However, with British politics undergoing an unfolding realignment from the traditional Left vs Right continuum towards a more contemporarily realistic Authoritarian vs Libertarian divide, the Covid pandemic has seen several striking metamorphoses from the Libertarian side of that divide to its Authoritarian side by certain media figures from whom one would have least expected it. Two particularly egregious examples illustrate the point.
First the nominally conservative columnist, presenter and commentator Andrew Pierce. In the now far-off days when I used to watch Sky News, the papers review featuring Pierce and stock London media-lefty Kevin Maguire – the double-act once dubbed ‘The Lenin and McCarthy of late-night political TV” – was often notable for Pierce’s robust advocacy of small-c conservative positions, notably on the conflict between personal freedom and State-authoritarianism.
Neither has he stopped there. Since then, he has gone on to demand both a compulsory vaccine passport scheme for pubs and restaurants, and compulsory continuous mask-wearing for students in all, not merely communal, areas of all secondary schools,
In Ireland for a few days where there is a compulsory vaccine passport scheme for pubs restaurants. no one complains. they just get on with it. shoudln’t we do the same in UK?
which also turned out to be wrong, it having been established as early as 21 October that this was factually untrue, and that roughly two-thirds of Covid cases in hospital were actually among the vaccinated. Far from the defender of individual liberty against authoritarian State over-reach that he once was, Pierce seems to have been transformed into a virtual medico-totalitarian.
Secondly, and arguably even worse, Andrew Neil, erstwhile doyen of political interviewers, hitherto famous for his forensic filleting of disingenuous politicians peddling claims more in the realms of fantasy than fact, and searching interrogations of tinpot tyrants threatening our liberties.
In a quite extraordinary intervention in the Covid debate on 9 December, Neil lashed out at the unvaccinated with a degree of intolerance and malevolence that many found shocking. Not content with merely criticising the unvaccinated for being hesitant or sceptical, for both of which they may have many and varied reasons, Neil went on to disparage them for their presumed selfishness and to demand that they be punished.
His intemperate tirade contained some highly tendentious philosophical propositions. He asserted, for example, that we have a responsibility to act in ways that protect not only our own health but that of others – a foray into leftist-collectivist ideology which in effect substantially absolves me from responsibility to protect my own, by transferring it to the State to compel you, on pain of punishment, to protect it for me. The critic of Neil, who remarked that, while you can take the Neil out of the BBC, you evidently can’t take the BBC out of the Neil, had a point.
His argument repeated to critics subsequently on social media seemed to hinge on a purely transactional trade-off: that the costs of lockdown legitimised vaccine passports as a preventive alternative, even to the extent of creating a two-tier, “Show us your papers!” society in which the minority would be ‘othered’ and discriminated against. But this again carries echoes of a collectivist ‘ends justifies means’ ideology which dismisses the rights, autonomy and freedoms of the individual.
Like Pierce, Neil, too, sadly, appears to have succumbed to the blandishments of the medico-authoritarians.
It’s invariably disappointing to discover that the people we thought were strong allies have, just when it mattered most, when it comes to the crunch, and when the metaphorical chips are down, weakened, turned away from the fight, and made common cause with our opponents.
So, this nomination for any 2021 Covid Wall of Shame isn’t a person, but a generic type – the commentator whom we thought was One Of Us, but who turned out instead be One Of Them. The assumed Hero whom Covid revealed as a Zero. A 2021 Covid Wall of Shame would surely contain few, if any, examples more deserving of inclusion.
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Two new opinion polls suggest that a significant proportion of Britons want Covid regulations controlling routine social interactions to continue permanently, as part of ‘normal’ behaviour
Note: this is the longer and updated version of my argument, made as one of the two contrasting arguments set out in an article originally published at 1828 on Friday 9th July 2021, on whether the alleged public enthusiasm for continuing Covid social restrictions after the pandemic is likely to be merely temporary, or more lasting.
But, to my mind, the most shocking of those surprises has been the seemingly supine acquiescence of the British public, traditionally assumed to harbour an instinctive visceral hostility towards, and intolerance of, excessive state-authoritarianism, to the most draconian restrictions on their economic and societal liberty imposed on them by their elected Government in peacetime.
Firstly, and unfortunately, fear works; especially when fresh ‘variant’ scares follow one another in quick succession. An induced apprehension about contracting in the near future – and, moreover, merely via participating in what would otherwise be perfectly innocuous everyday activities – a hitherto unknown virus with a lurid reputation, creates a perception of both imminent and potentially fatal personal risk far greater than, say, apocalyptic but scientifically flawed warnings about a 1°C temperature rise by 2050.
