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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However, when vested in a constitutional monarchy within a democracy, it is a relatively moderating, even benign, influence. Nominally vesting ultimate power in an institution like the UK’s hitherto apolitical constitutional monarchy has the advantage that such a power is specifically intended not to be actively exercised, but merely held passively as part of a system of checks and balances (in our case, the traditional conventions of our unwritten constitution and parliamentary sovereignty), so as to deny it to anyone else.
However, for that advantage to endure and to stay acceptable to the population, both the institution itself and its unelected incumbents must remain not only scrupulously impartial and politically neutral, but visibly so. Once either starts to express or even appear to endorse a partisan position on a contentious, divisive political issue, the institution’s constitutional legitimacy declines, making the continued justification for its very existence disputable.
The UK is now fast approaching this point; the unelected monarchy’s increasing tendency to involve itself in divisive political issues raises the question of whether we might not, after all, be better off with an elected presidency whose incumbent at least has democratic consent and more importantly, can be thrown out.
For 69 years on the throne, the Queen has wisely remained so inscrutable on matters political that, despite the occasional speculative but unconfirmed journalist’s claim, few if any have had much idea of her genuine views beyond her reportedly generally low opinion of politicians – which can hardly be controversial, given the extent to which so many people happily admit to sharing it.
But regrettably, she has recently been persuaded to venture into the political arena for the second time in only months – the first having been to tell the population that not to get Covid-vaccinated was selfish – and on arguably the most contentious and divisive political issue of our time, by calling climate-change the ‘biggest challenge facing the world‘, whose leaders should act urgently ‘to save the planet‘, and by also reportedly expressing irritation at their inaction.
Considering the enormous cost to the vast majority of her subjects of the ‘solutions’ proposed by her intended audience, she would have been better advised to avoid it. However, it’s hard to heap much blame on a 95-year-old woman, alone for the first time in 73 odd years, coming to terms with the death of her beloved husband, maybe lacking his guiding hand, and still on the receiving end of continuing attacks on her family from her self-exiled and self-indulgent wayward grandson and his narcissistic, resentful current wife.
What we can guess is that her dependence on her eco-obsessed eldest son and her need for him must be higher than it ever was, and possibly higher than we previously thought. Whether it’s by him that she’s being urged to intervene, we don’t know: but what we do know is that he will not shut up on the subject, whatever the opprobrium he rightly attracts, and whatever the constitutional damage he thereby risks doing to the very institution that he aspires to head. In the run-up to COP26, he has surpassed himself in excessive Green loquaciousness, and, judging by the reaction, not in a good way.
Prince Charles will never learn, will he? He is NOT an elected politician. This is NOT his role. And his hypocrisy is off the scale, given he’s emitted more carbon than you or me could imagine. I thought he’d learn his lesson as his mother entered her twilight years. Seems not. https://t.co/m43sVf9IeX
But there are others. Nigel Farage has recently reminded us of the time, about ten years ago, when Prince Charles came to Brussels to deliver an address to the EU’s Potemkin Parliament, and actually demanded the arrogation by the anti-democratic EU of more power from nation-states to itself, so it could ‘deal with climate change because the North Pole will melt within seven years‘; (spoiler – it hasn’t).
This surely must be the first time a future British monarch has begged a foreign legislature to remove the power of democratic self-government from the nation of which he stood to become sovereign. One can’t help wondering if this is even borderline treasonous – intriguingly, ‘attempting to put any force or constraint upon…..both Houses or either House of Parliament‘ still constitutes the crime of felony treason under the Treason Felony Act 1848.
He now also appears to be backing, not merely the avowedly anti-capitalist and freedom-averse Green-Left Extinction Rebellion, but also Insulate Britain in their campaign of motorway disruption.
It’s apparently not yet dawned on him that under the radical Green policies he’s now openly espousing in the wake of his eco-zealot father, it’s we the masses who would be expected to subsist on a ‘sustainable’ meagre diet including the bugs he recoils from, while the gilded elite continue to enjoy jetting to magnificent banquets.
