Artillery Row

Who made parliament woke?

Parliamentary authorities are driving the social justice agenda all by themselves

As new MPs return to parliament after the Christmas break, the parliamentary authorities have finally launched the new website they have been working on for years. But staffers have noticed a curious addition to the MP search function. It now includes a ‘non-binary’ gender category to filter MPs with. This option is the ultimate virtue-signal – there are no MPs or Lords, past or present that are actually listed as non-binary – but that isn’t the point. It signals to the enlightened reader that the Parliamentary Authorities are sufficiently woke.

Notices around the palace and online, far from being a neutral conduit for official information, often promote the latest virtue signalling event hosted by the palace. And even the food isn’t neutral. Despite less than 1% of the UK population classing themselves as vegan, staff are now given prominent vegan options in all the restaurants and canteens. Even outside of the ‘Veganuary’ craze (where the most depressing month is purged of all tasty animal-related food), kitchen staff serve cardboard-tasting vegan burgers to unsuspecting customers with no option for conscientious objectors.

There are no MPs or Lords, current or former, who are actually listed as ‘Non-binary”

When walking around, visitors to the palace will also notice the huge number of supposedly non-political civil servants like library workers wearing rainbow lanyards, probably after a diversity day in which they were encouraged to visibly support the cause. Some even include their preferred pronouns in their email signature – a bizarre trend which probably has less public support than veganism.

When people start jobs in Parliament as library staff or to work for MPs, they are invited along to a special training day in which they are told about all the grievance groups they might like to sign up to.

Groups like ParliREACH which supports “increasing awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament” or ParliON which “promotes inclusion and equality of opportunity across Parliament, and raises awareness of issues around socio-economic inclusion”.

These are not neutral forums but part of the  left-wing idea that there are invisible power structures within our society with which the unenlightened are unaware and which the woke must dismantle.

The idea to celebrate ‘Veganuary’ was almost certainly agreed and implemented by unelected officials

One civil servant inducting a group of new-starters (and sporting every badge imaginable) suggested that they may like to sign up to all the grievance groups out of solidarity, even if they aren’t part of the ‘oppressed’ category themselves.

But who is driving all this?  Almost all of the causes championed by the House of Commons authorities would find disagreement from at least some MPs, and a sizable number would reject the idea that civil servants should be promoting any cause. Former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow was notorious for his virtue-signalling emails to staff that one recipient described as “a woke fest”  – but even without him the agenda goes on.

A civil servant’s preferred pronouns at the end of an email

To take food as an example, the menus in the House of Commons are set by the Catering Service with oversight from the In House Services Team, which means that the idea to celebrate ‘Veganuary’ was almost certainly agreed and implemented by unelected officials. The House of Commons Commission (which is composed partly of MPs like the Speaker and the Leader of the House) has ultimate control over the In House Services Team but it meets very occasionally and would have little time to discuss restaurant policy.

A House of Commons Spokesperson (their word) assures me that the Catering Service is politically impartial and says customer demand is the reason for all this veganism. Nothing to worry about then –  it’s purely market forces at work. (It seems odd though that the vegan chocolate cake permanently on offer in the Terrace Canteen never seems to get smaller).

But of course, it’s not all just food and pronouns. In 2018, parliamentary authorities defended their decision to hang a portrait of Constance Markievicz in Portcullis House (the large annex which houses about a third of MPs and staff). Markievicz was an IRA terrorist who shot and killed an unarmed member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in the 1916 Easter Rising. She would have been the first female MP but, being a member of Sinn Fein, did not take her seat. One member of staff wrote to the curators of the Parliamentary Art Collection to express dismay at the official recognition of an anti-British terrorist and requested that if they must display the work, they should acknowledge Markievicz was a murderer who taught children to kill British citizens. The Works of Art Committee refused and claimed it was not for them “to offer an edited view of history”. When the staffer suggested that the act of displaying such a picture was a conscious decision – since they wouldn’t display a picture of Oswald Mosley MP – the Committee stopped replying.

Our PC parliament may not physically prevent MPs from speaking out against the ‘progressive’ consensus but one shouldn’t underestimate the passive power of a woke environment. A rural MP might see beef farmers who live in their constituency a few times a year but every time they nip into the Commons canteen for some lunch they are made to feel that eating meat is morally wrong. It is perhaps an apocryphal story, but Margaret Thatcher was said to have replaced all of the modern art from the Foreign Office with great battle scenes from the government art collection to stop the perceived anti-British bias of the senior staff. You might think this is wrong, but at least she was elected. Some of those who promote left-wing causes in the House of Commons are not.

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