It’s the apparently threatening combination of immediacy, proximity and lethality which boost the fear’s potency, and thus in turn, the susceptibility and inclination to compliance.
Secondly, over the last few decades, the British population has become inculcated with an almost pathological aversion to risk. The twin official fixations with both health and safety culture on the one hand and consumer protection on the other, taken to sometimes absurd lengths, have not only eroded individuality and personal responsibility in favour of reliance on Authority, but also created an expectation of protection as something to be provided by others, and thus a lowered tolerance of risk.
Thirdly, the poll findings are supported by the conclusions of the IEA’s newly published paper on how favourable attitudes towards socialism and collectivism are no longer a youthful aberration, but now persist even among those in their 40s. Against this background, it’s perhaps reasonable to assume as a concomitant a greater inclination within that demographic to see the activist and controlling State as a solution rather than a hindrance, a source of beneficial pastoral care rather than oppressive restriction.
Will it take a long time for the attitudes suggested by Ipsos MORI and YouGov polls to change, even if they do at all?
Well, we know that public opinion is both notoriously fickle, and logically inconsistent. A year or two from now, with the Covid scare receding in the memory, today’s professed enthusiasm for perpetual State-authoritarianism, still relying on it for justification, could have subsided to merely a minority obsession, in the same way that somehow reversing Brexit and rejoining the EU is for a dwindling core of unreconstructed Euro-obsessives.
But at present, it doesn’t feel like it; this feels different.
As well as being a lifelong sceptic of State power, for the last four years I’ve gradually become more and more convinced that the globalist, ‘liberal’-elitist clerisy which has actually governed most Western countries for the last three decades, irrespective of whichever particular gaggle of politicians has happened to be nominally in power, was rocked to its core by the democratic-populist revolts epitomised by the votes for Brexit in Britain, for Trump in America, and for anti-EU parties in Europe, and has been searching ever since for a means of re-asserting its hegemony.
Covid has provided the ruling clerisy with that means. As well as the advantages of immediacy, proximity and lethality mentioned above, it also has the advantage of obscurity – few of us are medically qualified and even fewer of us are virologists or epidemiologists, so most of us lack a readily accessible alternative to believing in the accuracy of what we’re being told by professions which we’re culturally accustomed to regarding as independent, disinterested and trustworthy.
In my view, that naïveté has been cynically exploited by a political class intent on regaining its erstwhile hegemony over the public sphere, and assisted by the susceptibility of a large part of the population to a quantum expansion of both State and non-State social authoritarianism as the palliative for a partly manufactured apprehension.
Having lost, and then regained, its dominance comparatively quickly, the ruling clerisy will be determined to prevent that loss re-occurring, and so will have few qualms, either about periodically warning of an actual or imminent re-emergence of medical threat, or about employing behavioural ‘nudge’ to perpetuate enough public willingness to comply with an illiberal, authoritarian response.
After all, it has been shown to work; and nor do we need to delve far back into history to see how the State rarely gives up, either willingly or quickly, the freedoms and liberties which it seized from the people under the guise of national emergency, even long after any such emergency has passed. So, how seriously should those two opinion polls indicating a widespread public desire to keep Covid social restrictions in place, even once the Covid threat has fallen away, be taken?
Because those poll results presage a dystopian nightmare that’s simply too terrifying to contemplate, I’d prefer to hope that my argument in the preceding paragraphs is wrong, and the mistrust of polling organisations currently expressed by so many people is valid, so that the pollsters’ figures are therefore just an outlier, an over-statement which at present is conveniently agreeable to the State.
But I genuinely worry that my apprehension is, in fact, well-founded, and those truly alarming opinion polls might actually be right.
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The incompetence and arrogance of BBC top executives before a Parliamentary committee prompt the question of how bad its behaviour must become before Boris Johnson’s timid government is forced to clip its wings
Problems which politicians hope will – if only they cover their eyes, block their ears, and pretend those problems either don’t exist or aren’t serious – miraculously subside or preferably even disappear, rarely do either. On the contrary, they tend to get even worse. Such is the situation the Johnson government now finds itself mired in with the BBC.
It’s obvious that the Corporation has benefited from the ‘Conservative’ Party’s cynical abandonment of its pre-election pledge, either to abolish the iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ as a funding mechanism or at least decriminalise non-payment of it. It’s also evident, however, that the BBC has in effect banked that concession – or perhaps it would be better described as appeasement – and doubled-down on its woke-metropolitan left-‘liberal’ bias, on its ill-concealed contempt for its captive funders, and, above all, on its institutional arrogance arguably derived mainly from an assumption of its own immunity.