And if that’s not enough, also jumping on to COP26’s Royal bandwagon comes his cousin Princess Eugenie, – accompanied, naturally, by the obligatory celebrity friend – to ‘speak to experts, examine, and do more to help save the planet’. She seems to have been particularly impressed by Professor Gail Whiteman, founder of the Arctic Base Camp project, whose main contribution to the Glasgow eco-boondoggle was to transport an iceberg from an Arctic glacier to Glasgow to ‘prove’ that ice melts when exposed to mild November temperatures in temperate northern Britain. Who knew?
Did it occur to our Eugenie to quiz Prof Whiteman on how much ‘carbon’ was emitted in bringing the block of ice from Greenland to melt in Glasgow? Or to ask what, in any event, this proved, given that glaciers in Arctic Iceland and Norway retreated rapidly during the 1920s and 1930s? Apparently not.
It seems to have escaped the now openly and enthusiastically eco-Royals’ notice that it’s mainly among the normally anti-monarchy and anti-Royalist Green-Left that their interventions are most welcomed. Are they so naïve as to think they will gain friends and allies on that side of the political aisle by wholeheartedly embracing the Green shibboleths of climate change, Earth-destroying overpopulation and Gaia –worship? If they do, I suspect they’re making a grave mistake.
Curiously, the thought that the approval their eco advocacy attracts from the overwhelmingly republican Woke-Green-Left may be self-defeating, in that by furthering its ostensible environmental aims, they weaken their own constitutional legitimacy, appears not to have occurred to them. But it has, rightly, occurred to others:
Does Prince Charles realise that the majority of the eco -warrior hippies would disband the monarchy in a bloody heartbeat. Whilst the rest of us support it. Question is with this non neutrality he’s going full steam ahead on, that support won’t be for much longer. I despair 😩
Three generations of the British Royal Family all intervening on the same side, in possibly the most contentious and divisive political issue of the day, erodes their very legitimacy. It’s not a question of denying their right personally to hold those views, but one of questioning their wisdom constitutionally in expressing them.
Elected presidencies in a republic are tricky things to get right. If largely ceremonial and non-political, the incumbents can be relatively insignificant, like Ireland’s O’Higgins or Germany’s Steinmeier. But if politicised and part of the executive, they can be incredibly divisive, like France’s Macron or Trump and Biden in the USA.
But the crucial point is that they are all subject to democratic consent and can be ejected from office by the electorate. Here in the UK, we appear to be progressing rapidly towards the worst of both systems – an increasingly politicised and thus divisive monarchy, but where the incumbents, being unelected, need no democratic consent and cannot be removed from office.
To find myself – formerly a staunch supporter of apolitical constitutional monarchy as the not-perfect-but-arguably-least-bad option for Head of State in a Western liberal democracy – becoming a potential convert to an elective presidency within a constitutional republic suggests to me there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark (or more accurately, the House of Windsor), and that a national debate on the issue is overdue.
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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 forced resignation, for deceit and double-standards, of Britain’s beleaguered Health Secretary was the arguably inevitable outcome to a political career built on a bizarre amalgam of hubris and obsequiousness
Throughout his political career, Hancock, possessed of an oleaginous unctuousness which if set in a Charles Dickens novel would make even Uriah Heep appear stand-offish and aloof in comparison, has always given the impression of being someone in whom Hubris would eventually clash with and be defeated by deserved Nemesis. The wave of simultaneous anger and schadenfreude washing over both UK mainstream and social media on Friday 25th June, in the aftermath of his exposure as a devious adulterer personally and blatant hypocrite professionally and politically, was almost tangible.
Given that his ascent of the political Greasy Pole was primarily via being chief sycophant, coat-tailer and bag-carrier to George Osborne – so much so that the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, once allegedly joked that anyone seeking to advance their political career by crawling up Osborne’s backside would quickly find themselves blocked by Hancock’s feet – few were surprised that the subsequent development of Hancock’s own political career appeared to be based on sanctimonious agreement with whoever was in the political ascendant within the David Cameron led ‘moderniser’ metropolitan-liberal ‘Conservative’ Party at the time.
