Police officers walk in-front of graffiti during a Black Lives Matter protest on 6 June 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

Six ways to end Britain’s culture wars

Nigel Jones proposes a list of six steps that the government could easily enact to conserve our liberty

At long last the government has dipped a timid toe into the choppy waters of the culture wars. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced the creation of a “Free Speech Champion” to defend the right of speakers to address university students on any subject without the fear of being de-platformed by the mob of woke warriors.

It is an encouraging first step, and one that should have been taken months ago, but it is far from enough. For the past year, this government has done nothing to stop a tiny minority of ignorants from running riot, not only on university campuses, but on our streets, where statues have been destroyed while our police have stood by with folded arms.

It is now clear to all but the wilfully blind that our liberal culture is under a sustained assault from a malignant minority who have succeeded in infiltrating the institutions that are supposed to safeguard us and our values: the law, the police, academia, the civil service, charities and much of the media. This silent takeover has been going on for years, but the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated it.

Whether because they have been preoccupied by the pandemic, or because they are in hock to the multi-national corporations who have embraced the woke agenda, or just through simple idleness, inertia and fear, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have done little to resist the woke attack.

The government may talk the talk of liberty, but they have failed to walk the walk

Thus we have seen such previously impeccable leftists as Peter Tatchell, Linda Bellos and the sainted J.K. Rowling either cancelled on social media for holding “incorrect” views on subjects such as the biological status of women. Paralysed by the wet residue of the flabby Cameron era, the Conservatives have left any resistance to wokeism to a few courageous individuals like Toby Young and his Free Speech Union, or equally brave academics such as Professors Robert Tombs and Matthew Goodwin, who have kept flying the tattered flag of freedom amid the silence of their colleagues. The government may talk the talk of liberty, but they have failed to walk the walk – not even a single step.

First, the timorous Tories have to admit that there is such a war a war. Then they would need to take steps to fight back on the many fronts where the cultural conflict – the kulturkampf of our time – is raging. I therefore offer my own modest proposal: a list of six steps that the government could easily enact. All they lack is the will to do so.

  1. Defund the BBC. In our digital age, a bloated national broadcaster funded by a reluctant public is outmoded and indefensible. This would be so even if the BBC were an impartial organisation which performed its duty to inform, educate and entertain. Instead, it has become a propaganda machine which pushes out a relentless diet of leftist misinformation relayed by its grossly overpaid “stars”. Abolish the license fee and let it sink or swim.
  2. Democratise the National Trust. The NT has a massive membership of more than five and a half million. As Britain’s largest landowner, its job is to conserve our beautiful countryside and the stately homes that adorn it. Instead, its unaccountable, unelected, appointed leadership has turned it into a woke citadel with a twisted view of our history. Let the NT’s members elect its leaders and return it to its proper mission.
  3. Proscribe these three anti-British organisations. In recent times a trio of mysteriously funded groups have done more than any to corrupt our laws, traditions and culture: the Marxist Black Lives Matter; the alarmist environmentalists Extinction Rebellion; and the secretive and sinister “educational charity” that goes by the innocuous title of Common Purpose. Respectively, they have rioted on the streets, caused huge transport disruption and taken over the commanding heights of the police and local government with its “leadership courses”. The Home Secretary has the power to proscribe groups she considers dangerous for reasons of national security. In recent years the terrorist Hezbollah and the neo-Nazi National Action have been banned. She should now use her powers against these three subversive and seditious outfits and confiscate their considerable assets.
  4. Reintroduce conscription. Between the Second World War and 1963 all British men apart from conscientious objectors had to serve a period in the armed forces. Today, eight EU countries and Switzerland retain conscription, usually offering some form of social service as alternative to military duty. Even Dave Cameron once toyed with introducing the idea. My own Austrian son turned from a boy to a man driving ambulances as a conscripted paramedic in Vienna. Who could doubt that the rocketing gang-related violence in our cities would be hugely alleviated if disaffected young people were given the discipline, purpose and skills that conscription would provide?
  5. Make Civics compulsory. Classes in the values that underpin western civilisation and have evolved our tolerant, liberal and democratic society should be a compulsory part of the curriculum in our schools.
  6. Stop subsidising suppression of free speech. Any university that fails to uphold free speech and acquiesces in minority mob rule should have all government grants and subsidies withdrawn.

The steps that I outline here could be considered radical and draconian; but they are appropriate to the drastic situation that we face. Moreover, they are far from unprecedented: in the Second World War the government took steps to ban opposition newspapers, intern foreign citizens, imprison political extremists without trial, and compelled young men to go to war or work the coal mines. We are in a different kind of war today and it is high time that we recognised that fact.

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