Tag: Culture-War

Sadly, the authoritarian social attitudes legitimised by Covid restrictions appear likely to endure beyond them

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.

The past 16 months have given us many unpleasant surprises, from the Government’s apparent cosiness with Big-Pharma extending as far as exempting from any product liability its manufacturers’ relatively untried and under-tested but nevertheless hastily approved ‘vaccine’ (aka experimental gene therapy), through its eagerness covertly to deploy techniques derived from behavioural psychology in order to ‘nudge’ Britons into following its ‘guidance’, to its readiness to spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money buying largely and favourably one-dimensional media coverage for its Covid-fearmongering messaging and authoritarian policy response.

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.

That recent Ipsos MORI and YouGov polls suggest this level of submission could be prolonged, if not permanent, then, though a frightening prospect, feels real, for three principal reasons.

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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Just what must the BBC do before Boris Johnson acts to curb its excesses?

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

Note: Extended and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 2nd July 2021

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?) 

Despite cutting its regional staffing quite drastically, it’s nevertheless pledged to spend £100 million of ‘licence-fee’ payers’ money on expanding its ‘Diversity’ agenda in content and production. Whether this will produce any greater diversity of political viewpoints projected at its audience, however, is unclear.

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.

Despite cutting 520 jobs in news and current affairs – including Andrew Neil’s – it nevertheless managed to trumpet as a virtue the fact that its largesse with ‘licence-fee’ payers’ cash meant its 12 top earners trousering a combined £7.2 million a year. From an organisation sanctifying the NHS and abhorring anyone profiting from providing healthcare, there was no discernible awareness of the incongruity of presenters becoming millionaires via a coercive, regressive tax.                   

Neither was any embarrassment evident at its spending £800,000 of ‘licence-fee’ payers money on a re-design of its annual accounts, a figure twice the typical spend of similar-sized private sector businesses. Nor at its receipt of 266 specific complaints and a raft of public criticism at its – literal – genuflection to Wokery and Black Lives Matter in its Christmas 2020 edition of The Vicar Of Dibley.

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 Davie can 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.

To add insult to injury, it’s barely a year since the BBC, despite its agreement to take over from HM Treasury the funding of free ‘licences’ for older pensioners, as a quid pro quo for the Government’s deferral of an investigation into its funding model as part of its last Charter Review, decided to resile from that agreement and start charging older pensioners after all.

Yet, even faced with all this, the Government response remained relatively muted. Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden contented himself with a 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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When Football Threatens Free Speech

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

Note: Extended and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Sunday 13 June 2021.

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.

That’s not only because there’s an almost wholly uncontentious and arguably even more effective alternative available in the form of the FA’s own linked-arms “Kick It Out” gesture.

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 so only 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?

The very idea is risible. The gesture is inseparable from the agenda, especially when the gesture itself, apart from its religious connotations, signifies submission, both historically and atavistically. To argue that it’s merely another form of the more unifying, alternative “Kick It Out” message is disingenuous. The two gestures don’t have the same meaning, at all, and to argue that they do is to display either ignorance or a contempt for the public’s intelligence.

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.

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?

The metropolitan-based mainstream media, unsurprisingly, appears near-unanimous in its endorsement of Southgate’s and his players’ attitude, despite the obvious flaws and illogical conclusions with which their arguments are peppered; presumably, the MSM has its woke readerships and audiences uninterested in football to satisfy.

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 has become the latest weapon in the oikophobic woke elites’ culture war against the uneducated, unenlightened plebs whom they cannot forgive for bringing about Brexit and installing the bien-pensants’ bogeyman Boris Johnson in Downing Street. Viewed through that prism, the attempted censorship becomes at least explicable, albeit in no way excusable.

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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The Tory Party’s Phoney War on Woke

Boris Johnson’s ‘Conservative’ Government has no intention of actually fighting against the Woke agenda; merely the intention of looking like it’s fighting against the Woke agenda which its substantive actions, belying its words, suggest it either supports or at least does not much oppose

Note: Extended and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 15 February 2021.

If you went only by the headlines, you might be tempted to believe that the ‘Conservative’ Party – following the justified criticism of its leadership’s reluctance even to criticise, never mind condemn, the explosion of intolerance, censoriousness and malign identitarianism which, after festering below the surface for several years, finally exploded into the open amid culturally and racially oikophobic street violence last summer – had finally resolved to tackle the Woke virus.

It now planned, we were recently told, to prevent anti-statue iconoclasm by strengthening the protection of statues from the depredations of Town Hall militants and Woke-Warriors. We won’t allow people to censor our past, asserted Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on 16th January – although whether his proposal to make them obtain planning permission and consult the local community before doing so will deter the heritage-destruction fanatics is a moot point.

Not to be outdone in signalling Tory purported anti-Woke credentials, next up was Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, endorsing a ‘Conservative’ backbench MPs’ initiative to spike the Town Hall militant Woke-ists’ guns by re-naming, with the names this time of Victoria Cross recipients, the already and only recently re-named Diversity Grove and Equality Road in Perry Barr, Birmingham.

Then, in what the Government clearly wants to be perceived as a major escalation of its ‘War on Woke’, the Sunday Telegraph of 14th February reported Dowden as summoning the leading heritage bodies and charities to a summit at which he intended to entreat them ‘to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down’. Reinforcing that was to be a promise from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson of a ‘Free Speech Champion’, with powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses, accompanied by the warning: ‘Colleges or student bodies that try to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views will be sanctioned’.

