Picture credit: Getty

The mob comes for Maugham

Jolyon learns that there’s no justice like angry mob justice

Artillery Row

Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project (GLP), categorically did not share a pizza with Andrew Tate whilst sending pictures of dead whales to Greta Thunberg. Nor was he discovered in a steamy romp with Vladmir Putin and Giorgia Meloni whilst covered in mashed avocados harvested by hungry Mexican children. To judge by the reaction online, he did something much worse. 

Earlier this week the progressive pack ripped into the tax lawyer, accusing GLP of harming “sex workers” by partnering with barrister Charlotte Proudman’s Right to Equality Project (RtE). Proudman, who has represented sex trade survivors, has been clear that criminal sanctions must be enforced against pimps, punters and traffickers. 

She advocates for what has become known as the “Nordic Model”, where the women (and some men) in prostitution are offered help to rebuild their lives whilst those who profit from their exploitation are held to account. Yet to the moronic mob who crow “sex work is work”, such an approach stigmatises those they call “sex workers”. For them it is stigma, rather than violent men and substance abuse, which causes harm to the vulnerable.

Maugham was mobbed, accused of endangering the vulnerable

After fielding a barrage of questions Maugham was forced to clarify that his organisation does not have any “position on sex work”. Squirming to distance himself from Proudman’s views, he argued that GLP “can’t fix all of the problems” and that “there is no proper basis for attributing anyone else’s position on sex work to us”. This was an unforgivable admission. Maugham was mobbed, accused of cowardice and endangering the vulnerable. One of the more articulate tweets, characteristic of the general sentiment, warned him: “If you continue to work with orgs who are causing harm to sex workers, you will lose the support of other marginalised communities (e.g. trans people) who stand in solidarity with them. This will harm GLP.”

The criticism is about as logical as complaining that the LGB Alliance is discriminatory because it chooses not to advocate for those who identify as transgender. Ironically Maugham, and the organisation he leads, have accused LGB Alliance of exactly that.

GLP’s remit is expansive, encompassing hashtag issues from racism in schools to the environment. But the disappointment of Maugham’s erstwhile supporters was personal. This is because Maugham has long been regarded as a saviour by some trans rights activists, both for his work and his comments on social media. GLP is currently bringing a case against the lengthy waiting times for NHS gender identity services and attempting to overturn the Charity Commission’s decision to grant charitable status to the LGB Alliance. 

So fervent is Maugham’s personal dedication to the trans cause, he once tweeted that he was “resisting the temptation to slide into” the Twitter inbox of transgender activist Shon Faye. He later clarified that the comment was in fact intended as both a “compliment” and to “ventriloquate bad men”.

Today Maugham finds himself cancelled by many former allies

There is a long and deep connection between those pushing for the full decriminalisation of the sex industry and transgenderism. From the aforementioned Shon Faye, who dedicates a chapter in his book on trans issues to the decriminalisation of the sex industry, to Jane Fae, who first shot to prominence as a “defender of extreme pornography”, the overlap between the causes is almost complete. This is even evident in the slurs used to discredit opponents — “SWERF” (“sex worker exclusionary radical feminist”) and “TERF” (“trans exclusionary radical feminist”). Perhaps at heart this is because both prostitution and transgenderism depend upon the sexualised objectification of women. It also takes a similar athletic leap of logic to argue that men are the most oppressed kind of women, and that legalising prostitution makes women safer. For these reasons the twin mantras “transwomen are women” and “sex work is work” are foundational tenets of today’s progressive clique.

Finally, with the air of a weary teacher, Maugham tried to explain to his critics that “if we had a rule that we only worked with those who had a strong ideological alignment with us on all issues our funding would collapse and we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do in defence of the trans community.”

The Twitter judges, juries and would-be executioners make decisions based upon the performance of purity, not pragmatism or efficacy. His careful reasoning and protestations were ignored as he was toppled from his podium and savaged by his former supporters. Because in reality, few of those who shout loudest about sexy political issues think beyond slogans. This is bad news for the GLP.

As reported by Richard Dunstan, GLP has been struggling for the past year. But Maugham’s reputation as a righteous warrior of woke had remained untainted by these failures until his refusal to disavow the impure Proudman and her project RtE. 

Today Maugham finds himself cancelled by many former allies, uncomfortably sitting on the same side as those he purports to revile. It’s perhaps a little early to invite the tax lawyer to the dark side, but it would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

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