It’s Hancock’s performance as Health Secretary, however, particularly during the Covid pandemic, that vindicates those of us who argued that Theresa May, when newly installed as PM in mid-2016, should have sacked Hancock from the government on the same day that she peremptorily sacked his patron Osborne, as having been correct.
Given the societal restrictions which for 15 months he has been key, if not instrumental, in imposing on the country, the sheer scale of Hancock’s “do as I say, but not as I do” double standards is breathtaking, and on more than one level.
At the time, on or about 6th May, that the grainy but persuasively incriminating picture was taken of Hancock ardently embracing his paramour, Departmental aide Gina Coladangelo, Covid rules forbade the rest of us from hugging even close members of our own families.
Nor could a father even walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day without wearing a mask, a prohibition lifted only very recently. As a nation, we’ve had to watch loved ones die alone, without the comfort of human contact, or see friends’ serious illnesses go untreated, all because of Hancock’s lockdown-fanaticism and his willingness to turn the NHS into a Covid-only ‘service’, primarily to advance his own political career.
Which might be thought a bit rich, coming from someone whose reaction to the revelation of Ferguson’s breach of country-wide lockdown rules was to affect shock and surprise. Then, Hancock professed himself ‘speechless’ at Ferguson’s conduct, declaring ‘I don’t understand‘, before adding, tellingly, not only that Ferguson was right to resign after his ‘extraordinary‘ actions, but even that the Police should investigate him with a view to possible prosecution.
Throughout the pandemic and the Johnson government’s policy response to it, as one of the members of the so-called Cabinet ‘Quad’ overseeing that response, Hancock more than any other minister was the one responsible for implementing, without proper parliamentary scrutiny, the laws and ‘guidance’ which have made the last 15 months such a misery for so many. It was Hancock who pushed to criminalise the private lives of others, ordered them to refrain from starting new relationships outside of ‘established’ ones, and tolerated no leeway or discretion in applying his rules.
Not only was he one of the most enthusiastic advocates for State-authoritarian lockdown, mandatory vaccination, so-called ‘vaccine passports’, and all the other tools of economic and societal repression in the name of public health recommended by the left-leaning behavioural-‘nudge’ scientists to whom he and Johnson seem in such thrall. He was also one of the most enthusiastic and insistent in stressing the importance of compliance with the most draconian restrictions ever imposed on the British people outside wartime.
Yet when challenged, about his own cavalier disregard for the restrictions whose rigorous enforcement on others he championed, and about his own misconduct similar to Ferguson’s, he had the gall to invoke intrusion into his own private life as some kind of protective shield. He seemed to feel that a sanctimonious apology accompanied by the usual bromides about ‘letting people down‘ was all that was required. Certainly not resignation. Perish the thought.
He then deservedly suffered considerable political embarrassment in mid-June, when it emerged that he had deliberately concealed positive data on the progress of the national vaccination programme, which might well have resulted in Covid restrictions being eased as originally pledged from 21st June, instead of being continued until at least 19th July. In hindsight, this looks like merely another example of Hancock’s arrogance and hubris which have justifiably brought him down.
Legitimate questions now arise over whether Hancock’s infidelity was solely that, with no other connotations for public or Hancock’s personal probity. Accusations of cronyism and doing favours for pals surrounded Ms Coladangelo’s appointment to a somewhat nebulously defined role in Hancock’s Department of Health, which appeared to have been made with less than entirely rigorous adherence to appointment procedures, possibly because of its relatively unofficial nature.
Big questions about what exactly Gina Coladangelo’s role in government is – she’s listed as a non-exec at DHSC, but also referred to as an ‘aide’. She’s not a spad (or at least not on the most recent list of spads…), so what is the other role, if there is one? pic.twitter.com/e2epyjwmNQ
As if that wasn’t enough, in the hours after Hancock’s resignation came the revelation that he now faces an investigation over his use of a private email account to conduct government business, including negotiating multi-million pound PPE contracts, meaning that official records of much of his political decision-making simply don’t exist. The suggestion is that this was done with a view to protecting himself when the Covid Inquiry starts next year, but it’s not hard to imagine how it could also have been designed to facilitate more a nefarious purpose.
