I’m in the process of setting up a new organization to defend, promote and secure free speech so I’m interested in what the two main political parties have to say about it. No prizes for guessing which one comes out best.
Let’s start with the Conservative manifesto. In the section entitled ‘World-leading universities’ it says, “We will strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities…” That’s extremely welcome, given the parlous state of intellectual freedom in Britain’s higher education sector. I’m not just thinking of the incidents we’ve all heard about, such as the decision by Cambridge to rescind its invitation to Jordan Peterson to become a visiting fellow after he was photographed next to a man wearing a ‘proud to be an Islamophobe’ t-shirt. There’s also hard data on this. According to a report commissioned by the University and College Union in 2017, 23.1% of British academics said they’d been bullied on account of their views, compared to an EU average of 14.1%, and 35.5% admitted to self-censorship for fear of negative repercussions (EU = 19.1%). (To read more, click here.)
The concept of “white privilege” is some-times credited to the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois, but the phrase didn’t enter the lexicon until it was used in a 1989 paper by the feminist academic Peggy McIntosh. “As a white person, I realised I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage,” she wrote in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Not only is McIntosh white, she is, by any measure, astonishingly privileged. She grew up in an affluent suburb of New Jersey where the median income was four times the national average, and her father, who was a high-ranking scientist at Bell Laboratories, owned patents in several valuable electronic inventions. (To read more, click here.)
If you were hoping to escape the bilge that’s been pumped out by supposedly neutral organs of the state during this general election campaign — the BBC, schools, the NHS — I don’t recommend going to see a pantomime. Gramsci’s long march through the institutions has finally reached the last redoubt of political incorrectness. Say goodbye to bum-pinching, boob-squeezing and irreverent, smutty gags about holier-than-thou political figures; say hello to anti-austerity scripts, racially sensitive casting and three-hour lectures on climate change.
You think I’m making it up? Oh no I’m not! A new version of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lighthouse Theatre in Poole written by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan is being billed as a ‘planet-saving panto’. The heroine is called ‘Greta Thunberg’ — Duncan hasn’t even bothered to change her name — and the villain is a giant made out of plastic who works for a gas-guzzling corporation. The Dame (played by Duncan) lives in a carbon-neutral cottage and the beanstalk is composed of recycled materials — presumably so when the plucky little climate change activist chops it down in the final scene she can’t be accused of ‘deforestation’. (To read more, click here.)
In the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I dissect the Conservative manifesto and don’t find much red meat — just comfort food. We also discuss Sacha Baron Cohen’s call for censorship, the woke bomb that is Charlie’s Angels and that time my wife saved my life. Click here to listen.
Like many people, I watched Prince Andrew’s Newsnight meltdown with mounting disbelief. Why had he agreed to do it? It wasn’t as if the general public was clamouring for an answer about what he was doing on the night he’d been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old victim of Jeffrey Epstein. And if he was going to give a television interview, why choose Emily Maitlis? That’s like booking yourself into Sweeney Todd’s for a short back and sides. Emily asked me to do an interview last year when I was forced to resign from the Office for Students over some embarrassing old tweets and, after humming and hawing for a bit, I declined. Clearly, one of my more sensible decisions.
But my feeling of smugness at having sidestepped that landmine was short-lived. The day after Prince Andrew’s interview was broadcast I got a call from Good Morning Britain. Did I fancy coming on to defend Prince Andrew in a debate? Instead of saying no, I started to discuss what I might say. If he believes himself to be innocent and has a good alibi, as he appears to have, it’s kind of understandable that he would want to clear his name. Yes, it was unrehearsed and he admitted to things he probably shouldn’t have, such as the fact that he stayed in Epstein’s house in New York because it was ‘convenient’. But didn’t that just make his denial more credible? He’d been criticised for not speaking out about the allegation, and now he was being criticised for doing exactly that.
At this point, I’d pretty much talked myself into it, but before saying yes I glanced up at my wife who was sitting opposite me. Caroline was shaking her head furiously and running her finger back and forth across her throat. ‘Can I call you back in a minute?’ I said.
When I hung up, I got the force nine gale. (To read more, click here.)
Click here to listen to James Delingpole and me discuss the dismal Prime Ministerial debate, Ford v Ferrari, Netflix’s new WW2 in colour documentary and the era when men were men. Don’t forget to subscribe!
What will Labour’s free broadband service look like? My take for The Sun on Sunday: dial-up modems instead of wifi routers, it only works four days a week and if you Google “capitalism” you get the spinning wheel of death. Click here to read more.
Only 39 per cent of British university students who support Brexit say they would be comfortable expressing their views in class compared to 89 per cent of Remain-supporting students. That is one of many depressing findings made by two academics who’ve just published a report for Policy Exchange on the state of academic freedom in the UK. They carried out a poll of 505 students to find out how much enthusiasm there is for free speech at Britain’s universities and the results make for grim reading. For instance, 26 per cent of students think Jacob Rees-Mogg should be prevented from setting foot on campus on account of his views on Brexit, compared to 52 per cent who oppose such a ban.
Some people will regard this as unimportant. So what if a minority of activists object to Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at the students’ union and stage violent protests when he does, as they did last year at the University of the West of England? Does it really matter if three-fifths of Brexit-supporting students feel inhibited about expressing their views? According to the authors of the Policy Exchange report – Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson – the reason we should care about this is partly because universities cannot thrive in the absence of free speech. “Universities in which academic freedom is robust produce, in the long run, powerful research,” they write. “Those in which it is fragile or compromised, in the long run, stagnate.”
But there’s another, equally important reason, which is that our democracy cannot flourish if there’s a clear bias towards one particular political point of view in our schools and universities. The 1996 Education Act requires state schools to present opposing political views in a ‘balanced’ way – a law more honoured in the breach than the observance, I’m afraid – but universities are under no such statutory duty. Which might explain why 83 per cent of lecturers vote for either the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the SNP or the Greens, and only 11 per cent for the Conservatives, according to the latest data. (To read more, click here.)
When a new vacuum cleaner was delivered to my house last week I assumed it was a belated birthday present from my mother-in-law. A veiled reference to the fact that I’m a surrendered husband, perhaps? Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I removed the packaging, stuck it in the cupboard under the stairs and didn’t think any more about it.
Then, a couple of days later, another ‘gift’ arrived: an industrial-strength mattress protector. Surely, that couldn’t be from my mother-in-law, too? I looked at the label and it was addressed to ‘Tobias Young’, rather than ‘Toby Young’, which was odd. It had been bought from a large furniture retailer called Wayfair.
My first thought was that I must be the victim of some sort of scam, but I couldn’t work out what. If someone was using my Visa Debit card to buy furniture, why were they sending it to me rather than themselves? I checked my bank account anyway, but no payments had gone out to Wayfair. Clearly, the company’s fulfilment ‘team’ — a 22-year-old computer science grad in Bangalore — had mixed me up with another customer called ‘Tobias Young’ and I was getting the stuff he’d paid for. When he didn’t receive his vacuum cleaner and his mattress protector he’d call the customer service department, figure out the mistake, and in due course a white Transit van would pull up outside my house and collect the items. So I put them back in their packaging, got busy with the Sellotape, and propped them up against the wall in my hallway. (To read more, click here.)
In the latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss Hillary Clinton’s book tour, the Greta Thunberg mural in San Francisco and how the British Police became captured by the woke cult. Click here to listen. Not for the faint-hearted.