Our Times – A. N. Wilson

OT(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This author first came to my attention after he had dropped out of St. Stephen’s house, Oxford, where he was training for priesthood. He wrote a very astute and candid novel about the college (with its drink problem, rampant homosexuality and S & M) and proceeded to write novels featuring Anglo-Catholicism which, to those of us inside the ghetto, were accurate in their observations.

He then turned to popular theology, writing books about Paul and Jesus which showed a woeful lack of discernment between serious theology and mere speculation.

He was then as fan of New Labour but by the time he wrote this book he has ceased to be a ‘young fogey’ and is now an old fogey, sneering at the working class, writing that we provide them with schools, prisons, hospitals and care homes, as if that were the sole measure of their seemingly pointless, lazy lives.

He shares the current distaste for nationalized industries, claiming that: expansion in Britain would fall catastrophically behind her inter­national competitors, and labour relations were deplorable for the first quarter century of the reign — until Margaret Thatcher did the cruel but necessary thing and hammered the trades unions.

He contrasts the periods in which I (and he) was born with the present day. I think things are better’ he doesn’t. We are treated to nostalgia for an irrelevant world.

He regards as dangerous charlatans R. D. Lang, Michel Foucault and Sylvia Plath.

It’s interesting to see that politicians in the 1950s were just as corrupt as they are now and that they could perjure themselves in expensive libel suits.

Of the so-called permissive society: The Director of Public Prosecutions, since 1944, had been Sir Theobald Matew (1898-1964). ……Mathew is usually cast as a villain by contemporary ­historians. Under his watch as DPP, for example, there was a colossal increase of prosecution of homosexuals. In the years 1940-44 (the year Mathew’s appointment) 1,631 men were prosecuted in ‘cases of Unnatural Offences and Indecency with other males’. With Mathew in charge, the number of prosecutions rose to 2,814 in the next four-year -period, and so on upwards in a steady spiral curve. In 1952 alone 5,425 were prosecuted. Investigating the reasons for the sudden increase, Lord Montgomery Hyde, MP for North Belfast and author of Other Love, noted that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Non-Bower was from 1953 particularly zealous in the application of the law. ‘It is easier and incidentally safer and less troublesome to catch a homo­sexual than a burglar,’ Hyde noted.’ But he also felt constrained to mention that Sir Theobald Mathew was ‘a devout and conscientious Catholic’. One can’t blame Mathew alone for attitudes which seem, from the perspective of a later age, not merely cruel but positively bizarre. After all, Lord Dawson of Penn, President of the Royal College of Physicians and physician in ordinary to every king since Edward VII, the House of Lords, in July 1937, ‘I am not at all sure that in the future it may not be regarded as an insufficiency disease . . . The more reasonable view is gradually being accepted that it . . . has one foot in the of disease and it is not wholly in the realm of crime.’

The author perpetuates the idea that Labour governments always wreck the economy and have to be rescued by the Tories.

Of Lord Longford: Others saw him, with his bald head often adorned by grubby Elastoplast, as at best a Holy Fool, at worst a deluded self-publicist….. In 1998 he caused of protest among homosexual activists when, debating in the House about lowering the age of consent for homosexuals, `if someone seduced my daughter it would be damaging and horrifying but not fatal. She would recover, marry and have lots of children . . . On the other hand, if some elderly, or not so elderly, school-master seduced one of my sons and taught him to be a homosexual, he would ruin him for life. That is the fundamental distinction.’ Beside this extremely unfashionable point of view, which certainly damned him in the eyes of those in 1998 who knew best, must be set the actual experiences of those who knew him. At Longford’s ninetieth birthday at the House of Lords, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu said, with tears in his eyes, to a friend — ‘When I came out of prison, no one would speak to me. I came to this place, and I was cut — until Frank came up and spoke to me.’

Many forget the role of the church in decriminalising homosexuality. A: QC for the prosecution spoke of homosexuals as ‘perverts’ the lowest possible moral character’….Part of the offensiveness, as far as the court was concerned, was that, as Montagu’s sister later wrote, he had committed a terrible impropriety by entertaining people of an inferior social class. Hence, in part, the fantasy that the three better-born men had needed to ‘incite’ the airmen to acts of indecency. There was undoubtedly a social, not to say political, dimension in the case; if it was not true to that the police wanted to punish Edward Montagu in part for being a lord, there was probably an element of wishing to make an example a well-known prosperous figure, pour encourager les autres. …. The Archbishop was a liberal in favour of reform, but he did not admit to their Lordships’ House, as he once did to a private dinner when asked his view of homosexuality – ‘Well….Long, long pause. ‘I tried it once.’ Long pause. ‘I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t try it again.’…. It was in 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders. The Church of England, in all its enlightened manifestatio­ns, had always known this, but in bringing the debate out into the open in the 1990s it smoked out some extraordinary bigotry within its own ranks and eventually caused the effective break-up of the world­wide Anglican Communion over the issue. So, it remained, throughout out times, a live issue, with many countries in the world, such as India and Uganda and Nigeria, retaining their ban on the activity.

My favourite description: Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers and Listeners Association (founded 1965), a bustling and busy woman whose grin was rendered mirthless by too large false teeth.

And Malcolm Muggeridge: should it really be necessary to be photographed praying and medi­tating for the benefit of the public, especially if the material world has been forsworn?’

We are subjected to a barrage of praise of Prince Charles as being more astute than any politician about the decline of Britain, his setting up of the Princess trust and organic food farms before getting to his sordid adultery.,

Of Tony Blair, little more needs to be said than that he and his wife never took books to read on holiday or that he lied about having been brought up in a rural area when he had lived all; his life in urban areas.

Robin Cook was a great enough man not to be dismissed as ‘carrot bearded’.

If your name is Roy, you get continually referred to as ‘Woy’.

The author clearly hates Islam.

He blames the abandonment of phonics and of the figure of Britannia from coins for lack of social cohesion.

I have lost any respect that I had for this author. In his arrogant populism, I keep hearing the voice of a sneering Peter Hitchens.

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