If nothing else, l’affaire Hancock yet again shows starkly the apparently widespread “rules are for you, but not for us” entitlement of our ruling caste. We saw it on the insouciant disregard for masks and social distancing at the recent G7 summit, and we’re now seeing it again in Whitehall.
Not only do this Government’s medico-totalitarian elite appear not to follow personally the rules they impose, and subsequently assiduously enforce, on the rest of us; they also seem to expect to be personally immune from any consequences when they’re found out and their hypocrisy is exposed.
It was historian Andrew Roberts who once said of the hapless John Major that, had his mid-1980s affair with Edwina Currie been exposed while he was still Prime Minister, he wouldn’t have been so much hounded from office in anger and outrage as laughed out of office in ridicule. With Hancock having become the object of both anger and ridicule in equal measure, his legacy reputation looks more likely to mirror what Major’s would have been. Anger, given time, may be redeemable, but ridicule, once it reaches a certain level, is the political kiss of death.
Johnson may think that Hancock’s overdue resignation – after trying to cling on, limpet-like, to office for 48 hours – resolves an unpleasant problem for himself. It shouldn’t and it won’t; people will remember that, instead of demanding Hancock’s resignation promptly and sacking him if it wasn’t forthcoming immediately, Johnson vacillated and tried to ‘declare the matter closed’ on the strength of Hancock’s inadequate, blatantly insincere and barely-apologetic ‘apology’.
By any standards, Hancock’s position should have been recognised as untenable from the moment the story about his office trysts with Gina Coladangelo broke. Yet initially he received Johnson’s backing in appearing firmly set against offering his resignation, for reasons which seem murkier by the hour. Johnson, in his acceptance of Hancock’s resignation, unwisely also left open the possibility of his returning to government in the future. Johnson has done himself no favours at all by publicly backing Hancock despite clear grounds for sacking him, and then losing him anyway. As a result, he now looks foolish, ineffectual and lacking both judgment and resolve.
As for Hancock, he should detain us no longer. The political obscurity which he no doubt now confidently expects to be temporary should be permanent. An oily, slippery, opportunist, self-aggrandising careerist whose flexibility of principle would have made him equally comfortable in a LibDem or even a Blairite New Labour government, he will be missed by few. Good riddance.
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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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Boris Johnson’s backsliding on his 2019 election pledges about BBC reform means it has a new Chairman who is unlikely to threaten it even with any significant reform, never mind the radical revolution which its illiberal funding model and institutional bias both demand
Note: Longer and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 15 January 2021.
In many fields, for the new Chairman of a major public corporation to be generally welcomed by the commentariat as a safe pair of hands should be reassuring for its stakeholders and customers. It would indicate the appointment of someone who could be trusted to do an important job well without making any serious mistakes, and who would not embark on a major upheaval.
The BBC in its current state, however, is not an organisation suited to such an appointment. It’s in serious trouble; arguably, even in crisis.
Strategically, as the Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie explains, it long ago deliberately abandoned its remit as an impartial public service broadcaster, both when it opted to pursue high ratings figures to try and justify its receipt of public money, and when it decided to enter the political arena as a player rather than a reporter, but with an internal culture of left-leaning metropolitan hyper-liberalism, projected by personnel who think their own views are the only “reasonable” ones to hold.
For all his manifest qualities, its newly appointed Chairman Designate, Richard Sharp, judging by the overall tone of press comment on the news of his appointment, appears unlikely to favour the radical, even revolutionary, approach to reforming the Corporation that its deep-rooted structural malaise demands.
That ‘senior BBC figures expressed relief‘ at the appointment, interpreting it as evidence of Government intent ‘to pursue a policy of reform rather than revolution‘, speaks volumes. That Sharp is reportedly seen essentially as ‘bipartisan rather than a culture warrior‘, and is described by his ‘allies‘ (may we be permitted to know who they are?) as likely to be ‘a tough friend‘ of the BBC, gives little confidence that the behemoth is seriously threatened by the kind of institutional shake-up which its captive funders clearly believe it needs at the top.