This was already obvious in the latter part of 2020, as the BBC –
More recent developments especially, however, must now prompt the question: how far it will be allowed to go before even Johnson’s over-indulgent administration is driven to act? Just what does the BBC have to do before this government, seemingly paralysed by timidity and reluctance to challenge it, finally acts to curb its excesses.
Before discussing those recent developments, it’s worth briefly re-visiting a few of its more blatant abuses of its uniquely privileged position over the past 18 months which I’ve previously either mentioned only in passing or not at all, or have occurred since I last wrote specifically about the Government-BBC relationship.
Eagerly embracing the woke agenda, it’s ‘advised’ all its staff that only trans-friendly pronouns may now be used for all internal communications and email signatures. (Though one can’t help but wonder if the Chairman and Director-General still prefer ‘Sir’ as a mode of address?)
It came very close to overt anti-white, class-hatred, anti-provincial racism in its notorious ‘Karens’ podcast of last summer in which two well-educated, well-off, intensely bien-pensant white women spent their time mocking less-educated, less well-off white women and instructing them on what to think. Typically, it declined to apologise, despite the substantial backlash.
Finally for this list, the BBC in January re-employed, a mere fortnight after his normal retirement, its former director of nations and regions, Ken MacQuarrie, in the £325,000 a year, impeccably-woke, grandiosely-titled role of Executive Director for Safeguarding Impartiality. Nice work if you can get it. As arguably the epitome of corporate marking-your-own-homework, this takes some beating.
Unacceptable and relevant as all this is, what makes the question posed in the title both urgent and unavoidable emerged from the Commons DCMS Select Committee summoning no fewer than three former or current BBC Directors-General to appear before it on 15th June, the trigger for which was the publication of the Dyson Report into the BBC’s failings, not only surrounding the original Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana in 1995, but also his subsequent re-hiring.
The Select Committee’s session promised to be compelling viewing, and in that respect at least, it didn’t disappoint. Over at The Conservative Woman, David Keighley, with the benefit of his prodigious inside knowledge, has already summarised the hearing and its outcome, but the demeanour of the three principal protagonists is directly relevant to my central point, namely, the Johnson government’s continued passive tolerance. Anyone wishing to sit through, as I did, the whole 3 hours 40 minutes performance can do so via the Parliament Live stream.
Only 20 minutes into the hearing, the Chairman’s forensic grilling of Lord Hall was already generating from the latter a studied evasiveness on the issue of Bashir’s re-hiring, His Lordship in effect blaming his subordinates. Asked by the Chairman how ‘this known liar‘ [Bashir] was being paid, Hall denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, Bashir’s pay arrangements, on the grounds that he personally was fully occupied in trying to run the whole of the BBC. He went on to deny also any knowledge of how Bashir came to be allowed to, in effect, moonlight at ITV while being paid by the BBC.
So, “Nothing to do with me, Guv“, in effect. Either His Lordship had sadly mislaid his “THE BUCK STOPS HERE” sign which presumably once adorned his desk, or this was taking hands-off management to a whole new level. Apparently, on his watch, the BBC needed official guidelines to explain to its reporters that obtaining a story or an interview based on forged or fake documents wasn’t necessarily best practice.
An exchange with Select Committee member Clive Efford (Lab, Feltham) was especially revealing.
Efford: “You had this particular guy (Bashir) being re-employed, and yet no-one thought to knock on your door and tell you as D-G that he was being re-employed?“
Hall: “No, they didn’t.“
Yet it was this same, apparently serially incurious, Lord Hall, who in July 2020, trumpeting its “largest-ever increase in investment in the World Service”, had cited as justification the BBC’s “potential to combat fake news”. The combination of hypocrisy and tin-eared lack of any self-awareness or contrition was breathtaking.
Having heard from ex-DG Lord Birt that he expected his (then) colleagues might have had a perfectly satisfactory explanation as to why they thought Bashir was lying (but didn’t tell him), Committee Chairman Julian Knight (Con, Solihull) subsequently became angry with him, practically accusing him of outright lying about the BBC’s treatment (both firing and blacklisting) of the Bashir whistleblower Matt Wiessler.
As David Keighley also recounts, the former D-Gs’ drive to inculpate others and exculpate themselves for the failings of the Corporation’s top management was relentless. It prompted Chairman Knight finally to observe, acidly: “Well, I’ve heard victim-blaming before, but this is quite something!“
The combined evidence of former D-Gs Lords Hall and Birt and current D-G Tim Daviecan in effect be summarised thus:
“We re-hired the guy whom we either knew or suspected was a liar with previous form in faking documents, who’d been sacked for wrongdoing in the US media, and who we knew was moonlighting for ITV while working for us. But neither of us is in any way to blame“
As a Dee-Gees’ reunion concert, it left a lot to be desired. But even after such a devastating public shaming, did the BBC appear to feel any guilt or embarrassment? Judging by its subsequent actions, not one iota.