Given the extent to which Britain’s historic and cultural institutions have been captured by the Left, some ineffectual bleating from a hand-wringing Dowden is hardly likely to persuade the heads of leading heritage bodies and charities summoned to his exalted presence to change their ways. As the Daily Telegraph‘s Simon Heffer points out, their Achilles heel is their dependence, to a greater or lesser extent, on State funding, and threatening to curb it would concentrate minds, but the Government looks nowhere near ready even to contemplate such a drastic step, let alone carry it out.

Nor are the sanctions on universities apparently to be wielded by Williamson likely to achieve much. Compensating speakers who have been de-platformed or disinvited due to Woke intolerance by either the student body or the faculty does not immediately come across as a particularly effective deterrent. Once again, there appears no desire to hit the universities in the wallet, where it would hurt most. As Conservative Home Deputy Editor Charlotte Gill rightly says, legislation will help, but ministers themselves need to speak out more.  

Now, the re-naming of some Parry Barr thoroughfares after Victoria Cross recipients rather than ‘Diversity’ shibboleths isn’t at all a bad idea per se; but are these kinds of, frankly, peripheral and comparatively trivial placebos and palliatives from those political wet lettuces Jenrick, Dowden and Williamson really all we can realistically expect from the Tories’ so-called ‘War on Woke’?

Sadly, it might well be.  Because, below the radar, and on several fronts, the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy appears to be not merely not opposing, but either passively accepting or even advancing, the ‘Liberal’-Left’s pernicious, divisive Woke agenda. Consider a few examples.

Take the issue of the sustained Woke assault on free speech, specifically that manifested via the de-platforming and/or cancel-culture now widespread among both academic and student bodies on university campuses. Any readers still doubting its extent and severity should either listen to the New Culture Forum‘s recent panel discussion podcast on it, or watch it on YouTube.

Last month, Tory backbencher David Davis introduced a Private Members’ Bill to place a legal duty on universities to uphold and promote free speech on campus, but which is unlikely to become law, owing to ‘lack of Parliamentary time’. Davis is right to address this issue; but why did it have to fall to a private member to introduce legislation to protect and uphold something as fundamental as free speech?

Where was the allegedly ‘Conservative’ Government which included in its last Election Manifesto a commitment to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities? Was it fearful of incurring the wrath of the Woke Mafia? It’s a poor reflection on the Johnson Government’s now apparently only lukewarm commitment to free speech that legislation to uphold and promote it in universities, of all places, has to be via a Private Members’ Bill, and not a Government initiative.

Furthermore, the Woke assault on free speech is neither confined solely to the higher education sector, nor is it a fringe issue of concern only to civil liberties fundamentalists or free speech absolutists. A recent Savanta-ComRes opinion poll found that as many as 50 per cent of Britons feel freedom of speech in the United Kingdom to be under threat, and that only 12 per cent of the population believes that people have greater freedom to speak freely now than they enjoyed five years ago.

Moving on to the minefield of gender and trans rights, the ‘Conservative’ Party now appears to be bent on cancelling Women as a species. As victim of the militant trans lobby Maya Forstater explains, the Government’s own Parliamentary Bill covering maternity leave for Ministers now refers to ‘pregnant persons’.

Presumably, alternatives to the now clearly discriminatory and non-‘inclusive’ expression ‘women’, were rejected on Woke grounds. ‘Persons who menstruate’ must have been ruled out as obviously transphobic in deference to the vicious Woke onslaught on J K Rowling for satirising its use as a substitute.

Using persons with wombs’ would have self-evidently excluded, and thereby demeaned, women of child-bearing age who’d had to undergo a hysterectomy, and women past the menopause and therefore unable to conceive; and that’s before even starting to consider how to tiptoe round the bear-trap of describing any cis-women now identifying as non-binary on a spectrum of genders running into three figures.

Ironically in view of all of this, the Equality Act 2010, which remains in force, refers to both pregnancy itself and pregnancy discrimination as something which happens to, erm, ‘women’.

Among the most sinister and damaging manifestations of the burgeoning Woke self-righteous intolerance is the expansion of censorship by the partisan hyper-‘Liberals’ of Silicon Valley Big-Tech. Even as its platforms leant more and more towards covert, then overt, shadow-banning and even outright banning, much of the Elite-Establishment with an interest, whether genuine or feigned, in promoting the Woke Cult and silencing or demonising opposition to it has been content to outsource censorship to the private sector, but has thereby created a tyranny.

So it’s curious that, despite the worthy ostensible aim of preventing online harm, the Johnson Government is apparently content to partner with Big-Tech to regulate online speech even more. Did it occur to Media, Digital and Culture Secretary Dowden that, given its recent track record, Big-Tech is likely to exploit the freedom given it by filtering out not only child-pornographic, terrorist and genuinely racist material but also by censoring legitimate conservative opinion and classical-liberal challenge to the Woke-Left agenda? Or is he relaxed about it? 

The Tory leadership has also capitulated to the BBC, abandoning not just abolition of the iniquitous ‘licence-fee’, but even the idea of decriminalising non-payment of it, while at the same time allowing it to be increased. It’s only just over a year ago, remember, that Johnson’s ministers were banned from appearing on the Today programme because of its unremitting bias.