That the BBC’s senior executives apparently‘feared the appointment of an arch critic such as Lord (Charles) Moore‘, andSharp’s own reported opinion that ‘the BBC is at the heart of British cultural life‘, do not exactly presage a complacency-upending zeal. The comment attributed to Sharp’s ‘friends’ (once again, are we allowed to know their identity?), that he was ‘unlikely to push for a radical overhaul of the broadcaster‘, do not suggest an imminent change of focus away from the preservation of producer interest and towards more customer satisfaction.
The early signs from Sharp himself aren’t encouraging. At his pre-appointment hearing on 14 January before the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, he described as ‘the least worst option‘ and as ‘terrific value‘ the iniquitous ‘licence-fee’, and declared himself ‘not in favour of decriminalisation‘ of its non-payment – thereby pre-judging, even before taking office, the outcome of the review of BBC funding which as Chairman he’s supposed to lead.
On the BBC’s unconcealed political bias, especially among its prominent current affairs presenters, and despite the new BBC Chief Executive Tim Davie’s instruction to them to curb it, it’s already apparent from, for example, Emily Maitlis’ continued blatant editorialising, that Davie’s executive writ barely runs as far as his own office door.
ICYMI: “There are millions of Americans who are very worried one man can create a lie so huge that his supporters believe in him over the principle of democracy.”@maitis pushes Tea Party Movement co-founder @michaeljohns over his belief the election was “stolen”#Newsnightpic.twitter.com/SENIYKdbsd
Sadly, the BBC’s new Chairman looks unlikely to change that. Quizzed by the select committee on the Corporation’s notoriously pro-Remain, anti-Brexit bias in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum, he condescended to admit that ‘Question Time seemed to have more Remainers than Brexiteers‘. In fact, there’s no ‘seemed‘ about it: the News-Watch survey on this specific issue established that it was skewed by a factor of 2:1 or more in favour of Remain as part of a “massive, consistent and overt bias over decades“. Yet, the BBC’s overall coverage on Brexit, asserted Sharp, had been ‘incredibly balanced‘.
If all these indications are right, then the blame for what looks likely to become a total failure to call the partisan, bloated, smug, contemptuous of its financially captive audience BBC to account will lie, not with Sharp himself, but with those who took the decision to appoint him BBC Chairman. In other words, the risk-averse, pusillanimous, allegedly ‘Conservative’ government led by the politically invertebrate, pledge-reversing, all-bluff-and-bluster Boris Johnson.
How distant that now seems. The signals indicating the government’s abandonment of its pledge and its eventual capitulation have been discernible for the last six months or so, not least in Johnson’s and his ineffectual Media and ‘Culture’ Minister Oliver Dowden’s hesitancy and equivocation in condemning the BBC’s increasing doubling-down on the contempt it clearly feels for its audiences.
That was followed by a volte-face – one remarkable even by the standards we have come to expect from Johnson – when, deploying his usual compulsive hyperbole, he entrusted to the “fantastic” BBC responsibility for providing online lessons during his latest Covid-19 lockdown to children who are currently being denied their education mainly because of his own reluctance to take on the militant teaching unions obstructing the re-opening of schools and resumption of classroom teaching.
In little more than a year, therefore, he has gone from ordering a ministerial boycott of the BBC because of its political bias, to handing it a virtual monopoly on online teaching, despite half of Britons thinking it reflects their views and their values either fairly badly or very badly.
Tellingly, nowhere in any of the political announcements or mainstream media coverage of Sharp’s appointment is there any recognition of the fundamental iniquity of a funding model reliant on an illiberal regressive tax, payable via coercion, even by people who don’t wish to consume the product which it funds. So much for the ‘libertarian’ Boris Johnson which we keep being assured, with fast-diminishing credibility, really does exist.
