Some time ago I wrote a particularly ill-received piece here, called 'Incoherent Conservatives'. I wanted to raise the issue that coherence, a word with a precise meaning in the logic of induction (which I like) is often used in everyday English with an implicit positive intent (which I dislike; or at least, which I don't find sufficient to nudge me into liking the object of the sentence). You know: His views on the environment are totally coherent with his worldview. Sentences like that are meant, by the writer, to make the reader respond: And this is of itself good.
Most of the time I expect what I post here to disappear into the ether; sometimes I hope that you'll like what I say. I was mildly surprised by the strength of the objections to that post back in April, though I take some comfort from finding that Bertrand Russell agreed with me. It still seems to me that to prioritise a totally coherent programme for government would deliver an outcome both witless and eventually cruel. Start with the axioms of your ideology: and stop there too. Derive policies which cohere with your axioms and ignore the human response to those policies if they fail, because even to acknowledge a failure would require an admission that in our imperfect, pluralist world it is sometimes kinder to lack coherence than it is to stick to the framework you originally selected for decision-making. Anyway don't let's go back there.
Oh go on then, let's. Liam Donaldson is too big a gift to the party for incoherence to ignore. Here he is again, demanding that parents refrain from letting their children drink a glass of wine at Christmas, or indeed anytime. Dr Donaldson is nothing if not consistent, since at the start of this year he was making the same demand, using the full might of his establishment-medical authority to inveigh against parents who dare to poison their children with a glass of wine at dinner.
He's very coherent, actually, because the weapons he's deploying are exactly those used in the quasi-criminalisation of smoking which has occurred over the last thirty years. Note that I am not arguing that we should encourage people to smoke! I just notice that the political tactics first deployed against smoking, by people who didn't have the guts to criminalise something they wanted to criminalise, are now being used against drinkers. First the health warnings - now starting to appear on bottles of wine (Please enjoy this Pinot Grigio responsibly, urges Waitrose, in a futile attempt to use voluntary labelling to head off the imposition of labels containing pictures of scarred liver tissue, which Liam would no doubt like to plaster over every bottle. (I do wonder how I might use the pinot irresponsibly, sometimes: if I poured it down the toilet?)) - then the ridiculous elision between responsible drinking and the pathology of addiction (here's Liam again, moving swiftly from banning wine-drinking in your middle-class home and the tyranny of alcohol in our towns and city centres [...] too often childhood is robbed of its clear-eyed innocence and replaced with a befuddled futility that comes with the availability of dirt-cheap alcohol.
I don't know about you, but I never found the thrill of being allowed a glass of wine at one of mum and dad's dinner parties devolving rapidly into a befuddled futility; except maybe when we sighed over the inexorable rise of socialism in our seaside Ayrshire town.
It's clever, though, isn't it? Who could argue against moves designed to prevent legions of children, robbed of their innocence, wandering our towns in a blank-eyed fuzz of befuddled futility? All those drunkards who ruin our social space: it must be because their parents dosed them with an Advocaat Snowball at Granny's Christmas lunch. It's funny(ish) now: but you watch as this 'debate' moves from the shrill extreme of our joyless medical officer into standard, received thinking.
Alcohol is, undeniably, a poison. We're all against poisoning children; it should, of course, be illegal to poison a child. We must therefore ban parents from granting their children access to alcohol: such is coherence. Well. I'd rather have an incoherent (if responsibly so) Christmas. Cheers!