As if sustaining the mainstream media’s foremost propagandist of Über-Woke in its regressive, coercive funding model wasn’t bad enough, the Government has additionally favoured the ‘fantastic BBC‘ (© B Johnson) with responsibility for providing online lessons to children during lockdown. The result was predictable; it took a concerted backlash from parents to get its there are over 100 genders‘ teaching module withdrawn. Not much evidence of a Tory Government ‘War on Woke’ there.

Finally, and arguably most egregiously of all, Johnson’s Government appears to be going out of its way to virtue-signal its enthusiastic alignment with two of the most widespread and potentially calamitous Woke shibboleths of our time – Green-Left ‘climate-change’ and its new first cousin, the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset programme to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic so as to bring about the comprehensive re-vamping of all aspects of our societies and economies under a globalist, supranationalist, technocratic totalitarianism.

This is well illustrated by three pairs of linked tweets by Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, starting with the ritual obsession, which all senior British politicians have, of being seen publicly to be among the first to have telephone conversations with their counterparts in a new US administration.

There’s little intrinsically wrong in this rather tedious, perhaps even puerile, willy-waving aspect of the diplomatic game. Notable on this occasion, however, is how Johnson and Raab each take the opportunity afforded by it to shoehorn what, contextually, are almost forced and contrived references into it, linking pandemic recovery with the advancement of the Green eco-agenda – including those now almost obligatory buzzword-phrases ‘green and sustainable recovery‘ (Johnson), and both ‘tackling climate change‘ and the now almost universal ‘build back better‘ (Raab).

Next, their unnecessarily effusive, even cloying, welcomes for Biden’s rush, within almost hours of his inauguration, to sign the USA up to the twin Green mantras of the costly but ineffective Paris Climate Agreement, and the impractical and ruinously expensive drive to achieve the chimera of ‘carbon’ neutrality by 2050.

For a government supposedly committed to a ‘levelling-up’ agenda, allegedly intended to benefit people in the relatively economically disadvantaged Midlands and North, burdening them with much higher heating and power bills to pay for unreliable and subsidy-dependent Green energy seems a strange way of going about it. But here, once again, are the buzzwords beloved of the Great Reset’s adherents. ‘Net Zero by 2050‘ and ‘work together for our planet‘ from Johnson; ‘Paris Agreement‘ and ‘tackle climate change‘ (again) from Raab.

Lastly, their congratulatory tweets on New Zealand’s National Day to its Prime Minister, that darling of the globalist ‘progressive’ ‘Liberal’-Left, Jacinda Ardern.

This isn’t a controversial message in itself – New Zealand is, after all, a member both of the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere’s Five Eyes security alliance – but once more, we see the chance taken to insert some key WEF/Davos Great Reset platitudes. From Johnson, we get’ make the world a greener….place‘; from Raab (yet again) ‘to combat climate change‘; and, intriguingly, from both, the now near-ubiquitous and sinister ‘build back better‘.

It’s not as if the use of this phraseology is unique to either politics, or to Britain; the same mantras, the same’ build back better‘ platitudes, keep coming from as far afield and diverse sources as Trudeau in Canada, from Macron and Merkel at a virtual leaders’ summit, from Biden in the USA, from corporate CEOs meeting at environmental foundation gatherings, and even from Kensington Palace. Coincidence? I think not.

One wonders to what extent all this has now morphed from being mere empty virtue-signalling into a form of subtle code; a method for national political leaders to signify to each other and to the elite of the supranationalist crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy that, despite having, for domestic political reasons, to offer reassuring but obfuscatory bromides to their electorates, they are in fact entirely on board with the Great Reset agenda, and can be trusted to further it in their own countries.  

Only just over a year ago, Johnson had banned his ministers from attending the annual Davos schmooze-fest of the great and the (not so) good of the globalist oligarchy. Now he appears to be taking, not merely instructions, but even dictation from them.

Pinpointing the reason for the Tories’ apparent reluctance to counter the Woke agenda in any way other than cosmetically is harder than citing examples of it. Over at UnHerd, Ed West quotes former Tory MP Ed Vaizey, part of the Cameroon/Notting Hill metro-‘liberal’ tendency which still holds sway within the Party, in enthusiastic support for the Woke agenda. West persuasively suggests that driving this is a naïve gullibility, which fixates on its superficial but bogus claim to be motivated solely by altruism and equity, but is blind to the illiberalism, intolerance and authoritarianism with which it tries to enforce its orthodoxy.

A week ago, I insinuated that Johnson’s ‘Conservatives’ were only pretending to fight the Woke agenda at the domestic, socio-cultural level. The way in which their proposed post-Covid greater state-interventionism and Green eco-socialism manifest the accelerating conflation of the Green ‘climate-change’ agenda with the Covid-19 recovery agenda under the overarching aegis of the WEF/Davos Great Reset suggests that, when it comes to the Woke agenda at the internationalist, economic level, they aren’t even pretending to.

In the New Culture Forum‘s panel discussion podcast and video discussion referenced earlier, Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University posits that there is an argument currently prevailing within Johnson’s Government against engaging in any kind of what they call ‘culture war’, the idea being that that’s what characterised Trump, that it was a mistake, and that they, therefore, must not be seen to be emulating either it, or him.

The fact that we’re already in a culture war that’s being prosecuted aggressively by the ‘Liberal’-Left and hard-Left Culture-Warriors seems to have escaped their notice. As the Henry Jackson Society’s Dr Rakib Ehsan states, Britain cannot be blind to the threat to social cohesion presented by extremist far-Left revolutionaries via faux-‘progressive’ movements like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.