“In choosing Mr Sharp, a walking caricature of the Establishment, the Johnson government is signalling that it’s opting for a quiet life rather than conflict with the BBC.“
It is no criticism of Sharp’s qualifications and suitability for the role to say that he appears to be first-class choice – but for the next-but-one Chairman of the BBC. He would be an ideal candidate to steady the ship and settle it on its new course, after the difficult passage through the rough, rock-strewn seas that it absolutely must complete if it’s ever to emerge eventually into the calmer waters of firstly, a new funding model acceptable to its customers, and secondly, the trust by a majority of the public, in both its reflection of their values and its scrupulous adherence to impartiality, substantially restored.
But to command and navigate the lumbering BBC vessel successfully though that tricky passage requires something other than a gradualist or consensualist with insider connections to the government machine. It needs a radical, sceptical outsider, a disrupter, an unbeliever in the BBC’s specious claim to a ‘unique and special position in our national life’, unafraid to challenge and overcome the innate resistance to change among its self-referential senior executives and presenters.
The BBC behemoth needs a Chairman committed to demolishing its institutional groupthink; one willing to make life thoroughly uncomfortable for its senior cadres, to force on both it and them the changes necessary to transform it into a provider of product satisfaction and value-for-money to voluntary customers, not a pillar of the Left-‘Liberal’ Elite-Establishment exploiting its privileged position and guaranteed revenue to promote assiduously an ideological agenda unwelcome to most of its captive funders.
It isn’t going to get one. Thanks solely to the shameful timidity and duplicity of Johnson and his flaccid government, the BBC’s boat is not about to be rocked.
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If the Tories are pinning their hopes of re-election in 2024 on retaining the Red Wall seats they wrested from Labour in 2019, at least one opinion poll suggests their efforts are already doomed to failure
Note: Longer and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 06 January 2021.
In folklore and mythology, the Grim Reaper appears wearing a dark, hooded cloak and carrying a scythe, to warn that nothing lasts forever, not least life itself. In political reality, however, his contemporary equivalent arguably comes clad in an Armani suit or skinny jeans, and bearing a laptop with unfavourable opinion survey results.
Or so the ‘Conservative’ Party might reasonably fear, after the Focaldata poll published over the weekend of 2nd/3rd January.
Reported and analysed in The Sunday Times, the poll’s findings were startling. They showed that, were a general election to be held now, the Tories would lose entirely the 80-seat majority which they secured only just over a year ago, putting us in hung Parliament territory and therefore almost certainly presaging a Labour/SNP coalition government.
The findings obviously need to be treated with caution. After all, it’s only one poll, the fieldwork for which was done during December and mostly before the conclusion of Johnson’s EU negotiations and his pre-Christmas announcement of his Brexit trade deal; and yes, nearly four years have to elapse before the next general election. All the same, for Johnson, in a mere 12½ months, to go from an 80-seat majority to an indicated hung Parliament is some collapse, as the eight percentage point vote loss shows.
Significantly, however, that projected 81-seat loss would include no fewer than 35 of the 43 Midlands and Northern Red Wall seats which in December 2019 voted Conservative either for the first time in decades or in some cases for the first time ever.
If, as the Focaldata poll suggests, the Tories’ star is already waning electorally and the prospects of them retaining that raft of crucial Midlands and Northern seats are commensurately reducing, then Johnson has only himself to blame.
It’s those Red Wall voters who are disproportionately bearing the brunt of his SAGE-deferential, economy-damaging, authoritarian response to Covid. An Office for National Statistics analysis found that 17 of those 43 newly-Tory seats were in the top fifth of areas whose labour markets were most reliant on the sectors at prime risk from the impact of the government’s lockdown response. High-Street retailing in those areas has been badly hit, creating not only an unemployment effect but a broader adverse economic impact on local area prosperity.
Moreover, with a higher ratio of people in working-class and lower-middle-class employment not conducive to home-working than in the relatively affluent South-East, Red Wall voters are arguably more exposed to the virus itself. They’re suffering the exacerbation of the class divide which is a direct consequence of the Johnson government’s approach.
Not for many of them the pleasurable convenience of using a laptop in the kitchen and communicating with colleagues via Zoom in one of the middle-class cognitive-focused professions, while occasionally ordering food and other necessities online. If not already furloughed on a fraction of their regular pay,those newly-Tory Red Wall voters are relatively more likely to be found in the warehouses despatching the orders or the vans delivering them, or in any number of increasingly precarious workplaces that require physical attendance and face-to-face communication. You can’t work from home via Zoom if you’re a garage forecourt attendant or a self-employed carpenter.
