Some years ago I took legal action against a newspaper for
libel. I won although it was settled out of court. In the process I was assured that the owner of the newspaper was "on our side" — to which I replied that the day the newspaper gave-us fair coverage on life issues I would believe that.
The newspaper in question was The Daily Telegraph and the Editor at the time was Max Hastings. It was not all that long before Mr Hastings left to become Editor of the Evening Standard. Consequently there was a complete change in the approach to family and life issues in The Daily Telegraph. Equally there was a complete change in the approaches to ethical issues in the Evening Standard.
I mention this because throughout the general election 1 was asked persistently why the press and broadcasters (the BBC especially) so loathed William Hague and took every opportunity to seek to humiliate him.
Whether one agrees with Mr Hague on Europe; whether he overstressed "keeping the pound" to the cost of other issues, whatever mistakes he may or may not have made — none of these merited the hatred or deliberately demeaning tactics used by the media against him. These were epitomised by Jeremy Paxman in an interview — described to me by non-Tory politician, David Alton, as disgraceful — the "high point" of which was when he asked Mr Hague: "Why do people hate you?" (What political acumen and incisiveness inspired Mr Paxman to pose such a question, I wonder!)
However, in my view it is not "people" who hated Mr Hague, but some of the most influential leaders in the media. He opposes so much of what they embrace: abortion, clause 28 and gay rights to the point of being given equal rights with married couples, and many other ethical issues. He even had the gall to include in the Party Manifesto a promise that the Tories would make tax allowances for married couples in order to promote and help to secure the traditional family.
On the day after the General Election (Friday, 8th June), none other than Mr Max Hastings, in person, confirmed my views. In an article on the Tories' defeat, Mr Hastings wrote : "If the Tories are ever to win another election, they had better learn to understand modem Britain..."
Understanding modern Britain — according to Mr Hastings' definition — has little to do with economics. After all, let us be blunt, apart from Europe there is very little difference today between the economic policies offered by Labour and the Conservatives. Indeed, after the 1997 General Election Tony Blair announced that his government would continue with the Tory economic strategy to the point that John Major pointed out that they had claimed credit for the results of policies set in place by the Conservatives.
o, the hatred for Mr Hague had little to do with economics. Mr Hastings spelled it out for us: "The Conservatives look a party marooned in the 20th century, when, for all its imperfections, Labour is a party of the 21st. Many talk as if their highest ambition is to bring back the values of Mrs Miniver circa 1940."
Then he produced a list which included unmarried mothers, animal rights, drug takers, gays, bunny-hugging and explicit sex on the movies, telling us "this is modern Britain. Any political party which seeks to deny its reality, as the Tories have done implicitly or explicitly for years, is unlikely to gain power."
It was noticeable that during the campaign other pro-family Conservative leaders were beset with a fair share of the media malice.
Mr Hastings explains it: "...a new generation says: 'Do what you like so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else.'lt is risible that Ann Widdecombe should even be a member of the Shadow Cabinet, worse still an outside shot for the Tory leadership, when modem Britain forever thinks of her as the mad old bat who wants zero tolerance on cannabis."
I must stress that I am not a Conservative and up to this
General Election I had not voted for a Tory for at least 25 years (1 had always voted for the individual candidate with whom I agree ethically). However, I found this general election campaign and the last, the two most evil of my life (and I have lived now for 75 years). Obviously the media set out to destroy a group of people and the public by and large fell for it, thinking that there must be something wrong with them — even if they cannot work out quite what it is.
Notice, however, that the spin doctors were by no means so nasty about those Conservatives who have never taken a stand in defence of traditional ethical views — the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke, for one.
I was brought up to loathe
bullies and, I admit, there is an additional cause for my reaction. Because of my stand against abortion and other life issues, during the last thirtythree years I have frequently been the subject of bullying, misrepresentation, and the kind of cynical manipulations at which BBC's Today team is so adept.
I know what it is like. Furthermore, the result of the manner in which the media have oft times presented me
is that even members of my own family would ask what I had done to upset journalists (such as Ann Robinson, may God protect me)? I have never heard a genuine pro-life activist refer to any woman who has had an abortion as a -murderess". Yet, this has been the kind of lie told about us by some sections of the media seeking to blacken the pro-life movement.
Even so, whatever my personal views or feelings, the most important thing is the future of our society and what we can do to stop the misrepresentations. After all, I am sure that the average voter does not consider that in voting against a party — or, indeed, in abstaining — he is in effect giving support to Mr Hastings' list as part and parcel of modern Britain.
A majority of people (including young people) are as opposed to drugs, pornography and the bestiality of abortion as I am.
Nonetheless, in this last election, the silence of the churches on pro-life and pro-family issues stood out. The town of St Helen's is one example. There they had imposed on them by Millbank Mr Shaun Woodward as the Labour candidate. Mr Woodward left the Conservatives not because of economic policies but because of their opposition to Clause 28 being deleted from the schools curriculum explicitly banning the teaching of homosexuality in schools. Mr Woodward is not pro-life and he supports the use of the human embryo in experiments and the production of the human clone for the same purposes. He voted for that — and please don't tell me that the working people of St Helens support the views of Mr Woodward (and his butler) on sex education and on respect for human life.
But such issues have been driven from the political agenda. One might at least have supposed that the churches would have raised these issues from the pulpit. But, with a few exceptions, there was nothing.
The matter was not even raised with candidates at the St Helens' Churches Together meeting where I know for a fact that at least twelve written questions were put forward. When the meeting closed, a pro-life member of the audience asked the Chairman why no questions were asked on abortion, cloning or euthanasia to be told — these questions were corning next, but we had no time. In other words, all twelve questions had been shoved to the bottom of the pile. That is the measure of what has happened to our political life.