Particularly striking over the past year has been the sheer number of Britain’s civic organisations who, it now appears, already had personnel in place in their key positions, primed and ready to adopt the Cult of Woke in a big way – the culmination, presumably, of The Long March Through The Institutions, the phrase coined by the 1960s Communist student revolutionary Rudi Dutschke, but which has its origins in the writings of the Italian Communist political theorist Antonio Gramsci.

Though malign of intention, the people in these vocal, intolerant, Woke ‘minorities’ aren’t stupid. They spotted early on how craven, popularity-obsessed but blame-averse, politicians and governments of every stripe were increasingly outsourcing decision-making to authorities beyond the reach of the democratic process – and thereby conveniently beyond their own arc of responsibility – both upwards to supranational organisations, and sideways to autonomous agencies and quangos.

They realised how such near-State and/or quasi-State institutions would, in the developing post-democratic era, become the new centres of political authority and influence, whose capture by a relatively small cultural-marxist elite would enable them to wield power out of all proportion to the numbers who share their views. They have become powerful due to years spent infiltrating, then taking over, the near-State, quango and ‘charity’ sectors, and waiting for the signal or excuse to launch the culture war in earnest.

The George Floyd / Black Lives Matter / Antifa riots of last summer provided both. This is why the cultural and historical attack on England appears to have acquired such momentum, depth and width so quickly. But, irrespective of the precise cause, its consequence is that, sadly, there seems to be no real political desire to push back against what looks like nothing more than an updated, more malignant mutation of the stock Marxist critique of Western civilisation.

If the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy were indeed as serious about tackling the Woke virus as the Daily Telegraph‘s Allister Heath – uncharacteristically wrongly and over-optimistically in my view – suggests, then they’d be upholding free speech, countering pernicious, divisive Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory and Trans Theory as part of a wider repudiation of identitarian politics generally, and clipping the wings of the BBC, much more robustly than they are, instead of merely changing a few street names, making it slightly harder to pull down ‘problematic’ statues, and compensating de-platformed speakers at universities.

But they’re not; and neither do they want to. The Tories’ ‘War on Woke’ is strictly a Phoney War.

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Its unthreatening new Chairman is not about to rock the BBC’s boat

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.  

Practically, nearly two-thirds of its captive paying customers are dissatisfied, not only with the coercive way it funds itself, but also with how it subsequently spends the money which it thereby extracts from them. No fewer than half of them say that it now neither represents their values, nor shows the impartiality required by its Charter which bestows such privileged status on it.

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, and Sharp’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.

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‘.

The Daily Telegraph‘s Madeleine Grant, reporting perceptively on the select committee’s not so much grilling as gentle thawing of Sharp, and summarising, correctly, that the BBC will be in what it would regard safe hands with this doughty defender of the status quo,  noted wryly how he “fluently deployed trendy corporate jargon and phrases like ‘matrix of diversity‘”, which doesn’t exactly indicate a challenge to the BBC’s obsession with Woke culture any time soon.                    

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.

It was only just over a year ago that Johnson rode into No 10 Downing Street, mainly on the back of his promise finally to deliver the Brexit which the British people had voted for a full 3½ years before – and how quickly the wheels are already starting to come off that particular wagon – but partly on the back of his hints about abolishing the illiberal BBC ‘licence-fee’, or at the very least decriminalising non-payment of it. For a time, on his instruction, ministers even boycotted the BBC’s political coverage because of its consistent left-‘liberal’ bias.

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.

Confirmation duly arrived just before Christmas when, conveniently amid the furore over whether we would be allowed to celebrate it at all, Johnson was revealed to be ditching plans even to decriminalise non-payment of the ‘licence-fee’, never mind consider its outright abolition.

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.

The government’s comments on Sharp’s appointment strengthen the impression of a backdown and its acceptance of modest change only. “Exactly the chair the BBC needs right now“, purred Dowden, going on to intone the now customary mantra of a BBC “central to British national life in the decades ahead, while anticipating only reforms to the BBC” which hardly appear to be a threat.

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 contrast to its overwhelmingly favourable, even fawning, reception, the most apposite comment on Sharp’s appointment perhaps comes from former BBC journalist and author of “The Noble Lie: How and Why the BBC Distorts the News to Promote a Liberal Agenda“, Robin Aitken. The salient point of his trenchant critique of the appointment is worth quoting in full:

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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Johnson poll-axed by the Tory Red Wall

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.

Perhaps, though, one should not be too surprised.

Three months ago, I argued that the bricks were already falling out of the Tories’ Red Wall, citing both evidence that voter opinion in those seats was already turning against them, and a growing body of opinion that those constituencies’ Tory MPs should recognise the extent to which their newly acquired support was already becoming restive.

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.

At the same time, their children are more likely to be among those harmed by the growing educational inequality caused by the continuing school closures so insisted upon by the teaching unions, most of whose full-time members have continued to receive full pay, or even an inflation-busting pay rise, in return for not teaching.

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.

A half-generation of children is having its education blighted, with dire consequences for its future employment prospects or social mobility.

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.

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, what do they see the same PM to whom they lent their vote in a leap of faith doing when – apparently mesmerised by the lockdown enthusiasts who ruefully but mistakenly thought they’d never get away with imposing in Europe the authoritarianism of a communist one-party state – he’s not levying on the economy and society draconian restrictions unprecedented in peacetime?

