What Danny Kruger is doing
Danny Kruger, a real person and Conservative Member of Parliament offered this statement during the HoC urgent questions this week, called in response to the Roe vs. Wade rollback by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. I recognise the degree of distress and concern felt by many members of the House on the Supreme Court’s decision. And the facts are that I probably disagree with most members who’ve spoken so far about this question. They think that women have an absolute right of bodily autonomy in this matter whereas I think in the case of abortion, that right is qualified by the fact that another body is involved. But we can disagree on that. That’s the purpose [… ] this is a proper topic for political debate.”
Women do not currently have an absolute right to bodily autonomy, even in the case of abortion, and never have. Far from it. It is difficult for me to believe that a sitting MP that chose to stand up and speak on this issue doesn’t know this. So what’s Kruger doing here?
A Nightmare on Fleet Street
Kruger is media-savvy. He was the Daily Telegraph’s chief leader writer in 2005, David Cameron’s chief speechwriter in 2006, and now contributes to Conservative new media The Critic (Jeremy Hoskins) and UnHeard (Tim Montgomerie), alongside ‘level-headed’ outlets like the New Statesman and FT. He is also the son of a prime-time broadcaster.
Kruges will be widely derided as a fringe lunatic for these comments, but what he‘s done here has a really important function. He’s reframed popular understanding around this issue, whilst standing in the country’s most prestigious chamber of power.
There were loads of interesting and report-worthy things said in that debate — creating buffer zones to protect from constant harassment, or enshrining this right as a human right (for as long as we have those) — but if you look at most of the coverage, the discussion is now being had on his terms: the fictional injustice of ‘absolute rights’. It’s likely he will publish an opinion piece in which his views will be rendered paletable, and its detractors painted anti-democratic or hysterical. An industry pal might leap to his defense. (Update: here’s one.) This is how the consensus on abortion will start to be reshaped.
A couple of days following this news item, Prue Leith, Kruger’s mother and national treasure, took to the Spectator to break her silence.
Prue opens this article decrying the toxic abuse she has received (e.g. ‘please educate your son’) before devoting a paragraph to tell us what a sweet boy Danny is (you just don’t know him). It is notable that both articles position Danny as a victim of unreasonable aggression. Although she states she disagrees with his position, the majority of this article does something different — she uses her son’s framing as a launchpad to push timeless conservative narratives.
“Of course, it’s a good thing that there is no longer any stigma about unmarried motherhood. It’s just a pity that in removing the shame and guilt, we seem to have also removed the need for responsibility. We need women who don’t want babies not to get pregnant in the first place.”
Following the ruling, a 10-year-old child was denied abortion services. This is what it means in reality, and this is what Danny Kruger — behind all the concern for life — is in support of. Both Danny and his mum abstract away reality to make us focus on a constructed one — a reality in which women (primarily of the lower orders) can be admonished for being too frivilous, ignorant, and too far from conservative values for their own good.
These two articles serve as a microcosm of how British media and the government work. Kruger is not a lone-wolf. Media outputs create frameworks of understanding, and it’s on this terrain in which opinion and policies are formed. Furthermore, extreme views will be aired, and its expression supported under the banner of Free Speech.
Why has the party of death suddenly decided to care about life?
It is in the ideology of ‘small-state’ politics — here and abroad — to defund public programs, safety nets, and social support. For people like Kruger, you deserve the life your parents can buy you. Life outside of your lineage is not valued when it is in the world.
I think it’s clear to most people that the verdict in America is not motivated by faith, or concern for children, but control. What I think is less understood (or reported on) is the wider project that this ruling belongs to. Jane Elliott has been on the right side of history for a very long time and breaks it down here:
The roll-back of Roe vs. Wade is part of a well-funded, organised ethno-nationalist movement. This is why far-right groups all across the world have mobilised behind it. It makes perfect sense if you’ve noticed the direction of travel for most western democracies for the last decade.
This is England (‘16–‘22)
England in 2022 is not the same country I grew up in. I have borne witness to how public attitudes are shaped by powerful interests in regards to how my dark face is met and understood. It is difficult to believe that abortion rights could be rolled back, but as a child of the 90s, it was also difficult to believe that the goverment would campaign and win on National Front rhetoric.
When the Prime Minister of this country rises to power on advice from Steve Bannon, when Johnson is described by an ex-Tory chairman as running an English Nationalist party, and when 5,000 Britain First members join, it is not hyperbolic to say that all types of fascistic policies are within the realm of possibility.
Kruger was voted in with a majority of 24,000. If a by-election was called, I think it’s unlikely he will be voted out. Like all Conservatives, he has an entire media apparatus behind him. That apparatus is so powerful, it gets many in this country to vote against their interests as long as the people they don’t like are also harmed.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”
— Antonio Gramsci
Lots of my friends have been extremely down following this ruling — empathy for those that will suffer and an understanding that the special relationship means we are especially good at following suit.
When I’m feeling very blue about the state of the world, I return to Gramsci’s mantra. Stuart Hall is one of the founders of Cultural Studies in Britain, and he explains the meaning here:
- “What can change?”
- “Where are the emergent forces?”
- “Where are the cracks and the contradictions?”
- “What are the elements in popular consciousness one could mobilise for a different political program?”
One emergent force counteracting the increasingly biased and low-information media landscape is the emergence of independent news outlets. They are kept alive by reader donations, not think-tanks working to advance the interests of the already powerful. This is where I go to understand issues these days, and where ‘mobilising popular consciousness for a different political program’ could happen.
Coverage of this issue from outlets I read/support
(I’m not affiliated with any.)