Page 3, 27th February 1998

27th February 1998
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Page 3, 27th February 1998 — Comment by Peter Hitchens
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Locations: Strasbourg

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Comment by Peter Hitchens

up OF US brought up before the British Cultural Revolution in the 1960s find it hard to accept that a bench of nidges in Strasbourg has anything to teach this country about human tights.

So is the ruling on Phyllis Bowman's anti-abortion campaign a cause for rejoicing? Or should we beware of foreigners bearing gifts which, when opened up, turn out to be dangerous?

On the face of it, the prosecutions of Mrs Bowman were heavy-handed, like the banning of graphic anti-abortion propaganda from TV broadcasts. One wonders whether any other cause would have been treated in the same way.

Opposition to abortion is one of the great heresies of the 1990s, since it strikes at the heart of the new sexual morality. This is why discussion of its details is one of the very few things now considered obscene by liberals.

More importantly, her campaign also threatened to bar the dishonest escape route used repeatedly by MPs to ignore the opinions of millions of morally conservative citizens — the so-called "Free Vote", All major moral issues are dealt with under this flag of convenience system. Even though so-called Private Members' Bills are more or less openly backed by the Government whips, MPs are supposedly at liberty to follow their consciences and vote as they wish.

In truth, they are merely free to follow metropolitan fashion and ignore the bedrock conservatism of the millions. They can be sure that their behaviour will not be an issue at any General Election, because the major manifestoes are careful to be silent on moral issues.

This is how Parliament has managed to be substantial to the Left of the country while creating the permissive society, and is an important fault in our constitution, which needs to be put right.

What is not clear is whether Phyllis Bowman's victory will achieve this, or simply place all MPs at the mercy of every rich single-issue campaigner in the land, now free to spend what they like on their favourite causes. Many of those causes will be unpalatable to conservatives, and it may be unwise to rejoice. Britain is unlikely to be remoralised by a judgement from Strasbourg.

• Peter Hitchens is Assistant Editor of The Express 1




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