Boris Johnson’s ‘Conservative’ Government has no intention of actually fighting against the Woke agenda; merely the intention of looking like it’s fighting against the Woke agenda which its substantive actions, belying its words, suggest it either supports or at least does not much oppose
Note: Extended and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 15 February 2021.
If you went only by the headlines, you might be tempted to believe that the ‘Conservative’ Party – following the justified criticism of its leadership’s reluctance even to criticise, never mind condemn, the explosion of intolerance, censoriousness and malign identitarianism which, after festering below the surface for several years, finally exploded into the open amid culturally and racially oikophobic street violence last summer – had finally resolved to tackle the Woke virus.
It now planned, we were recently told, to prevent anti-statue iconoclasm by strengthening the protection of statues from the depredations of Town Hall militants and Woke-Warriors. We won’t allow people to censor our past, asserted Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on 16th January – although whether his proposal to make them obtain planning permission and consult the local community before doing so will deter the heritage-destruction fanatics is a moot point.
Not to be outdone in signalling Tory purported anti-Woke credentials, next up was Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, endorsing a ‘Conservative’ backbench MPs’ initiative to spike the Town Hall militant Woke-ists’ guns by re-naming, with the names this time of Victoria Cross recipients, the already and only recently re-named Diversity Grove and Equality Road in Perry Barr, Birmingham.
Then, in what the Government clearly wants to be perceived as a major escalation of its ‘War on Woke’, the Sunday Telegraph of 14th February reported Dowden as summoning the leading heritage bodies and charities to a summit at which he intended to entreat them ‘to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down’. Reinforcing that was to be a promise from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson of a ‘Free Speech Champion’, with powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses, accompanied by the warning: ‘Colleges or student bodies that try to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views will be sanctioned’.
Given the extent to which Britain’s historic and cultural institutions have been captured by the Left, some ineffectual bleating from a hand-wringing Dowden is hardly likely to persuade the heads of leading heritage bodies and charities summoned to his exalted presence to change their ways. As the Daily Telegraph‘s Simon Heffer points out, their Achilles heel is their dependence, to a greater or lesser extent, on State funding, and threatening to curb it would concentrate minds, but the Government looks nowhere near ready even to contemplate such a drastic step, let alone carry it out.
Nor are the sanctions on universities apparently to be wielded by Williamson likely to achieve much. Compensating speakers who have been de-platformed or disinvited due to Woke intolerance by either the student body or the faculty does not immediately come across as a particularly effective deterrent. Once again, there appears no desire to hit the universities in the wallet, where it would hurt most. As Conservative Home Deputy Editor Charlotte Gill rightly says, legislation will help, but ministers themselves need to speak out more.
Now, the re-naming of some Parry Barr thoroughfares after Victoria Cross recipients rather than ‘Diversity’ shibboleths isn’t at all a bad idea per se; but are these kinds of, frankly, peripheral and comparatively trivial placebos and palliatives from those political wet lettuces Jenrick, Dowden and Williamson really all we can realistically expect from the Tories’ so-called ‘War on Woke’?
Sadly, it might well be. Because, below the radar, and on several fronts, the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy appears to be not merely not opposing, but either passively accepting or even advancing, the ‘Liberal’-Left’s pernicious, divisive Woke agenda. Consider a few examples.
Take the issue of the sustained Woke assault on free speech, specifically that manifested via the de-platforming and/or cancel-culture now widespread among both academic and student bodies on university campuses. Any readers still doubting its extent and severity should either listen to the New Culture Forum‘s recent panel discussion podcast on it, or watch it on YouTube.
Last month, Tory backbencher David Davis introduced a Private Members’ Bill to place a legal duty on universities to uphold and promote free speech on campus, but which is unlikely to become law, owing to ‘lack of Parliamentary time’. Davis is right to address this issue; but why did it have to fall to a private member to introduce legislation to protect and uphold something as fundamental as free speech?
Where was the allegedly ‘Conservative’ Government which included in its last Election Manifesto a commitment to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities? Was it fearful of incurring the wrath of the Woke Mafia? It’s a poor reflection on the Johnson Government’s now apparently only lukewarm commitment to free speech that legislation to uphold and promote it in universities, of all places, has to be via a Private Members’ Bill, and not a Government initiative.
Furthermore, the Woke assault on free speech is neither confined solely to the higher education sector, nor is it a fringe issue of concern only to civil liberties fundamentalists or free speech absolutists. A recent Savanta-ComRes opinion poll found that as many as 50 per cent of Britons feel freedom of speech in the United Kingdom to be under threat, and that only 12 per cent of the population believes that people have greater freedom to speak freely now than they enjoyed five years ago.
Moving on to the minefield of gender and trans rights, the ‘Conservative’ Party now appears to be bent on cancelling Women as a species. As victim of the militant trans lobby Maya Forstater explains, the Government’s own Parliamentary Bill covering maternity leave for Ministers now refers to ‘pregnant persons’.