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 January turns 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.

It’s even possible that the revolt will expand and intensify, once greater awareness of Johnson’s failure to curb illegal cross-Channel immigration spreads, and the flaws which lie in his Barebones-Brexit deal, despite his hyperbolic spinning of it, finally become more and more apparent.

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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Britain’s ‘independent’ and ‘impartial’ media: still hiding their contributors’ political biases

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 Newsrelatively 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.

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.

As you might expect from someone coming to the extreme Left with an impeccably bourgeois and privileged pedigree, Comrade Michie is quite an operator.  Apart from her long-term political affiliation, and even familial ties, with hard-Left Corbynism…

… 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. 

Meanwhile, on that same Sunday 29th November, another media organisation was trumpeting ‘expert’ advice, complete with warnings that were lurid to the point of callousness of the consequences of not following it, and again without notifying its readers of the underlying Leftist politics of its chosen ‘expert’.

Professor Gabriel Scally, notwithstanding his medical and epidemiological eminence, also has considerable previous form in not bothering to conceal his left-wing politics. As well as being a regular Labour donor (and in rather more than pocket-money amounts), policy adviser and member of its policy forum, his status has also arguably benefited from his politics being concealed from his audiences while delivering them of his expert opinions.

Among his habitual positions are that the NHS is ‘underfunded’ to the extent that it is rendered ‘lean and emaciated’, despite UK public spending on health being at an all-time high in absolute terms and nearly so as a percentage of GDP……

…….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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RIP Remembrance Sunday?

Could 2020’s Remembrance Sunday have been the last that Britons were officially allowed to commemorate?

As if attempting to curtail every aspect of our economic and social lives that it can get away withunder the guise of protecting us from a virus that’s apparently so lethal, it can:

  1. tell what time it is if you order a meal on licensed premises;
  2. determine whether it’s in England, Wales or Scotland; and  
  3. detect whether the people around you are relatives (grudgingly permitted) or merely friends (nein, nein, streng verboten!),

but which simultaneously is also so non-lethal that it has a fatality rate of under 1% – wasn’t enough.

The Johnson Junta has now seen fit to try and dilute the way in which we’re allowed publicly to commemorate our war dead.  In advance of this year’s Remembrance Sunday, it first decreed that, under its new Lockdown rules, military veterans would be criminalised if they attempted to attend services inside churches, on pain of risking a £200 fine.

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.

And although the lone Scottish piper subsequently admitted he had hoped to provoke a police reaction, what a sad sight it still was to see the phalanx of the Met’s muzzled myrmidons blocking his path to the Cenotaph and a traditional lament to the fallen.

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.”

Contrarian though he can sometimes be, it was difficult to argue with the verdict of Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens – that the clowns who in effect cancelled Remembrance Sunday in all but name should never be forgiven.

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.

But when taken together with the capitulation of the National Trust to Black Lives Matter ideology and the divisive politics of identitarian, racialised-history, and the Woke-Left BBC’s oikophobic attack on the Last Night of the Proms, it’s also possible to see a Government-forced attenuation of something as emblematic as Remembrance Sunday as another assault on our culture.

And so it occurred to me: would it really come as a surprise if 2020 turned out to be the last Remembrance Day we were officially ‘allowed’ to commemorate at all?

At the risk of parachuting head-first into tinfoil-hat, conspiracy-theory territory here, I’m going to go out on a limb and say: no, it wouldn’t. For two reasons.

First, already we’ve had politicians musing about lockdowns continuing into 2021, and, earlier this year, so-called ‘experts’ musing about coronavirus distancing continuing even into 2022. The political, academic and media classes regale us constantly with talk of the ‘New Normal’, under which we’re being conditioned to accept less freedom and more constraints on our liberties.

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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Are we heading inexorably towards a Great Boris Betrayal?

Misgivings that Boris Johnson, across several policy areas, is in the process of betraying many of the promises he made or implied in both his party leadership and general election campaigns, are growing

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 16th October 2020

Straws in the wind?  Maybe.  An overdeveloped sense of cynicism and scepticism on my part, laced with premonition?  Perhaps.  But the past few months have given enough indications to justify misgivings that, on several pressing issues of contemporary policy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is progressively abandoning the positions on which his General Election campaign was based, less than a year ago.

On immigration, both legal and illegal, election pledges are going significantly unfulfilled. Johnson has failed to withdraw Britain from the UN Global Migration Compact signed up to by Theresa May – a withdrawal which would surely have given us considerable leverage in our negotiations with the EU over our future relationship – and which I suggested in July 2019 should be one of the eight key tests by which we could judge whether as PM, Johnson would delight or disappoint us.

The promised ‘control’ of illegal cross-Channel migration and people-smuggling has not only not materialised, but numerically has worsened. Operationally, it has descended into farce; if deploying an Airbus Atlas A-300M transport to conduct low-level Channel surveillance patrols wasn’t a desperate enough ploy to try and convince a sceptical population that action was being taken, how about the idea of deploying nets to catch boats ferrying illegal migrants? [Applications from unemployed lepidopterists welcome, presumably.]

The points-based assessment system following the Australian model looks reasonably robust – if and when it ever goes into practice – but the legislation faces defeat in the overwhelmingly pro-Remain House of Lords. Meanwhile, attempts to deport illegal migrants and asylum-seekers whose claims have been rejected are regularly being thwarted by ‘liberal’-left open-borders activist human rights lawyers. Yet, in the EU negotiations, possible concessions over free movement and/or the continuing jurisdiction in Britain of the European Courts frequently pop up on the radar.      

