a column of tanks trundling along my Moscow street, throwing up a great fog of dust as their tracks chewed the tarmac.

But the things that frightened me were not all in faraway countries of which we know little. They were mostly here among us, On Friday, as the political world broke up for the summer, the government finally disclosed its response to the recent case of a 14-year-old girl given an abortion without her parents' knowledge. The Department of Health declared that this was perfectly all right, and should be standard practice from now on.

On the same day, the 'Department for Education and Skills', as it is satirically known. slipped out figures showing that more than 10 children are expelled each day from English state schools for assaulting either staff or fellow pupils. Another 280 a day were merely suspended for similar attacks. This comes at a time when social radicals continue to dismiss all fears that the growth in the numbers of mothers going out to work, combined with the decline in the number of stable marriages, might be damaging the upbringing of their children.

In the same week we had learnt of yet another serious increase in sexually transmitted disease, and had seen the conviction of a schoolboy for the murder of one of his fellows. Parliament's foreign affairs committee had concluded that both Iraq and Afghanistan, the scenes of our supposedly benevolent interventions in the so-called 'war against terror', were in danger of becoming zones of utter anarchy. This war against terror continued to defy normal logic. An Irish terrorist was formally sentenced to a long term of imprisonment for a foul killing, but everyone accepted that he would soon have to go free under the terms of the 'Peace Process', perhaps the most abject surrender to terrorism ever made by a major state. A ludicrous pamphlet had been published by the Home Office, urging us to store baked beans and bottled water in case of terrorist attack, but actually to encourage an atmosphere of semi-panic, compliance and dependency, as a wholly illogical response to the danger of assault by Islamic fanatics. Those fanatics, meanwhile, were soon to be protected by law against those who criticised their faith. Another committee of MPs had concluded that there were no fundamental objections to introducing identity cards for British subjects.

I fling these disparate items together because I cannot understand how anyone could be complacent at such a time. It reminds me, in some ways, of the descriptions by historians of the strange fevered period before 1914, which was recognised as a dangerous moment only by troublesome outsiders.

For me, the worst of these pieces of news is the confirmation that children can be given abortions without their parents being told. It combines so many evils at once that the mind can barely take them in. More than 20 years ago the late Helen Brook, a great enthusiast for sex education and freely available contraceptives, declared, 'From birth to death it is now the privilege of the parental state to take major decisions — objective, unemotional, the state weighs up what is best for the child.' To be fair to her, she loathed abortion and thought — quite wrongly — that readily available contraception would reduce it. In fact, by convincing the young that sex is not really linked to procreation at ail, it has had the opposite effect, When pills and coils and condoms fail, the abortionist is called in to act as a longstop to halt a pregnancy which has by then become unthinkable.

Sex education, invented by the Marxist intellectual hero Georg Lukacs during the mercifully brief Hungarian Soviet republic of Bela Kun, was specifically devised as an assault on bourgeois morality, the family and marriage. Helen Brook may never have heard of Comrade Lukacs, but her 'parental state' is not much less sinister than the systematic communist attempt to wipe out private life, symbolised by the Soviet cult of Pavlik Morozov, the boy who denounced his own parents to the NKVD and whose statue still stood in central Moscow until 1991. As for abortion itself, it corrupts any society which freely permits it. The idea that innocent life may be lawfully ended for the convenience of others or for the alleged good of society, once generally accepted, devastates the rule of law itself. In a way it is to our credit that the one obscenity which we rarely allow in print or on television is a picture of an aborted baby, for anyone who sees such a picture knows instantly and for ever what it means. By preferring not to know, we pretend that we are still a lawful, moral country. The idea that a little child, who may well still cuddle a toy as she sleeps, can seek contraception in secret from the parental state, become pregnant even so, and then be given an abortion in secret by the same parental state is so filled with totalitarian evil and moral debauchery that one can only turn away in silent disgust from those who permit it. Here is where you quickly find yourself when ends justify means.

No wonder that the same state makes bargains with terror when it suits it, while using terror as an excuse to increase police powers. No wonder that it seeks to register, fingerprint and survey us from maternity ward to crematorium. No wonder it spreads cheap propaganda about the al-Qa.eda threat while planning to silence criticism of Islam. No wonder it sanctions the bombing of Baghdad, tossing the severed limbs of women and children hither and thither, on humanitarian grounds. No wonder it is completely incapable of understanding why the people of Iraq and Afghanistan mysteriously fail to be grateful for being rescued in this fashion. Yet while it will launch Tomahawk missiles at Mesopotamia to effect regime change, it regularly tries teachers who are alleged to have chastised bullies, and dismisses police constables who thump louts and miscreants. It would like to prosecute parents for smacking their children. And while it will send troops thousands of miles to deal with a telegenic crisis and so make itself look noble, it will not maintain the serious forces necessary to secure our national independence.

It thinks itself so good that anything it does must be beneficial. It believes so much of its own propaganda that it can no longer distinguish truth from falsehood. And it considers itself so enlightened and so superior to the past that it ignores the most basic truths of national survival. The resulting wickedness, squalor and neglect are everywhere. Yet there is no coherent opposition to it, mainly because those who should be most worried are the most complacent.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.