Presumably, alternatives to the now clearly discriminatory and non-‘inclusive’ expression ‘women’, were rejected on Woke grounds. ‘Persons who menstruate’ must have been ruled out as obviously transphobic in deference to the vicious Woke onslaught on J K Rowling for satirising its use as a substitute.
Using persons with wombs’ would have self-evidently excluded, and thereby demeaned, women of child-bearing age who’d had to undergo a hysterectomy, and women past the menopause and therefore unable to conceive; and that’s before even starting to consider how to tiptoe round the bear-trap of describing any cis-women now identifying as non-binary on a spectrum of genders running into three figures.
Ironically in view of all of this, the Equality Act 2010, which remains in force, refers to both pregnancy itself and pregnancy discrimination as something which happens to, erm, ‘women’.
Among the most sinister and damaging manifestations of the burgeoning Woke self-righteous intolerance is the expansion of censorship by the partisan hyper-‘Liberals’ of Silicon Valley Big-Tech. Even as its platforms leant more and more towards covert, then overt, shadow-banning and even outright banning, much of the Elite-Establishment with an interest, whether genuine or feigned, in promoting the Woke Cult and silencing or demonising opposition to it has been content to outsource censorship to the private sector, but has thereby created a tyranny.
So it’s curious that, despite the worthy ostensible aim of preventing online harm, the Johnson Government is apparently content to partner with Big-Tech to regulate online speech even more. Did it occur to Media, Digital and Culture Secretary Dowden that, given its recent track record, Big-Tech is likely to exploit the freedom given it by filtering out not only child-pornographic, terrorist and genuinely racist material but also by censoring legitimate conservative opinion and classical-liberal challenge to the Woke-Left agenda? Or is he relaxed about it?
The Tory leadership has also capitulated to the BBC, abandoning not just abolition of the iniquitous ‘licence-fee’, but even the idea of decriminalising non-payment of it, while at the same time allowing it to be increased. It’s only just over a year ago, remember, that Johnson’s ministers were banned from appearing on the Today programme because of its unremitting bias.
As if sustaining the mainstream media’s foremost propagandist of Über-Woke in its regressive, coercive funding model wasn’t bad enough, the Government has additionally favoured the ‘fantastic BBC‘ (© B Johnson) with responsibility for providing online lessons to children during lockdown. The result was predictable; it took a concerted backlash from parents to get its ‘there are over 100 genders‘ teaching module withdrawn. Not much evidence of a Tory Government ‘War on Woke’ there.
Finally, and arguably most egregiously of all, Johnson’s Government appears to be going out of its way to virtue-signal its enthusiastic alignment with two of the most widespread and potentially calamitous Woke shibboleths of our time – Green-Left ‘climate-change’ and its new first cousin, the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset programme to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic so as to bring about the comprehensive re-vamping of all aspects of our societies and economies under a globalist, supranationalist, technocratic totalitarianism.
This is well illustrated by three pairs of linked tweets by Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, starting with the ritual obsession, which all senior British politicians have, of being seen publicly to be among the first to have telephone conversations with their counterparts in a new US administration.
There’s little intrinsically wrong in this rather tedious, perhaps even puerile, willy-waving aspect of the diplomatic game. Notable on this occasion, however, is how Johnson and Raab each take the opportunity afforded by it to shoehorn what, contextually, are almost forced and contrived references into it, linking pandemic recovery with the advancement of the Green eco-agenda – including those now almost obligatory buzzword-phrases ‘green and sustainable recovery‘ (Johnson), and both ‘tackling climate change‘ and the now almost universal ‘build back better‘ (Raab).
Next, their unnecessarily effusive, even cloying, welcomes for Biden’s rush, within almost hours of his inauguration, to sign the USA up to the twin Green mantras of the costly but ineffective Paris Climate Agreement, and the impractical and ruinously expensive drive to achieve the chimera of ‘carbon’ neutrality by 2050.
For a government supposedly committed to a ‘levelling-up’ agenda, allegedly intended to benefit people in the relatively economically disadvantaged Midlands and North, burdening them with much higher heating and power bills to pay for unreliable and subsidy-dependent Green energy seems a strange way of going about it. But here, once again, are the buzzwords beloved of the Great Reset’s adherents. ‘Net Zero by 2050‘ and ‘work together for our planet‘ from Johnson; ‘Paris Agreement‘ and ‘tackle climate change‘ (again) from Raab.
Lastly, their congratulatory tweets on New Zealand’s National Day to its Prime Minister, that darling of the globalist ‘progressive’ ‘Liberal’-Left, Jacinda Ardern.
This isn’t a controversial message in itself – New Zealand is, after all, a member both of the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere’s Five Eyes security alliance – but once more, we see the chance taken to insert some key WEF/Davos Great Reset platitudes. From Johnson, we get’ make the world a greener….place‘; from Raab (yet again) ‘to combat climate change‘; and, intriguingly, from both, the now near-ubiquitous and sinister ‘build back better‘.