If pre-election Boris was suspiciously susceptible to the blandishments of the eco-lobby, then post-election Boris appears in total thrall to the Green Blob. Scarcely a speech passes without some hyperbolic reference from Johnson to how Britain’s economic recovery from Covid19 will be built on a ‘Green’ energy investment and production bonanza, despite its so far unmitigated expense, its continuing reliance on fossil-fuel powered back-up to cope with the intermittency problem, and its still relatively low contribution to the total energy output.

Consider for one moment the Britain in prospect under the rolling Covid-19 lockdowns to which Johnson appears irrevocably committed, despite the increasingly powerful and widespread arguments for a different approach, less damaging to our economy and society.

Whole areas under virtual house arrest. Travel, especially aviation, severely restricted. Rising energy prices. An increasing role for the State in the economy, needing to be financed of course by higher taxes, especially enviro-taxes. Unemployment growing, and business collapsing.

Johnson and Hancock’s policy response to Covid, imposing serial lockdowns in slavish deference almost exclusively to the doom-merchants among the medico-scientific advice available to them – despite a growing body evidence favouring a different, less economically and societally damaging approach – is certainly killing ‘Business As Usual’ for many firms, and their employees.

Tell me how this doesn’t go a fair way towards meeting many of the strident demands of the hard Green-Left, anti-capitalist, eco-totalitarian Extinction Rebellion? And if so, why? Undue influence from the distaff side, perhaps, or……what?      

Johnson’s condescending assurance to newly Tory-voting electors in the Midlands and North, worried about losing their jobs in the developing economic fallout from lockdown, and apprehensive about whether they’ll be allowed to set their relatives at Christmas, that they’ll eventually be able to boil a kettle from ‘renewable’ energy – provided, of course, the wind is blowing hard enough (but NB, not too hard) at the time –  is unlikely to retain their loyalty. And who can blame them?            

The allegedly ‘libertarian’ Boris Johnson has not been much in evidence during 2020’s explosion of leftist Wokery at not only street, but also at political, institutional, media, cultural and academic, levels. He has been reticent, to say the least, in robustly defending free speech, and has largely refrained from unduly criticising egregious instances of corporate Wokeness.

Particularly unedifying was the image of him, bunkered and mute in Number Ten, while hard-Left Black Lives Matter / Antifa protestors violently trashed the Parliament Square statue of his supposed hero Churchill, Johnson finally emerging to comment only after the statue had had to be boarded up for its own protection. We appear to have elected a Prime Minister reluctant to defend our history and heritage when both are under (literally) physical assault.

On Brexit, in recent weeks my colleagues Adrian Hill and Tim Bradshaw over at The Conservative Woman  have done a sterling job of chronicling in detail the twists and turns of the tortuous negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. To repeat many of their arguments would be superfluous, so that here I merely need to summarise and comment.

Despite Boris’ tough talk for public consumption, it’s been possible to detect potential harbingers of compromise and concession. While the EU’s, and Barnier’s, intransigence continues virtually unabated, there has been talk of the deadline being extended to ensure Britain doesn’t leave without a trade deal, within which it would be surprising if some concessions were not made.

Pressure for compromise and concession to ensure No-Deal continues to come from parts of the financial marketsbusiness sectorsand lobby groups. Some of the direst security warnings of Project Fear are being dusted off and regurgitated. Meanwhile, the EU still insists on retaining enforcement powers in any UK trade deal, while rumours circulate that an accommodation will be reached on the continued jurisdiction, after the end of the Termination Period, of the ECJ on business regulation.

On fishing rights, if arguably not the most economically significant issue, then certainly the most politically totemic, can we be sure that a government seemingly powerless to stop rubber dinghies full of illegal migrants crossing the Channel has the determination to resist, whatever it takes, the threatened ongoing predation on our sovereign fishing grounds? The likelihood of compromise to avoid confrontation surely can’t be ruled out.

For a PM who prioritises being liked over being feared and respected, his record of resiling from previous commitments since last December’s election, and his evident susceptibility to pressure, cannot but produce apprehension that potentially damaging last-minute concessions will be made, purely to avoid No Deal.   

On relationships with our natural Anglosphere allies, Johnson has, according to The Times, ordered the No 10 team and key government departments to establish links with the Biden campaign team, citing private polling telling him that Trump is unlikely to be re-elected.

It isn’t hard to see where this could be going. Are they hoping to use the anti-Brexit and EU-favouring Biden’s hostility to a good US-UK trade deal as an excuse to make last-minute concessions to Brussels, and thus be ‘forced’ to concede a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU?

On the other hand, if Trump does win, he’s unlikely to thank Johnson for cosying up to Biden in mid-campaign, and will be less inclined to give us a good US-UK trade deal. This, of course, can be also be used as the excuse for making last-minute concessions to Brussels and thus retaining a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU.

All this will inevitably have electoral consequences. I warned about it on 7th October, but mainstream media commentators are now cottoning on to the prospect of Johnson’s Red Wall crumbling fast.

As Rachel Sylvester points out in The Times, backbench pressure from Tory MPs worried about retaining their seats is starting to crystallise. Johnson’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the travails his lockdowns risk inflicting on the North can only revive the tropes about the ‘Conservatives’ being solely a party for the affluent South, predicts Nick Cohen at The Spectator.

