GW: Having lived much of my life abroad, one thing that increasingly strikes me about Britain is that there is less and less moral restraint. We talk about the Church of England as if it is a serious church. But there aren't any churchgoers. I think it's down to about seven per cent now. The only time the Archbishop is mentioned is when he talks about homosexuality or women priests or makes yet another galumphing and in my view immoral attack on the government — immoral because he can't even get his own organisation in order so who is he to preach to other people?
So I don't think there's any religious authority in this country. France is educationally secular but socially more Catholic. Then of course there's religion in Germany, not to mention America. In China there is clearly not only the weight of tradition, which should not be forgotten, but also the weight of the government to keep things in order. Here you have a working-class culture which has largely gone for numerous reasons, along with its industries, which was conservative in many ways. You only have to go to the north-east of England to see this. The Church has gone, the Labour Party doesn't stand for anything in cultural and educational terms, and there are few constraints at school or in the family.
I remember Chris Smith saying culture is not just for the cognoscenti. Well, cognoscenti as I understand it means people who know what they're talking about and I wouldn't mock them. So if the culture is dominated by people who don't know what they're talking about, you have the trahison des clercs, except in this case the clercs probably haven't read the Bible. And so I don't see where any restraining force comes from any longer in Britain, particularly at a time, dare one mention it, when not only are we trying to cope with our own cultural malaise but we are importing large numbers of people who are not necessarily from saintly backgrounds or with functioning cultures of their own.
DJ: What do you think about this, Nick? Do you think the elite have let the country down? Both the liberal elite and the new Tory elite.
NC: Let's take that from the top. From a left-wing point of view, however much you and George might have objected to a Labour government, however much you thought what these guys were going to do was to put up your taxes, get a lot of money, and waste a lot of it, be bossy, be Fabian, and think the man from Whitehall knows best, the one thing you'd have thought they'd be able to do was regulate the banks. Even if you had spent your whole life campaigning against the Labour Party, you'd think at least we won't have a banking crash. I've checked the history books and never before had a centre-Left government presided over a banking crash. Admittedly Ramsay MacDonald's 1929 government was in power when the Wall Street crash happened but it only came to power in May and the crash happened in the autumn and in America. Throughout the 1920s and '30s not a single bank in Britain or the British Empire went bankrupt — not one. You have to go back to 1866 to find something like that happen.
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