Because, only one week after The Three DeeGees’ humiliation at the hands of the DCMS Select Committee, the Corporation announced plans to deploy ‘licence-fee’ enforcers to harass and intimidate over-75s who have yet to make arrangements to resume payment of it after the expiration of their Covid-related ‘licence-fee’ amnesty – notwithstanding that the amnesty doesn’t actually expire until 31st July – and to prosecute any who fail to pay.
Yet, even faced with all this, the Government response remained relatively muted. Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden contented himself witha few bleating bromides about how the BBC’ needs far-reaching change’ – but evidently, making it change its funding model to one involving willing customers voluntarily parting with their cash to consume specifically its own product is rather too ‘far-reaching.’
If an allegedly ‘Conservative’ government, despite being elected on a landslide only 18 months ago and with a parliamentary majority of 80, cannot bring itself to abolish an illiberal regressive tax, payable via coercion even by people who don’t want to consume the product which it funds, then what is the point of it?
If that same ‘Conservative’ government – with incontrovertible proof that the broadcaster uniquely privileged and protected by that tax not only failed to investigate adequately possibly the most shameful case of fraudulent journalism in half a century but compounded its self-indulgent negligence by re-hiring the perpetrator, to the evident incuriosity and insouciance of the individuals charged with running it – refuses to challenge it, then what is the point of a ‘Conservative’ government, or even a ‘Conservative’ Party, at all?
Just what does the BBC have to do before Johnson stirs himself?
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The blatant hypocrisy of recently resigned UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has boosted both the electorate’s awareness of, and resentment at, the governing elite’s long-developing practice of assuming that it’s one set of rules for us, but another for them
Few politicians achieve, even in their hour of disgrace, the dubious distinction of epitomising the faults of an entire ruling caste at the precise moment public resentment of those failings is growing exponentially. In this, at least, the former Health Secretary Matt Hancock can claim success.
As the government minister most closely identified with the imposition, and assiduous enforcement, of plausibly the most draconian but least politically scrutinised restrictions on our personal lives outside wartime, Hancock’s cavalier disregard, both privately and professionally, for the regulations which he demanded that we obey literally to the letter, has put rocket boosters under the hitherto latent but now openly expressed complaint of “one rule for them, but another for everyone else“.
It’s hardly as though other recent examples didn’t exist. A mere two weeks ago, delegates to the G7 summit were visibly guilty of double standards when, in contrast to the ostentatious mask-wearing, elbow-bumping and social-distancing practised for the official photographs, the pictures which subsequently emerged of their later informal bonhomie and back-slapping showed not a mask nor a two metres distancing in sight.
Soon after, and at a time when Brits returning from Amber-List countries must pay for at least two PCR tests and self-isolate for ten days either at home or in an insalubrious hotel at considerable cost, the Johnson government moved quickly to exempt thousands of UEFA officials, corporate sponsors and hangers-on from those same restrictions, in response to a crude threat to remove the final stages of the Euros 2020 tournament from London to Budapest. When challenged on it, the government’s unconvincing explanation made little effort to deny its apparent view that accommodating corporate sponsors and elite sports administrators was a higher priority than allowing weddings and concerts.
When asked about the exemption for football VIPs, a government source said, “It’s important to be able to host international events”. But why isn’t it important to be able to host weddings and concerts? https://t.co/04R7Iehsyk
And all this is before we even start to consider the string of ministers, MPs, scientists and celebrities who, over the past 15 months, have concluded that the regulations affecting the lives of millions of ordinary mortals clearly need not apply to themselves, but have been caught out.
Not only do members of the increasingly authoritarian politico-medico ruling elite appear averse to following personally the very same rules which they impose and assiduously enforce on the rest of us; they also seem, with a combination of arrogance and entitlement born of an assumed superiority, to expect to be personally immune from any consequences when found out and their hypocrisy exposed.
This development is arguably neither recent in origin, however, nor novel in nature. It is merely the latest “variant” – to use the currently topical label – of the ruling caste’s apparent growing distance from, and disaffection with, both the mass electorate as a component of democratic government and, by implication, with mass-participation universal adult franchise democracy itself; it is discernible, and documented, going back years.
As long ago as 2000, in his Fabian Society pamphlet “Coping with Post-Democracy“, Colin Crouch warned of the dangers inherent in the excessive concentration of power in the hands of a professional political elite.