Seldom in modern political history can such a newly acquired electoral advantage have been so recklessly and needlessly squandered in so short a time. Whether it’s deliberate, accidental, or, as Mary Harrington argues persuasively over at UnHerd, Boris hasn’t recovered from Covid and, notwithstanding his colourful ‘I’m as fit as a butcher’s dog‘ metaphor, is actually suffering from Long-Covid, leaving us effectively leaderless, is a moot point.  

However,  I don’t believe Johnson cares overmuch about the potential electoral impact of all this on his party.  I suspect he’s discovered that,  in contrast to becoming PM, he doesn’t very much like actually being PM, because the job is too much like hard work, often involving having to choose that which he must judge is the least bad from several equally unpalatable and unpopular options.  

Boris, on the other hand, as the only just released new biography of him by Tom Bower reveals, is not so much fundamentally lazy as chronically ill-disciplined and temperamentally disinclined to immerse himself in details. It’s easy to conclude that his innate desire to be popular rather than respected makes him find the stimulus and hyperbole of campaigning in purple poetry infinitely more agreeable than the more humdrum yet far more complicated business of governing in grey prose.

Moreover, he’s allegedly already complaining to friends about money: that becoming PM has left him significantly short of the income he needs to meet his ongoing financial liabilities which are the consequences of his louche, priapic, chaotic personal life. He knows he can make considerably more money as an ex-PM and journalist than as an incumbent PM. Presumably, he’ll claim ‘family reasons’ or something similar at the opportune moment.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. But I fear we are about to be royally shafted on Brexit, just as Johnson is currently doing on Covid, immigration, Woke-ery and Green-ery. Messing up Brexit could even be his crowning excuse, and his chosen route out.

UPDATE: On Friday morning, in a development as surprising as it was welcome, Johnson announced that, unless the EU fundamentally changed its previously intransigent and uncooperative negotiating approach, Britain would conclude there was no prospect of an acceptable deal being agreed, and would therefore trade on WTO terms with effect from 1st January 2021.

If he means it, and sees it through, then I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong on this point.

However, the worry is that, despite it undoubtedly being the right thing to do, it might not be a statement of irrevocable intent by Johnson, but merely another negotiating tactic by a PM who has already allowed three deadlines he set to over-run without consequence, to be eventually diluted or discarded if it persuaded Brussels to return to the negotiating table in a more amenable frame of mind.

However, the likelihood of that diminished somewhat on Friday evening, when it was reported that our chief negotiator David Frost had told the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier not to even bother coming to London for more talks next week.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith asserted, in The Sun on Sunday 18th November, that ‘Boris isn’t bluffing; that he really will go through with his threat to abandon negotiations and go for WTO on 1st January 2021 unless the EU grants Britain the same comprehensive free trade deal that it granted Canada.

Well, we shall see; after all, Johnson has bluffed for much of his life. Let’s hope this time he isn’t, and really means it.

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The Partisan Mainstream Media, and Bias-by-Omission

‘Tory rapist’ allegation: how hypocritical, virtue-signalling, point-scoring MPs and a selectively reporting, biased, partisan media combined to undermine further both the presumption of innocence and the rule of law.

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Sunday 09 August, 2020

Despite a plethora of stiff competition, ranging from Covid-19 to the post-Brexit trade talks and beyond, there really was only ever going to be one contender for the lead story on which our fearless Fourth Estate turned its forensic, objective and impartial gaze last weekend.  And that was the Conservative MP arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault.

Although it ought to be axiomatic, I suppose that in the current atmosphere of febrile, intolerant, censorious Wokery where silence is automatically deemed to be conclusive evidence of acquiescence, I must for the avoidance of doubt declare right away an absolute abhorrence of any kind of unwanted sexual assault, or even attention.  Particularly in the workplace context of boss and subordinate, it’s often not so much an expression of sexual interest as an exercise of presumed status or power.  So, for the record, if the arrested Tory MP is eventually found guilty by due process of law, I want him both expelled from the Commons and imprisoned.

But equally, that should in no way impede the expression of legitimate reservations about how his arrest has been reported and subsequently treated.

Tory ex-minister arrested over rape‘ splashed the Sunday Times, notably omitting the word ‘alleged’ from its headline, and helpfully informing us firstly, that the man was an ex-minister and secondly, that the alleged assaults took place in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney – both of which might be interpreted as narrowing the possibilities down somewhat.

From the Sunday Telegraph‘s headline, we learned, further, that the man was a ‘senior Conservative‘ – whatever that means these days – and was in his 50s.  It then took me only approximately 10 minutes to establish there are 89 male Tory MPs currently ‘in their 50s’, i.e., born between 3rd August 1960 and 2nd August 1970.  Without laboriously checking the parliamentary careers of each, to anyone interested in contemporary politics, it was obvious just from the list of names that not all were ‘former ministers’ by a long stretch.  One was, therefore, probably looking at a shortlist of no more than 30 possibles.  So much for anonymity.

Already, the Times, the Guardian, and the Financial Times were either demanding that the Tory MP in question be named, suspended, have the whip removed, or even sacked, or going further by additionally criticising both the party (and by extension the Government), for not having done so immediately.

