On Friday in the Spectator’s Coffee House podcast I suggested Michael Gove should be installed as a caretaker leader until June. I believe this is our best chance — perhaps our only chance — of honouring the result of the referendum.
To be clear, I’m a passionate Brexiter and would like as clean a break with Brussels as possible. I want out of the Customs Union and out of the Single Market. If I was an MP, I’d be a member of the ERG. The disastrous course of the Brexit negotiations has made me more anxious to leave, not less. The fact that so many MPs and senior civil servants have proved unequal to the task of extricating ourselves from the clutches of this supranational octopus shows how infantilized our political class has become as a result of having allowed Parliament’s sovereignty to ebb away. The process of renewal cannot begin until we’ve recovered that sovereignty and it cannot start soon enough. Had the British people not voted to Leave in 2016, I think we would have passed the point of no return. It was our last chance to save the UK as an independent sovereign nation state and we took it.
I now fear Brexit is in peril. A majority of MPs are opposed to no deal and, unfortunately, they’re prepared to defy the will of the British people, as expressed in both the EU referendum and the 2017 General Election, to prevent us leaving if they possibly can, whether that means kicking Brexit into the long grass, a second referendum or revoking Article 50. The size and manner of yesterday’s protest indicates that the Remainers have never been more confident. They can sense that reversing the outcome of the referendum is within their grasp. (To read more, click here.)
When will the police stop harassing people for failing to comply with transgender dogma? Yesterday, we learnt that Surrey Police have finally dropped their investigation of Caroline Farrow, a 44-year-old Catholic journalist, for ‘mis-gendering’ a trans women, i.e. referring to her as ‘he’ rather than ‘she’. But not before they’d contacted the mother of five and threatened to arrest her if she didn’t appear at her local police station to be interviewed under caution.
This is not the first time the authorities have over-reacted in response to a complaint from a transgender activist – in Farrow’s case, her Torquemada was Susie Green, head of Mermaids, a charity that campaigns for trans children to be given access to sexual reassignment surgery.
Miranda Yardley, a trans woman, was charged with committing a ‘hate crime’ after getting into a Twitter spat with the mother of a transgender child, but the case was thrown out at the beginning of March by the District Judge, who said the prosecution had failed to provide any evidence that the tweet constituted harassment. (To read more, click here.)
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Freedom of Expression guide for higher education providers and students’ unions in England and Wales, no speaker has a right to be invited to speak to students on a provider’s premises, but once someone has been invited they should not then be disinvited. It even suggests this may be a breach of Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which places a legal duty on universities to take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to protect freedom of speech.
Please, God, let Jordan Peterson sue Cambridge University for having invited him to take up a visiting fellowship, only to rescind the invitation after a bunch of snowflake undergraduates said they would scweam and scweam until they made themselves sick. Okay, they didn’t actually say that, but they might as well have done, the pathetic, passive-aggressive cry-bullies.
In a report in Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper, which is so craven in its forelock-tugging obeisance to the protesting students it makes Pravda look like the work of John Milton, we learn that Peterson isn’t welcome at Cambridge because it’s – wait for it – an ‘inclusive environment’. (In case you’re not au fait with the current jargon, that means an environment in which everyone looks different but thinks exactly the same.) There then follows a laundry list of Peterson’s unforgivable sins: he believes ‘white privilege’ is a ‘Marxist lie’, that ‘the patriarchy’ is ‘predicated on competence’, that ‘the West has lost faith in masculinity’, that ‘global warming posturing is a masquerade for anti-capitalists to have a go at the Western patriarchy’ and that ‘men are victims of gender oppression’.
In other words, he’s not welcome at Europe’s number one university because he has the temerity to challenge the status quo. (To read more, click here.)
On Monday, the government announced that Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Women and Equalities as well as the Secretary of State for International Development, had appointed an advisory panel on LGBT health. Needless to say, it immediately attracted criticism on social media for being insufficiently diverse: the 12-person panel is 90 per cent white, 66 per cent male, etc.
I don’t subscribe to the dogma that the composition of official panels, boards, committees and so on should exactly mirror the UK population, but even by that logic those criticisms miss their target. The UK is 87 per cent white and BAME people are less likely to identify as LGBT, so it’s perfectly possible that around 90 per cent of the UK’s LGBT population is white. In addition, about 60 per cent of the LGBT population is male, according to the Office for National Statistics, so the over-representation of men on the panel isn’t a major scandal.
