Stigma – A Political History

BBC Radio 4

Journalist Peter Hitchens examines the social and cultural revolution that has taken place in Britain over the last four decades. How did many of the old stigmas, particularly those surrounding the family, simply disappear? Peter argues that, while many of the old taboos have been done away with, all we’ve done is replace them with another set.

As the sociologist Patricia Morgan suggests, “nature abhors a vacuum”, if you remove stigma from one thing it attaches itself to something else.

Peter challenges “the Godfather of the sociology of the swinging sixties”, Laurie Taylor and the former editor of the Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, to explain how the enormous social changes of the 1960s and ensuing years happened, and he questions left wing author Owen Jones and former Conservative cabinet minister John Redwood on whether, as a society, we should be satisfied with the outcome.

Peter pays a visit to St Mellons in Cardiff, the estate made famous in a speech by John Redwood in 1993. Mr Redwood thought he’d focused on the duties of fathers, but the wider world saw it as an attack on single mothers. Peter asks why there was such a fuss and whether it would be possible to make that speech today. He suggests that we have got to a stage where there is such pressure to conform that no-one dares express views that are outside accepted mainstream thinking.

In throwing off the chains of the past, have we saddled ourselves with a form of liberal bigotry?

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.