In 2007, in his “The Triumph of the Political Class”, the journalist Peter Oborne described in detail the increasing tendency of the ruling caste to distance itself from the views and attitudes of those whom it purports to represent, to the extent that its members, even in different parties, have far more in common politically with each other than they do with their constituents.
If not yet entirely manifesting in full what the foremost modern English philosopher of conservatism, the late Sir Roger Scruton, in his 2004 book “England and the Need for Nations” termed “oikophobia” – the loathing of one’s home country and its people – then perhaps “demos-phobia” – an elitist distaste verging on contempt for the mass electorate – is a currently more accurate description.
In its contemporary form, the phenomenon emerged into more widespread visibility in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The governmental bailout of failed banks at taxpayers’ expense, an egregious example of what would later be called crony-corporatism, had the unusual effect of uniting – albeit for very different reasons – both the free-market Right and the collectivist Left against it, creating a notable public backlash. That backlash may have been articulated as condemnation of “privatising the profits but socialising the losses”, but the “one rule for them, but another for everyone else” narrative, resenting that reckless bankers who had created the crisis mostly got off scot-free while taxpayers were being made to pay, was there.
It surfaced again in the explosion of public anger in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009, as avaricious individual parliamentarians attempted to justify their venality to an outraged electorate by claiming it “was all within the rules” – rules which they had themselves made. The members of the political class appeared mystified by the public’s anger at their indignant defence of behaviour which ordinary voters knew would, if perpetrated in their own lives, get them sacked and possibly prosecuted. Again, an undercurrent of “one rule for us, but another for them” was definitely abroad.
It intensified beyond the possibility of any further denial following the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union and the overwhelmingly pro-Remain governing elite’s furious refusal, first to accept it, and then to implement it. Not only was the inability of over half the electorate to participate at all in deciding the country’s future confidently asserted as a given; democracy itself, if it was capable of delivering an outcome so uncongenial to those who considered themselves exclusively qualified to adjudicate such matters, was questioned as a legitimate institution in its own right.
British politics between June 2016 and January 2020 was dominated by the democratically defeated Remain Establishment’s campaign to ignore, dilute or preferably overturn, using any parliamentary, legal or constitutional stratagem available, the biggest popular democratic mandate for constitutional change in UK political history.
It isn’t hard to detect that same antipathy to the mass electorate, which that eventually unsuccessful anti-Brexit campaign internalised in the collective mind of our ruling caste, in the assumption evinced by much of our current cadre of overlords that Covid rules are for us to adhere to rigidly, but for them to ignore if inconvenient. Neither, though, is it possibly to deny that it’s a significant factor in growing public resentment of our ruling caste’s now openly-flouted double standards.
Since Brexit, nothing has united the country more than the universal disdain for the absolute disaster that is our political elite.
Such apparent complacency is unwise. The slogan expresses the kind of resentment which, if not addressed, can quickly acquire critical mass, leading to revolt either at the ballot box or, in extremis, in another less benign form.
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The Woke-Left’s and the English football authorities’ attempts to censor or silence objections to England players taking the knee now extend to impliedly threatening the dissenters’ right to free speech
If the England football team’s manager Gareth Southgate could talk once again to the grandfather whose memory and wartime service he sententiously invoked last week, as part of his ill-judged and poorly-argued “Dear England” attempt to justify his players’ continued genuflection to the extreme-Left Black Lives Matter movement, he could be in for a shock.
I suspect the old boy might tell him that, whatever his World War 2 military service was for – whether trying to do his bit for the country and survive, or even just hoping not to let down his brothers-in-arms – what it certainly wasn’t for was the abolition of capitalism, the de-funding of the police, the destruction of the family as the primary non-State societal institution, and the overthrow of white supremacist patriarchy.
Yet however much Southgate, his cosseted, beneficiaries-of-capitalism millionaire players, and his woke-appeasing bosses at the FA might like to delude themselves otherwise, that’s the agenda to which they’re genuflecting, whether they realise it or not. Neither their sanctimonious, weasel-worded “it’s the sentiment, not the movement” excuse, nor their egregious “fans booing the gesture are doing so solely out of racism or antipathy to black players” allegation holds up for one minute.
Neither is it because being impliedly lectured on the evils of inequality and capitalism by millionaire footballers – most of whom owe their riches and status entirely to the intensely capitalistic football industry, and would be largely unremarkable if not anonymous young men without it – is grotesque to the point of meriting only ridicule.
It’s because the Woke-Left culture-warriors’ and the football authorities’ desperately pathetic argument, that the booing reflects solely racist antipathy to black players, was demolished in under 90 minutes in one of England’s warm-up games when Bukayo Saka, a 17 year-old black kid from Arsenal, was deservedly cheered to the rafters after scoring on his international debut.