However, in one respect the critics have a point: a majority of the panellists are on the side of militant trans activists in the ongoing battle between them and gender critical feminists. For instance, the panel includes Ruth Hunt, the chief executive of Stonewall, a pro-gay rights group that has fully aligned itself with the trans lobby under Hunt’s leadership; Paul Martin, the CEO of the LGBT Foundation, which, according to the Mail on Sunday, supplies girls as young as 13 with breast–flattening devices without telling their parents; Ellen Murray, the executive director of Transgender Northern Ireland, who dismisses gender critical feminists as Terfs (trans exclusionary radical feminists); James Morton of the Scottish Trans Alliance, which has been accused of promoting ‘trans ideology’ in schools; and Lewis Turner, the chief executive of Lancashire LGBT and an advisor to Mermaids, the controversial charity that campaigns for children to have access to sexual reassignment surgery. According to a prominent feminist on Twitter, nine of the 12 panellists are in the trans activist camp. (To read more, click here.)
Scarcely a week passes without a privately educated young woman with a successful career in journalism publishing a book about how ‘oppressed’ women are. Names that spring to mind are Laurie Penny (Brighton College), Zoe Williams (Godolphin and Latymer), Laura Bates (King’s College), Afua Hirsch (Wimbledon High School) and Grace Blakeley (Lord Wandsworth College).
Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in order to qualify as an ‘intersectional feminist’ and present yourself as a victim of ‘systemic inequality’ you need to be a member of the ruling class. One of the distinguishing characteristics of ‘social justice’ activists is that they tend to be rich, high-achieving young women who have been to elite universities, which is why they’re such ripe targets for satire. In my mind’s eye, I can picture an alternative ending to Spartacus in which each of these women leaps up from her yoga mat and proclaims, ‘I am Titania McGrath.’ (To read more, click here.)
New employees at the British headquarters of Accenture, a global management consultancy, were slightly taken aback during a recent induction morning when the head of human resources encouraged them to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards declaring themselves ‘allies’ — not just at the meeting, but permanently. In addition, they were given the option of adding the word ‘ally’ in the same rainbow pattern to the footers of their company email addresses. Anyone confused by HR language — a reference to the second world war perhaps? — was referred to the company website, where the word ‘ally’ was helpfully defined: ‘An ally is someone who takes action to promote an inclusive and accepting culture regardless of their own identity and demonstrates commitment to an inclusive workplace. We currently have allies programmes for Mental Health, LGBT and People with Disabilities.’
This use of the term ‘ally’ originated on US college campuses as a way for the beneficiaries of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and so on (e.g. straight white males) to signal that they’re on the same side as ‘oppressed’ minorities in spite of their ‘white privilege’. In a seminal essay by a Californian consultant called Frances E. Kendall entitled ‘How to Be an Ally If You Are a Person With Privilege’, often cited by diversity and inclusion officers at American universities, allies are advised to preface what they say with, ‘As a white person…’ This is to let others know you’re aware that ‘being white has an impact on how I perceive everything’. A good ally speaks up if there are no ‘women of colour’ on a panel and ‘identifying committees, decision-making teams and departments that are “too white”’.
This madness, which long ago infected university campuses, is now seeping into HR departments of large employers. The result is the rise of the woke corporation, and it might affect the way you work. Certainly, no one should assume that their own company, however sensible-seeming, is immune. (To read more, click here.)
It won’t be news to readers of The Spectator that one of the long-term effects of globalisation is the hollowing out of the middle class. In a study of wage growth in ten advanced economies published a few years ago, the Resolution Foundation found that median pay lagged behind growth in GDP, with the gap between the middle class and the highest-paid growing and the gap between them and the lowest-paid shrinking.
The phenomenon is particularly pronounced in the US. There, the top 10 per cent of income earners have seen their share of national income increase since the 2007-08 recession, while the remaining 90 per cent have seen their share fall, with middle-income groups hit the hardest.