It’s not as if the use of this phraseology is unique to either politics, or to Britain; the same mantras, the same’ build back better‘ platitudes, keep coming from as far afield and diverse sources as Trudeau in Canada, from Macron and Merkel at a virtual leaders’ summit, from Biden in the USA, from corporate CEOs meeting at environmental foundation gatherings, and even from Kensington Palace. Coincidence? I think not.
One wonders to what extent all this has now morphed from being mere empty virtue-signalling into a form of subtle code; a method for national political leaders to signify to each other and to the elite of the supranationalist crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy that, despite having, for domestic political reasons, to offer reassuring but obfuscatory bromides to their electorates, they are in fact entirely on board with the Great Reset agenda, and can be trusted to further it in their own countries.
Only just over a year ago, Johnson had banned his ministers from attending the annual Davos schmooze-fest of the great and the (not so) good of the globalist oligarchy. Now he appears to be taking, not merely instructions, but even dictation from them.
Pinpointing the reason for the Tories’ apparent reluctance to counter the Woke agenda in any way other than cosmetically is harder than citing examples of it. Over at UnHerd, Ed West quotes former Tory MP Ed Vaizey, part of the Cameroon/Notting Hill metro-‘liberal’ tendency which still holds sway within the Party, in enthusiastic support for the Woke agenda. West persuasively suggests that driving this is a naïve gullibility, which fixates on its superficial but bogus claim to be motivated solely by altruism and equity, but is blind to the illiberalism, intolerance and authoritarianism with which it tries to enforce its orthodoxy.
A week ago, I insinuated that Johnson’s ‘Conservatives’ were only pretending to fight the Woke agenda at the domestic, socio-cultural level. The way in which their proposed post-Covid greater state-interventionism and Green eco-socialism manifest the accelerating conflation of the Green ‘climate-change’ agenda with the Covid-19 recovery agenda under the overarching aegis of the WEF/Davos Great Reset suggests that, when it comes to the Woke agenda at the internationalist, economic level, they aren’t even pretending to.
In the New Culture Forum‘s panel discussion podcast and video discussion referenced earlier, Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University posits that there is an argument currently prevailing within Johnson’s Government against engaging in any kind of what they call ‘culture war’, the idea being that that’s what characterised Trump, that it was a mistake, and that they, therefore, must not be seen to be emulating either it, or him.
The fact that we’re already in a culture war that’s being prosecuted aggressively by the ‘Liberal’-Left and hard-Left Culture-Warriors seems to have escaped their notice. As the Henry Jackson Society’s Dr Rakib Ehsan states, Britain cannot be blind to the threat to social cohesion presented by extremist far-Left revolutionaries via faux-‘progressive’ movements like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.
Particularly striking over the past year has been the sheer number of Britain’s civic organisations who, it now appears, already had personnel in place in their key positions, primed and ready to adopt the Cult of Woke in a big way – the culmination, presumably, of The Long March Through The Institutions, the phrase coined by the 1960s Communist student revolutionary Rudi Dutschke, but which has its origins in the writings of the Italian Communist political theorist Antonio Gramsci.
Though malign of intention, the people in these vocal, intolerant, Woke ‘minorities’ aren’t stupid. They spotted early on how craven, popularity-obsessed but blame-averse, politicians and governments of every stripe were increasingly outsourcing decision-making to authorities beyond the reach of the democratic process – and thereby conveniently beyond their own arc of responsibility – both upwards to supranational organisations, and sideways to autonomous agencies and quangos.
They realised how such near-State and/or quasi-State institutions would, in the developing post-democratic era, become the new centres of political authority and influence, whose capture by a relatively small cultural-marxist elite would enable them to wield power out of all proportion to the numbers who share their views. They have become powerful due to years spent infiltrating, then taking over, the near-State, quango and ‘charity’ sectors, and waiting for the signal or excuse to launch the culture war in earnest.
The George Floyd / Black Lives Matter / Antifa riots of last summer provided both. This is why the cultural and historical attack on England appears to have acquired such momentum, depth and width so quickly. But, irrespective of the precise cause, its consequence is that, sadly, there seems to be no real political desire to push back against what looks like nothing more than an updated, more malignant mutation of the stock Marxist critique of Western civilisation.
If the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy were indeed as serious about tackling the Woke virus as the Daily Telegraph‘s Allister Heath – uncharacteristically wrongly and over-optimistically in my view – suggests, then they’d be upholding free speech, countering pernicious, divisive Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory and Trans Theory as part of a wider repudiation of identitarian politics generally, and clipping the wings of the BBC, much more robustly than they are, instead of merely changing a few street names, making it slightly harder to pull down ‘problematic’ statues, and compensating de-platformed speakers at universities.
But they’re not; and neither do they want to. The Tories’ ‘War on Woke’ is strictly a Phoney War.
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