There is a humane and well-argued article in today’s Spectator on the Ruth Kelly crisis from a perhaps unlikely source – the conservative writer Leo McKinstry.
I have been rather in two minds about this episode. On the one hand, like many New Labourites, Ruth Kelly exudes an air of ‘Not only am I cleverer than you but I am also a better person than you. So if you disagree with me you are simply revealing yourself as both ignorant and malignant.' She is the sort of person whom a political opponent can’t help but want to see taken down a peg or two.
In addition Labour have been guilty reductio ad absurdam of complex arguments for political advantage: ‘Labour are on the side of the victim; the Liberal Democrats are on the side of the criminal’. So in that sense to Labour ministers deserve to be hoisted on the petard of nuance and grey area.
But, as McKinstry points out, the feeding frenzy is both unedifying and hypocritical. In many ways, society in general and the tabloid press in particular give mixed messages about sex and the under-16s and punctuate this with occasional moral panics. I don’t agree with all of McKinstry’s conservative moralising, but many of his points are well made.
While it is tempting to relish the discomfort of a Labour minister, it is for the best if Ruth Kelly stays.