It was demolished again last night, Sunday 13th June, when the same people who allegedly boo England players taking the knee solely because they’re racist and hate black players, and for no other reason whatsoever, were filmed as far apart as Manchester and London, cheering to the echo when Raheem Sterling scored the winning goal for England against Croatia.
So, at every game where the dutiful BLM-genuflectors get booed, the ensuing 90+ minutes is now demonstrably proving wrong their endorsers’ argument that “the fans who boo do soonly out of racist antipathy towards black players“. However, that false argument of the Woke-Left culture-warriors and the timid, deferential football industry can be sustained only by both doggedly maintaining their allegation that dissenting fans do indeed boo the genuflectors solely for disreputable reasons, despite the evidence to the contrary. Hence, as discussed below, the seizure of the issue by both the Woke-Left and the football authorities for use as another front in their ongoing culture-war against the masses whom they disdain and hold in undisguised contempt.
Southgate might also find an analogy from the past helpful. Had he been in the England team which infamously gave the Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938, would he have claimed that by raising his right arm in the Fascist salute for the German national anthem, he wasn’t actually endorsing Lebensraum-by-conquest and the antisemitic Nuremberg race laws, but just praising all those wonderful new autobahns?
Yet it’s the latter which the football and broader ‘liberal’ establishments have chosen to double down on, to the extent of trying to either censor critics by attributing base motives to them, or even deny them the basic right of free speech to show their disapproval or express a dissenting opinion.
Mention on social media, as several people did ( including, it must be said, yours truly), that while England continue to take the knee, you would instead be more inclined to favour teams that didn’t do so, is to attract accusations of either outright racism, lack of patriotism, or of being ‘right-wing’ – the latter two being a particularly curious combination, when patriotism is usually damned by the ‘progressive’ chattering classes as an overwhelmingly ‘right-wing’ phenomenon.
If you boo @England players for taking the knee, you’re part of the reason why players are taking the knee.
I am pretty sure “I will support Croatia and the Czech Republic in the Euros because England take the knee” is going to be a v fringe view, of Very Online tweeters & unpopular right-wing Metropolitan Elite pontificators/actors who are much more into politics than football https://t.co/FUi29HPJoj
That 6 out of the 7 countries reported earlier in the week as not taking the knee, however, are countries whose recent history includes actually living under totalitarianism, and can therefore arguably better recognise it when they see it: or that revulsion with the movement being supported can displace one’s normal sporting loyalty: or that critics – whatever their view on the underlying issue – merely feel that politics should be kept out of sport altogether, appears to be a nuance too far.
Others have gone even further. As Gary Oliver described in his article of 10th June over at The Conservative Woman, elements of the Woke, virtue-signalling football punditocracy are even calling for supporters to be denied access to games unless undergoing in effect compulsory indoctrination in BLM’s core ideology of Critical Race Theory; which, given the tight timescale, is equivalent to silencing.
That the prime advocate of fans’ compulsory, North Korean-style re-education in racial ideology appears to be Gary Neville, former England defender and now pundit not unknown for opening mouth before engaging brain, is ironic, to say the least. A glance at the replay of the England vs Scotland clash at the 1996 European Championship shows, at 0:46, only one England player not singing the national anthem, and looking very sheepish about it, too. Step forward, Gary Neville, the same pundit who now says that any England fans without race-theory ‘education’ must be barred from games.
Did Our Gary not know the words to God Save The Queen? Because even Gazza (!) did. Or was Our Gary in fact, possibly as a staunch republican and anti-monarchist, making a political gesture? You know, a political gesture of the very kind he now suggests that people who object to the BLM-genuflection gesture are making? Should we not be told?
But when football becomes a medium for impliedly threatening its fans’ right to something as fundamental as free speech, we’re entitled to ask if there isn’t a deeper factor behind it. Because it seems clear this is no longer about just football per se, or even racism (or so-called ‘anti-racism’, given that anti-white racism of the BLM variety is now routinely described as ‘anti-racism’), but about free speech itself.
Never mind that The Spectator’s Rod Liddle has painstakingly explained how it’s the attendant BLM political baggage of über-woke hard-left anti-capitalism, anti-family, anti-police, and even anti-white racist cultural Marxism which the fans object to, along with the hijacking of the sport by corporations anxious to demonstrate their assumed superior moral virtue by hectoring the game’s traditional supporters out of their assumed Neanderthal wrong-think.
