Photo by Robin Bartholick

Dress code

Political agendas at work are fine, so long as they support the religion of Woke

Artillery Row

A few years ago a lady named Nadia Eweida, a devout Christian, had to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights to win compensation after her employer, British Airways, banned her from wearing a cross at work.

She won her case after judges in Strasbourg ruled that forbidding her from wearing her “discreet” cross on a necklace was a violation of her rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes the right to freedom of thought, belief and religion.

The wearing of badges supporting controversial causes is widely accepted

If the national air carrier deems it inappropriate to wear a basic sign of affiliation to the national established religion, we might imagine that employer attitudes have hardened towards staff bringing personal agendas into the workplace. Some people thought that a good thing, with the National Secular Society supporting BA throughout the case.

A decade or so later we can see that in fact personal agendas are fine, just so long as they are in tune with the secular religion of Woke rather than traditional values.

For instance, this week Daz James, an “NHS Anaesthetic Operating Department Practitioner” from Stoke-on-Trent felt confident enough of his rights to proclaim on social media: “I always wear my pride badges to let LGBT patients (know) that they have my support.”

His tweet, accompanied by a photograph of various rainbow badges on a bracelet, came in reply to one from a left-wing activist who had observed: “Trans men are men #TransWomenareWomen and a majority of the population agrees with this science.”

Mr James also observed in his response: “I and the majority of my colleagues in the NHS support Trans Rights. It breaks my heart to see transphobes use lies and slurs against Trans and Non Binary people who just want to live their lives.”

Quite how Mr James felt so sure of the views of a majority of 1.3 million NHS staff, he did not explain. Perhaps he has simply noticed a workplace culture in which it is commonplace and widely accepted to wear badges supporting many controversial progressive political causes.

Nor did Mr James specify which Trans Rights he had in mind, though the implication of his Twitter exchange was clearly that the right to gender self-certification would be one of them.

It was not very long ago that the Left took a very different view, with Labour branding mixed-sex wards in the NHS as shameful and pledging to abolish them amid horror stories of scores of women patients suffering sexual harassment and even rape.

In both its 1997 and 2001 manifestos, Labour pledged to ensure the right of women to be accommodated on single sex wards, before dropping that still-unfulfilled commitment a few years later. It is odd to reflect that were Labour to restore the policy now it would be seen by many left-wing activists as a reactionary stance rather than a progressive one.

The rise of the identitarian left within senior management, in both the public and corporate sectors, has made the politicisation of the workplace de rigueur. Footballers wearing the slogans and logos of Black Lives Matter and adopting its knee-taking gesture despite the sport’s world governing body officially banning political displays is but one recent example.

One senior minister recently was pressed by his civil servants to share his chosen pronouns

Attempting to turn contentious positions that have never been endorsed at the ballot box into compulsory workplace orthodoxies, via public displays of affiliation to them, are cropping up everywhere. Just this week the Telegraph revealed a new NHS course has been launched to teach staff about “white privilege, unconscious bias, authentic allyship and the intersectionality between race and gender”. The course notes described BLM as a “healing” movement with a “prime focus…to expose and challenge anti-blackness in its multiple manifestations”.

When you cannot win elections then just marching your supporters through the institutions becomes a far more serviceable route to implementing your agenda, especially if your opponents can be intimidated into acquiescence. I am even aware of one senior minister recently being pressed by his civil servants to share his chosen pronouns at the end of official communications, a request he thankfully turned down.

Those of us who would much rather personal political agendas were left at the workplace door have probably lost that battle for good. The new battlefield must concern the right to visibly dissent from whatever cause we are being asked to endorse. If knees are to be taken then football fans must be entitled to boo the gesture; if some NHS staff wish to display Trans Rights badges then others especially those who follow the various Abrahamic religions and who take their scripture seriously must surely be entitled to display badges to the contrary.

It is all going to get tremendously wearing and undermine team morale, but that is the society we have become. At least tennis starlet Emma Raducanu, now the most famous cross-wearer of the current era, can be confident that nobody will be able to ban her from the workplace and put her on unpaid leave, as happened to the unfortunate Ms Eweida fifteen years ago.

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