No one is safe from the puritanical poison of wokeness says SIR JOHN HAYES

After all, student high jinx is par for the course. Yet in fact, the decision to exclude a former Cabinet Minister is part of a dark mission to destroy the essence of democracy – freedom of speech. The sinister missionaries’ hand was evident again in the suspension of Trevor Phillips by the Labour Party and in a campaign by Guardian newspaper staff against their own columnist Suzanne Moore. In both these cases the targeted individuals appear to be guilty of nothing more than stating what to most of us is glaringly obvious. In Phillips' case his ‘crime’ was to draw attention to the fact that members of vile paedophile gangs in Northern cities were of Pakistani Muslim origin, in the case of Moore she simply pointed out that being a woman is a biological fact, not a lifestyle choice. That Phillips, a brave crusader against racism as founding Chairman of the Equalities Commission, can be branded an ‘Islamaphobe’ and Moore, a leading feminist writer, as ‘transphobic’ should be a warning to us all - no one is safe from the puritanical poison of politically correct ‘wokeness’.

Too many leading institutions have, in effect, been taken over by an intolerant left wing elite who regard any viewpoint other than their own as unacceptable. Once, most academics put aside their personal political views to provide students with a balanced education. Today, much of academia has become the most narrow-minded branch of the liberal establishment. Consequently, it is increasingly difficult for academics with anything other than liberal left views to survive. A survey at the time of the 2017 election found that just 7 percent of university staff intended to vote Conservative. My friend, the late, great political philosopher Sir Roger Scruton recalled that when he taught at Birkbeck College, he was the only conservative there, apart from the lady who served meals in the Senior Common Room. Sir Roger was for years denied the recognition he deserved by the academic establishment. 

Much of the student body is affected too, with young minds dulled by the simplistic dictums of political correctness. Which is why many student societies have become vehicles of cultural oppression, at best marginalising and at worst vilifying views that offend ‘snowflake’ undergraduates.  Presumably, university authorities are either complicit or complacent. 

The dominance of the liberal establishment is aided and abetted by the echo-camber of social media, which has spawned a new form of ugly discourse – where everything is understood through the prism of identity. It has become commonplace for someone to preface a statement with qualifications like ‘as a… member of a certain ethnic group’, ‘as a gay man’ or ‘transgender female’.  As such statements are so ubiquitous we have become numb to just how disturbing they really are. Identity has become the ultimate arbiter of opinion. This is the triumph of relativism; of the ego over discussion, of opinion over knowledge. We live in an era where the national conversation is so degraded that, for wokes, it is acceptable to deny a speaker a platform simply on the grounds that what they have to say, even when evidentially based, might possibly make someone in the audience ‘feel uncomfortable’. 

For most of us, busy with work and family lives, such issues may appear marginal. But in practice, the way debate is increasingly shut down, with speakers ‘no platformed’ and books denied publication, should worry us all. It represents the ruthless exercise of power by the few over the many. Although the result of the General Election last December demonstrates that most people reject the ‘woke’ agenda of the left, it does not mean that the culture war is won. Far from it, the liberal left elite are in control of almost all our leading cultural institutions, including the BBC, and are using their power to influence how people think. Even television adaptations of Agatha Christie mysteries now routinely come with an unsavory dose of political correctness and liberal moralizing. No element of our culture is safe. 

The announcement that the government is considering legislation to strengthen free speech in universities is a welcome start, but no more than a beginning. Whilst institutions can be legally forced to allow certain speakers, legislation alone will not weaken the dominance of an ideology that vilifies those who dare to think for themselves. The only way lasting change can be made is by redistributing the power of the liberal establishment. The Government must proactively ensure that  all appointments made to cultural bodies play a part in bringing about a greater range of views – more in keeping with the sentiments of hard-working patriots. Perhaps communal panels of workers supported by worthy local organisations could vet applicants. Such an approach would leave the left up-in-arms because they know that it would give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.

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