Facilitated and fuelled by the absence of crowds during Covid lockdown – and Rod Liddle is surely right to say that, were it not for crowds being barred from stadiums, this nonsense wouldn’t have lasted beyond its first week – the attempted colonisation of football by divisive political identitarianism has provided merely the latest excuse for the ‘tolerant’, ‘liberal’, progressive-cosmopolitan chattering classes to express their contempt for the masses while pretending to be high-minded about it.
It’s quite remarkable that so few seem to have noticed how football clubs, players, pundits and authorities are assiduously trashing and abandoning the game’s traditional supporters in almost precisely the same way as the Labour Party did theirs. Well, we know how unsuccessful that’s been so far; and it hasn’t run its entire course yet.
Finally, football’s 2022 World Cup is to be based in that bastion of human rights, Qatar: where women are second-class citizens who are lashed for committing adultery, where South Asian construction workers are treated in conditions almost as close to modern slavery as it’s possible to get, and where homosexuality is illegal, and punishable by imprisonment or even death.
No doubt our newly socially-conscienced international footballers, their coach and their governing body will register their abhorrence by respectively ruling themselves out for selection, or even by boycotting the tournament altogether? Don’t hold your breath.
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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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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‘.
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.
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 againstengaging 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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Britain’s mainstream broadcast media seems determined to ignore the lessons it should have learnt from the public outcry at its deliberate concealment of the political biases of its chosen ‘experts’
Note: Longer and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 07 December 2020.
Many readers will, I suspect, recall the furores earlier this year, admittedly over several broadcasters, but over the BBC in particular habitually concealing from its audiences – or, at the very least, not disclosing to them in advance – the partisan and in some cases extremist political affiliations of the supposedly ‘impartial’ experts which it invites on to its current affairs programmes as contributors.
On the 27th April edition of Panorama, for instance, one of the main interviewees was ‘former President of the Faculty of Public Health’, Professor John Ashton. His political leanings were not mentioned; it took Guido Fawkes to reveal them. But only two weeks earlier Ashton had reacted angrily even to Sky News‘ relatively innocuous disclosure of his Labour Party membership. The BBC could hardly claim to have been ignorant of them; should viewers not have been informed of them, so that they could judge whether they had informed his expressed opinions or not?
Only a month later, the BBC’s Today failed to disclose, before her contribution, the extreme-left political affiliations of the Marxist Professor Susan Michie before anodynely introducing her merely (albeit correctly – but of which more later) as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) on which the Johnson government relies exclusively for its Covid policy and by which Johnson himself seems mesmerised. This time, the glaring omission got as far as being raised in Parliament.
In contrast, the BBC (and, to be fair, other media outlets too) rarely omit, not only to mention the political leanings of contributors from the conservative/libertarian quadrants of the political compass, but also to go out of their way to mis-label them disparagingly; thus, socially conservative or economically free-market contributors are regularly tagged as ‘right-wing’. Even in its bias, the mainstream media is biased.
You might think that with public awareness of its blatant partiality thus increasing, the media would be making at least a token effort to clean up its act. Not a bit of it. Its output on just one recent day showed two egregious, but not untypical, examples.
On Sunday 29th November, LBC retailed without challenge or further comment the unequivocal assertion by SAGE’s Professor Susan Michie – yes, yes, her again – that you should spend no time in ‘non-essential’ shops.
The first thing I would have queried was the apparent contradiction between her insistence that we are all universally and equally susceptible to coronavirus and her later statement that we all have different genetic make-ups; but let’s park that one, and concentrate on the politics. Going into (non-essential) shops, continued Michie, is like playing Russian Roulette.
Sage member Professor Susan Michie says going into non-essential shops is like playing a game of “Russian roulette” in case there are people with Covid-19 inside@TomSwarbrick1https://t.co/I1s3AfXOrj
Erm, not exactly. Even if contracted at all, in the UK Covid has a case-fatality rate of only 3.6 per cent, and an average fatality age of 82, while after the April spike which was over by early June, all-cause respiratory deaths are within or close to seasonal norms. Playing Russian Roulette on the other hand starts off with 16 per cent probability of death, which rises with each pull of the trigger. Play it long enough, and the fatality rate is 100 per cent. And you don’t have to be in your 80s or over 65 with pre-existing co-morbidities, either. Fortunately, most people survive going into shops, ‘non-essential’ or otherwise.
… she’s also managed to be, not only on the official SAGE, but even on the parallel ‘independent’ SAGE which is loaded up to the gunwales with left-wing activists most noted for their ardent advocacy of the most fashionable Green-Left-‘Liberal’ causes of our time, running from the ‘our precious NHS is being set up for privatisation‘ meme (if only!), through anti-Brexit Continuity Remainer-dom, to ‘Catastrophic Man-Made Climate Change’.
