Embarrassment about sex was once the greatest cause of British double standards. Now children, the result of sex, fuel the hypocrisies of perfidious Albion. According to the received wisdom of our times, we are living through a phenomenal feminist advance. Women have stormed the bastions of male privilege and cracked, if not smashed, the glass ceiling.
But the success of women is based on exploitation of women. The households of privileged families and a large proportion of the middle class could not function without the labour of servants fleeing the Brezhnevian tower blocks of eastern Europe, Asian slums and poverty and oppression the world over. Our social structure would collapse were it not sustained by shadowy legions of women, living outside the law as illegal immigrants or living outside the welfare state in the black economy.
Stern left-wing writers in the 20th century told their readers that their wealth depended on the exploitation of far-flung colonies. Lectures on how our clothes and trainers come from the sweatshops of the east remain a standard of liberal journalism today. But the line between the rich and the poor worlds does not run between north and south or east and west but through British homes, touching the most intimate aspects of family life – the care of children and the happiness of marriages. Small wonder there is a gap between public pronouncements and private behaviour.