This pressure intensified over the following days. ‘Row grows over failure to suspend Tory MP accused of rape‘, protested the Times.  ‘Tory MP arrested on rape charges should have whip withdrawn‘, scolded the Guardian, purporting to report the words of Labour MP Jess Phillips. ‘Tories criticised for not taking sexual misconduct claims seriously‘, chided the Financial Times. 

On Monday 3rd August’s edition of BBC Newsnight,  the ever-willing rent-a-quote Phillips let rip.  Living up to her uncomplimentary – but not entirely inaccurate – ‘Midlands Motormouth’ sobriquet, she condemned the Tories’ failure to name and suspend the accused MP, and declared Parliament was not doing everything it could to make itself a safe workplace.

Chief whip defends lack of action against Tory MP accused of rapefollowed in the Guardian on Tuesday 4th August.  As did the predictable call from ‘a coalition of women’s charities and unions‘ for the accused MP to be suspended while facing investigation, on the grounds that failing to do so represented ‘another example of minimising violence against women‘.

Then, on Wednesday 5th August, it was the turn of the Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman, with an implied criticism of the Tories’ parliamentary whips as ill-suited to deal with disciplinary issues like misconduct, particularly of a sexual nature.

Finally, on Saturday 8th August, the Times‘ Esther Webber contrived to add a bit more unsubstantiated innuendo to the pot, suggesting that the Conservative whips’ office had been aware of concerns relating to the alleged behaviour of the arrested MP dating back to 2010 – which would, of course, narrow the range of possible arrestees down even further, in excluding by definition anyone not elected before 2015.  So much for anonymity.     

However, there’s one rather large elephant in this particular room-full of indignation; one which both protesting politicians and harrumphing hacks alike overlooked, or perhaps more likely, chose to ignore.  It was hinted at early on in the imbroglio by Tory MP Michael Fabricant, but seemed to gain no traction whatsoever.

It is that, on 10th February 2016, the House of Commons itself voted to change its procedures so that any arrested MP would not be named or otherwise identified (which either suspension or removal of the whip would undoubtedly do).  Moreover, the proposition was passed with only one vote against (the then Labour MP and now recently ennobled John Mann), which implies that among those voting for the change was – yes, you’ve guessed it – Labour’s current Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence, one Jess Phillips MP.

Although the Commons’ decision to abandon naming an arrested MP appears superficially to confer on MPs rights which are not available to others, it’s easy to see the logic behind it.  Once the arrested MP was named and suspended, in such a relatively small workplace, the identity of the alleged victim would quickly emerge.  Is that what the ardent namers and shamers in Parliament and the Press want?  Or are they happy to throw the victim’s anonymity under the bus for the sake of some political point-scoring?  So much for anonymity.

Nor should it have gone largely unremarked that some of the MPs who were shouting the loudest for the accused Tory MP to be named and shamed are also usually among the first to argue for anonymity for alleged rape victims in other circumstances.  The double standards on display are nauseating.   

Yet not only did the Newsnight presenter not challenge Phillips with this inconsistency, much less suggest that, by condemning the application of the very procedure for which she had herself voted, she was guilty of both rank hypocrisy and blatant political opportunism.  From what I can see, in the reportage contained in all the supposedly ‘quality’ press articles linked to above, that 2016 decision of the Commons itself, to prohibit the naming of an arrested MP is mentioned nowhere.

To assume that every single political reporter or lobby correspondent involved in the production of all this material would have either been unaware of that 2016 change or had forgotten about it, especially on such a clearly sensitive subject, seems to be stretching credulity beyond its limit.  It’s hard, therefore, to dispel the suspicion that it was specifically and deliberately not mentioned, because that would have diluted or negated the narrative which the media wished to convey.  In other words, bias by omission.

Not that the media alone are deserving of criticism.  The ‘Conservative’ Party, which currently appears to be frightened of its own shadow, reacted by giving its now-familiar impression of a rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming truck, and allowed the opportunistic ‘Liberal’-Left a virtual monopoly of comment. 

Where was any immediate statement to the media by any Tory MP that, with a police investigation under way, the matter was effectively sub judice, and that excessive both public speculation and premature assumptions of guilt could jeopardise a successful prosecution?  Were I the accused MP’s lawyer, I would have been screen-grabbing every tweet issued taking his guilt as a given and demanding his head, and compiling a portfolio of them to present as evidence prejudicing the possibility of a fair trial.

Why was four days of Trappist silence allowed to elapse before Boris Johnson managed to deliver a semi-apology for his party neither identifying nor suspending the arrested MP

Where, also, irrespective of the details of the present case, was any forceful riposte that the non-naming of any arrested MP is specifically the direct consequence that 2016 House of Commons decision for which many of the zealous self-appointed Pestfinders-General themselves voted?  Not to mention a sharp reminder that the presumption of innocence still applies until a guilty verdict by a jury?   

Which leads to another point worth making: that the importance of upholding the presumption of innocence is so readily either disregarded or dismissed is an increasingly disturbing feature of the Woke witch-hunt.

Ever since the advent of the #MeToo movement, no longer are the finger-pointers content to wait for due process to take its course; they demand instant condemnation and punishment of the presumed guilty perpetrator based on (often one single) accusation alone. Woe betide he or she who objects, especially if facing the likelihood of a viciously aggressive social-media pile-on. 

Is it too fanciful to suggest that the prevalence of the New Puritanism is conducive to the mainstream media feeling it can abandon impartial and accurate journalism for partisan activism with impunity?

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