With this background, it doesn’t seem remotely surprising that a 40-years adherent to Communism – or at the very least State-Socialism – would want to discourage us from helping to keep independent private-sector businesses going. Or to presume to dictate to us what is or isn’t ‘non-essential’ shopping.
But why did LBC not inform its audience of its guest’s hard-Left authoritarian-Corbynite political leanings before asking her views? Was it afraid its audience might start to wonder whether her ‘advice’ stemmed solely from her unquestioned medical expertise or whether it was influenced, even driven, by her politics?
It isn’t an entirely unreasonable question to ask why someone of this ilk is involved in advising the government. Even less is it an unreasonable question to ask why an allegedly ‘Conservative’ government is not only listening to, but even largely following, that advice. That it is somehow ignorant of the SAGE members’ political affiliations, which are hardly secret, is risible.
That we have a ‘Conservative’ prime minister who not only takes advice from a hardline Communist but also acts on it, should cause us all a measure of doubt as to exactly what is going on in Downing Street at the moment. Although, on the other hand, it might just possibly remove some of the doubt as to exactly what is going on in Downing Street at the moment.
…….and that its somewhat less than ‘envy of the world’ performance on coronavirus is due, not only to ‘cuts’, but to ‘privatisation’, even though over 90 per cent of all its procedures are still performed directly by the State, and delivered via practitioners and clinicians employed directly by the State.
Did the Daily Mirror also conceal from its report Scally’s hardly unknown political affiliations out of fear that awareness of them would have made its readers less trusting and more sceptical of his advice?
Both Michie & Scally are on the Leftist-activist unofficial/parallel “Independent”-SAGE pushing for even harder lockdowns and mask authoritarianism. Given their politics, it isn’t hard to see how both might welcome the demise of private sector businesses, the weakening over Christmas of ties within the institution of the family, and a much greater role for the State in controlling people’s lives.
The media seem determined to ignore the lessons they should have learnt from 2020’s earlier outcries over their bias by omission or concealment. Absent an improvement, our only recourse will be to expand and intensify what increasing numbers of us appear to be doing already, and discount them entirely as an even remotely credible source.
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Perhaps some within No. 10 – one in particular of the Quad of Covid Ministers springs to mind – were even anticipating that some of the more elderly and infirm among them might contract and subsequently succumb to a respiratory disease outside, which could then be cited to validate its lurid predictions for Covid deaths statistics in the absence of another Lockdown, and thus justify it.
To ensure that bands of marauding veterans did not take the law into their own hands, two days later the Johnson Junta ordered local councils to “discourage the public from paying their respects on Remembrance Sunday“. That’s “discourage” as in slap a £200 fine on any member of the public guilty of the heinous (soon to be deemed anti-Woke?) crime of honouring the nation’s fallen in battle.
To make sure its edicts were not flouted, the Junta deployed its tame heavies. The increasingly politicised London’s Finest were there – dutifully masked of course – to cordon off Whitehall.
How heartening it was in contrast, though, to read of so many small town and villages quietly complying only to the very minimum with the Johnson Junta’s authoritarianism, and refusing to be thwarted in honouring their, and therefore our, war dead. To quote the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Moore:
“Our village gathered in excellent (though socially distanced) numbers for Sunday’s customary commemoration. We surrounded our memorial, which was designed by Herbert Baker and opened by Rudyard Kipling a century ago. As usual, each man from the village killed in either of the world wars was named and an individual cross with a poppy was laid for him.”
It’s possible of course to downplay all the above restrictions as relatively minor in the circumstances – even though they curtailed what is a totemic event in our national life – and, taken in isolation, not significant in themselves.
Second, continuing Covid-related lockdowns and even sub-lockdown restrictions could provide convenient cover for our craven political class – most of which, including much of the allegedly ‘Conservative’ Party is either in thrall to Woke-Left cultural marxism or lacks the intellectual wherewithal or political courage to counter it – backed by swathes of the similarly inclined media, cultural & academic elites, to ‘review’ the continuing ‘appropriateness’ of Remembrance Sunday now that the 100th anniversary of its first iteration has been passed.
The instinctive reaction is to say that the British public would never wear it. Well maybe. But a year ago, who would have predicted that within six months, the British public would have been brainwashed into standing in the street and clapping like performing seals at an inanimate object like a healthcare system?
A year ago, who would have predicted that not only had a substantial majority of the British public been scared into supporting the biggest, most authoritarian State power-grab of their economic and societal liberties in peacetime, but appreciable numbers would even feel the State’s power-grab had not gone far enough?
2020 could be merely a precursor. The cancellation of Remembrance Sunday could be closer than we think. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but fear I might be right.
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