Whose fault is it that 12 year olds get pregnant? This is a multiple-choice question if ever I heard one. Tick one of the following answers. It's Margaret Thatcher's fault because she decimated industry, thus giving unemployed men little purpose in life except to impregnate children. It's Tony Blair's fault because his government has voted for easier divorce and the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals, thus undermining the traditional family. (This is the argument of the likes of Simon Heffer, though someone should point out that it is not homosexuals who are making teenage girls pregnant.) It's Gordon Brown's fault because his fiscal polices are not discriminating between families where parents are married and families where they are not.
It is the fault of television because there is far too much sex on it. It's the fault of men's magazines where one B-list female celeb after another has to take her clothes off. It is the fault of advertising, which makes people want things they cannot have - so they have sex instead. It is the fault of feminists who suggest that men are pathetic. It is the fault of men for being pathetic. It is the fault of parents who do not give their children responsible sex education. It is the fault of teachers because they try and give children sex education, which only makes them want to have sex. It is the fault of that abstract concept for those who do not know its reality: poverty. It is the fault of kids for having far too much these days. It is the fault of moral laissez-faire in which anything goes. It is the fault of the moral crusaders who want to turn the clock back. It is the fault of a stupid girl and a stupid boy. It's my fault. Well, why not? Someone has to take the blame.
Now that you have selected your answer according to whether you are on the left or on the right, straight, gay, male, female, black or white,12 or 72, does it make you feel better? Strangely, you may find it doesn't. Nor will your view have much effect on the mind of a teenage girl who isn't going to "just say no". Or on a teenage boy who thinks sex with a condom on is not sex at all. Obviously only moronic and chronically deprived male losers think like this and all male New Statesman readers and Daily Mail writers can't wait to get their condoms on at every available opportunity.
I do not understand the fuss about Tony Blair's effort to re-moralise a demoralised nation. He has been talking this talk long before he became Prime Minister. It's how he walks the walk that matters.
As John Lloyd has pointed out (NS, 30 August), it is Gordon Brown who has really been doing the dirty work of trying to give all kinds of families a better chance. In an ideal world, we would all be married to the high-earning Cherie and produce three lovely children. Yet in the real world (even the small one of the cabinet) there are gay men and Robin Cook. There are divorcees. There are parents of children who have dabbled with drugs. There are ministers who are stepmothers or have given up a child for adoption. There is an ex- alcoholic cajoling the press on behalf of the cabinet.
Are all these people amoral? Of course not. They are human and their lives, just as our own, reflect the huge social changes that have swept through society in the past 20 years. Even if we all went back to church tomorrow, none of these changes would suddenly be reversed.
The government is in the precarious position of having to state that it doesn't want to interfere in the lives of adults but that something must be done about the children. Yet it is the adults whose lives must be sufficiently interfered with if things are to get better. So much of what has interfered with the lives of adults have been forces beyond any government's control - or at least beyond the control of any government we have yet had.
I am not interested in the morality, or lack of it, of a girl who sees no options in her future except that of trading sex for love and the ability to reproduce.
The morality, however, of living in an increasingly unequal society; of pretending that globalisation is just a force of nature that no one can do anything about; of further impoverishing women and children already at the bottom of the heap - this is the morality worth discussing. One cannot embrace the private sector at the expense of the public sector, cut welfare budgets and hold up low-paid and unrewarding work as the only solution to a "moral crisis" - unless one is a Tory. These are the political questions that need to be addressed, and all the moral huffing and puffing in the world will not make them go away.
If the Third Way, with its implicit acceptance of capitalism as the only way, means anything, it must mean a certain kind of pragmatism. If sexual consumerism is a by-product of our chosen economic system, then we must equip all our avid little consumers with the products to deal with it. Curfews, lectures and parenting classes will not stop people having sex when they are too young. If the culture is telling its offspring that sex is what it all comes down to, sex is what sells, sex is the real single currency, then we must hit on the head the myth that the availability of contraception somehow induces sex itself. If this upsets the moral guardians of Middle England, then so be it. We cannot sacrifice the lives and bodies of young women in order to protect ourselves from the ugly truth about what is going on in our country.
The sexual revolution has been and gone and we have not all lived happily ever after. We muddle through and some of us are really quite useless. Let's just admit it. But still a used condom is preferable to a life used up before it has been led.
The writer is a columnist on the "Mail on Sunday"