In contrast to the children of the affluent middle classes who can afford private education, for whom online substitute education has reportedly been rigorous and fairly successful, 20 per cent of all State school pupils have been doing less than one hour of schoolwork a day, and 93 per cent of them have had four or fewer online lessons a day. They’re also less likely to come from households with the requisite technology or devices to benefit from what online teaching there is for them.
No wonder those Red Wall voters who lent their support to the Tories are now, according to their opinion-polling responses to Focaldata, withdrawing it in droves. Their jobs are at risk of disappearing, their small businesses are at risk of failing, their towns and neighbourhoods are at risk of declining, and their children are being denied their education.
Proud that the UK is taking over the 2021 Presidency of the G7 today. Hosting both the G7 Summit and @COP26 will make this a hugely important year for Global Britain and I look forward to welcoming our friends and allies as we beat COVID and build back better from the pandemic.
They see a Boris Johnson seemingly in thrall to the eco-fanatic Green lobby and the World Economic Forum’s globalist-elite, anti-democratic, technocratic-totalitarian Great Reset – and make no mistake, his use of the movement’s standard and sinister ‘Build Back Better‘ slogan is a dead giveaway – and looking forward eagerly to the crony-corporatism benefiting boondoggles designed to promote and accelerate its malign agenda.
No doubt some of them also recall a Boris Johnson who seemed, if not to go AWOL, then at least to be somewhat reticent in 2020 when it came to standing up against the anti-capitalist cultural marxism and anti-white racialist identitarianism of the extreme and even so-called ‘Liberal’ Left.
As well as being unimpressed with his Covid measures, maybe those Midlands and Northern voters also aren’t keen on Johnson’s apparent reluctance to challenge and reject the Woke-Left identity-politics intent on trashing their culture and national history, or on his slavish embrace of the Green agenda likely only to make their energy scarcer and more expensive, and they see little chance of his making their 2021 any better.
As long ago as last mid-October, I remarked of Johnson that seldom in modern political history can so much newly acquired electoral advantage, and with it a rare opportunity to re-align UK politics, have been so recklessly and needlessly squandered in so short a time. This now seems to be the verdict also of the Conservative-leaning think-tank Onward, whose recent research concludes that unless the Tories fulfil their ‘levelling up’ promises to their new electoral demographic, they risk forfeiting their 80-seat majority.
If the Focaldata poll over the weekend of 2nd/3rd Januaryturns out to be accurate, it looks like Red Wall voters have already pre-empted them. And who can blame them?Johnson’s obsessive adherence to the SAGE-authoritarian and Green eco-globalist agendas respectively is repelling his new Red Wall voters, and he doesn’t seem to care.
On past form, the Tories’ most probable reaction will be an arrogance-driven either dismissal, complacency or condescension, but they should resist the temptation to indulge in either. A hint of the latter has already been seen in the patronising assumption that those votes can in effect be bought back merely by throwing taxpayers’ money at the areas concerned, but the reasons for voter dissatisfaction discussed above appear too deep-rooted to be amenable to that convenient solution.
Relying on upcoming boundary changes to deliver extra seats to compensate them for any loss looks unlikely to be enough, with only ten additional seats in prospect. Moreover, the vote boost gained from former Labour voters in those Red Wall seats being repulsed by the leadership of hard-Left Jeremy Corbyn should be regarded as a one-off phenomenon. For all his flaws and inadequacies, its new leader Sir Keir Starmer is considerably more electable.
Polls are, of course, inconsistent and unreliable. The first full test of electoral opinion in those Red Wall seats should be coming at May’s 2021 local elections, including the local elections postponed from 2020 because of the first Covid-19 lockdown; “should”, because both now look likely to be delayed. Johnson’s ‘Conservatives’ seem to be keen to put off an encounter with the electorate for as long as possible. Perhaps their private polling is closer to that Focaldata poll result than they care to admit.
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