by Norman St. John Stevas
THE Abortion debate in Britain reached a new low in the House of Commons a few days ago when Mr. Crossman, taking his cue from Mrs. Renee Short (always an inadvisable proceeding) hailed the Abortion Act as having prevented the birth of 20,000 illegitimate children "and all their consequences." This was the most callous contribution to the debate from a Minister of the Crown which I have yet had the misfortune to hear. It marks a watershed and I hope will constitute a turning-point.
First, it shows what I always knew that the muchvaunted Government declaration of neutrality on the Abortion Act was never anything more than a sham. Although the Abortion Act was sponsored by a private member, the Government helped it along at every stage of its progress by giving it time and by providing it with massive support in the lobbies.
Ministers, such as Mr. Roy Jenkins, would come to the House and declare their neutrality in their ministerial
capacity and then proceed to make long speeches in favour of the Act as private Members of Parliament. At least after Mr. Crossman's frank avowal we will be spared any more of that.
Second, Mr. Crossman has shown that the Government views the Abortion Act as a means of solving social problems not as a medical measure. True, there is a social clause in the Act, but it is of narrow application. It says that an abortion can be carried out if it can be shown to be necessary for preserving the health of "other
children" of the family. However, there is nothing in the
Act to say that an abortion can be carried out merely on the grounds that the child born will be illegitimate. Mr. Crossman is accordingly encouraging doctors to break the law.
The third point that arises from Mr. Crossman's disgraceful observation concerns the whole basis and ethos of the Labour party. Although I am politically opposed to the Government. I have always had a sympathy for Labour intentions if not achievements. The Labour party has traditionally been on' the side of the poor and the have-nots.
It has been inspired, not by Communism or Atheistic Humanism, but by Christianity. Methodism, not Marxism, has been the bedrock of the Labour party. What has 'happened to those principles now?
The party is being influenced in its social policies by rootless so-called Humanists such as Mr. Crossman.
Illegitimacy is not a sin: it is not a crime: if people have the handicap of being illegitimate then the State should try and alleviate their lot. What can have been the effect of Mr. Crossman's remarks on the millions of illegitimate men and women in Britain today? I 'hope the Christians in the Labour party will lose no time in making their views known about this latest descent into inhuman genetics, in. the place ac:where it will be most effective, No. 10 Downing Street.
Those swinging parties
TALKING of No. 10 reminds me of the fact that a
General Election is not so very far away. Mr. Wilson is making the most of his tenure and has held not one but two swinging parties this month. He very kindly asked me to the first one, which was graced not only by Morecambe and Wise but by Mr. Robert Morley, Mr. Alan Corbett and Miss Julie Christie.
Incidentally I disagree with the Editor (an unwise thing to do) in his exoneration last week of Mr. Peregrine Worsthorne for his public attack on the Prime Minister's second party. To me it was a simple case of bad manners.
The high point of the party for me was the entrance of the Wilson eat, Nemo, well known to readers of Mrs. Wilson's diary in Private Eye, It is, indeed, a batteredlooking creature with one ear half torn off, allegedly by the Foreign. Offitx cat, and blind in one eye. However, he was accorded a welcome worthy of loyalty.
As he came into the main salon a crowd of admirers around the Prime Minister simply abandoned him. "Nemo!" was the universal cry and an enthusiastic throng advanced upon the poor animal which promptly jumped on a sofa recently re-covered with damask art the taxpayers' expense and began scratching it off. Alt, well, that's show business!
However. I have digressed and must get back to the election date. In theory the Prime Minister could remain at Downing Street until the May of 1971, but I think he is highly unlikely to do so. In the first place, by going right to the end of the term be leaves himself no room for manoeuvre and is entirely at the mercy of events.
Secondly. the coinage is due to be decimalised in February: this will cause a rise in prices and general inconvenience, and the blame will be put on the Government. This would hardly help Labour chances in the election.
Third, I believe that we shall see a swing back to the Government in the summer, so that Labour will be at its likely peak in the early autumn. Last year Labour made a strong recovery in the summer when Parliament was in recess, but lost its gain when Parliament returned.
Mr. Harold Macmillan takes the view that the Prime Minister lost his best chance last year and. should have held a snap election then. My bet, therefore, is for an election this year in late October.
it wilt be a close figAtt and the Government still stands a reasonable chance of pulling off a third victory. If. however, I were a betting man (which I am not) I would put my money on the Tories to win by a short head.