This trend was all too apparent in the Austrian ski resort where Caroline and I spent last weekend thanks to the hospitality of a generous friend. I went to St Anton for a week in 1990 and, while it wasn’t exactly Southend-on-Skis, there were a few middle-class families dotted about, mainly taking advantage of package deals. You’d spot them on the cable cars, wolfing down packed lunches so they could avoid spending money in the restaurants. Occasionally you’d see them arriving and departing in large estate cars with GB stickers on the back and their lovingly-maintained skis strapped to the roof. The point is that it was still possible 30 years ago for mid-ranking professionals to go skiing, provided they did it on a budget. It now feels as if those days are gone. (To read more, click here.)
You’d think the little buggers would be grateful. Caroline and I had just shelled out for our two middle children — Freddie, 11, and Ludo, 13 — to spend a week in Austria on the school’s half-term ski trip. It meant we couldn’t afford to leave the house for the whole of February, but we stupidly paid for their sister to go on the same trip last year so felt we had no choice. Yet as soon as they came back they wanted to know where we were going on holiday this summer.
Ten years ago, they were more than happy to go to Cornwall, which suited me down to the ground. I would sit on the beach behind a windbreak, reading a James Ellroy novel, while the children pottered about in the sand. We’d have pasties for lunch, followed by an ice cream from Roskilly’s, and then, in the late afternoon, go for a walk along the coastal path.
I liked the simplicity of it, the innocence. Above all, I liked the fact that it was cheap. Renting a three-bedroom house on the north coast cost about £1,000 and there were no flights to pay for — ruinous when you have four children. I would happily repeat that holiday every year until they cart me off to a retirement home. (To read more, click here.)
I was 17 when the Labour party last split, in January 1981, and for a variety of reasons got quite caught up in the moment. It was partly because my father, the author of the 1945 Labour manifesto, was close to the Gang of Four — the original band of defectors — and was one of a hundred people named as supporters of the breakaway group in a full-page ad in the Guardian. But really I was just swept up by the general enthusiasm for the new party that seemed to affect vast swaths of the middle classes. If you recoiled from the economic policies of the Conservative government, which prioritised reducing inflation over full employment, but were equally querulous about the leftward shift of the Labour party, the SDP was an appealing alternative.
I never went as far as becoming a member — I wasn’t a joiner in those days — but was enough of a supporter to join my father on a trip to Warrington in Lancashire to campaign for Roy Jenkins in a by–election about six months later. Jenkins had resigned as a Labour MP in 1977 to become president of the European Commission and, along with Shirley Williams, was one of two members of the Gang of Four without a seat. On the way up in my father’s Vauxhall, he explained that Jenkins didn’t have much hope of winning — Labour had held the seat with a majority of more than 10,000 in 1979 — but the SDP’s leaders felt it was important to field a candidate if the party was going to be taken seriously as a political force.
I was nervous about knocking on strangers’ doors, particularly with my eccentric father beside me. He looked like a left-wing intellectual straight out of a J.B. Priestley play: corduroy jacket, knitted tie, horn-rimmed spectacles. He was naturally rather shy — he had a stiff, awkward way of standing, with his hands clasped too tightly behind his back — and this impression was accentuated by a slight stutter. I, by contrast, was a fully fledged New Romantic, with floppy hair, harlequin trousers and a puffy shirt. What would the good burghers of Warrington make of this odd couple? The fact that our candidate was a lisping, worldly bon vivant — Jenkins was famously fond of clawet and enthused about the gweat vawiety of westaurants in Bwussels — probably wouldn’t help. (To read more, click here.)
Thousands of schoolchildren are planning to go on ‘strike’ on Friday to protest about government inaction on climate change. Called the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’, it has been inspired by a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl called Greta Thunberg who has spent every Friday since August protesting outside the Swedish parliament and has encouraged others to follow her lead. To date, there have been strikes in Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, among other countries, with up to 70,000 children taking part each week.
From a school’s point of view, this kind of thing is a nightmare. Teachers are usually working to a detailed plan in which a syllabus is being taught in a particular sequence. If a student misses a day, they’re going to have difficulty understanding the next lessons in the classes they’ve missed because they’ll have skipped a step.
The teachers will either have to ‘catch up’ the students who were absent — at lunchtime or after school, which means extra work for them — or differentiate what they’re teaching in the next lesson, so some children are being taught the latest step and some the previous step. Plenty of schools will be forced to close because they won’t be able to cope with the logistical fall-out. (To read more, click here.)