Darren Grimes: The frustration, bafflement and despair that the lockdown is forcing on my family and friends in the North-East

7 Oct

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

I feel the need, somewhat depressingly, to preface this piece by saying that I am no denier of Covid-19.  I do not believe that it is some grand conspiracy involving billionaire philanthropists such as Bill Gates, or lizard men; like most others, I got on board with the original nationwide lockdown until we could build up healthcare resilience, mask wearing and social distancing.

I believ thate deaths from this virus matter. I just don’t believe they matter more, or less, than any other deaths. As three eminent epidemiologists that advocate a different approach have said elsewhere, our current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health, such as:

“Lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.”

It’s that last part which struck me the most. Each generation of my family in the North-East (I grew up in Consett, County Durham) is now united in their opposition to the current restrictions. For a moment, it looked as though my 86-year-old nana was ready to take a pitchfork to Westminster upon hearing that bingo was closing again. My mother works in higher education, and doesn’t know if she’s coming and going most days. My two younger siblings are left feeling a sense of hopeless and despair that I am not ashamed to admit brings me close to tears.

And for what? We’ve seen that some of the biggest spikes in cases are in places with some of our countries biggest universities, such as Exeter, Nottingham, Manchester and, of course, Newcastle. But surely the Government knew that this problem was coming, and could have prepared for the eventuality of students heading to the North East for the next academic year?

The unspoken tragedy for my friends, at a time when we hear so much about white privilege, is that it is the working class and younger members of society, regardless of skin colour, that are carrying the heaviest burden of our response to Covid-19. So it’s the North East’s young people that will suffer as a consequence of this whack-a-mole lockdown strategy.

Both of my siblings, one of whom has just started a degree in Newcastle, supported the Conservatives last year, in their first election in which they were entitled to vote. Both of them are exactly what the levelling-up agenda should be about. But they’re current both unemployed – with he youngest receiving precious little in-person teaching as part of his first year at university. So this lockdown strategy reminds us just how out-of-touch policymakers are when it comes to the North East.

We hear a lot about the Red Wall as though it were one homogenous mass. The North East itself covers a huge area – from densely populated industrial parts to sparsely populated ones containing more sheep than people. The North East is much more than Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead. Yet the lockdown measures that have been put in place don’t currently reflect this and feel really unfair to some.

Under the rumoured “three-tier” system to simplify lockdown rules in England, the country would see just three sets of rules and restrictions. Tier one would apply to areas with fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 population, meaning they’d have to stick to national restrictions. And tier three would apply to areas with high rates, and so would see full lockdowns imposed. Under this scenario, my County Durham family would see the rules that apply to them relaxed.

Many of my friends and family tell me that they’re at their wits’ end. In June, I went back home for the funeral of my youngest aunt, and the family were, naturally, a bit cautious that I was travelling up from London for it, and asked that I keep away from my grandmother.

My grandmother, true to herself, was having absolutely none of it, and fumed at the idea that her agency should be stripped from her, and that she be unable to hug her grandson at such a time. At the funeral itself, my mother sat with my hurting grandmother and refused to sit away from her: it was the right thing to do for both of us.

A video of a similar scene in which this wasn’t allowed to happen has gone viral online. For many this highlights the  cruelty in our rules which say that it’s fine to sit next to your elderly mother on public transport, but not at a funeral. These deeply human tragedies highlight the perniciousness and inconsistencies.

I’ve had conversations with several older friends and family members, of a similar age to a certain American President, who make clear thatm whilst they reckon they’re in decent enough nick to survive the virus as our understanding of it grows, they’re too terrified to leave the house fearing that they’ll get some new rule or regulation wrong. They fear a bankrupting fine or, worse, that one of their neighbours that has taken it upon themselves to become the town prefect.

Voters in the North East just want to know if they’re coming or going. They want rules that are proportionate for the threat that we face and they don’t want to see, whatever the risk that they may or may not pose, the livelihoods and life chances of their nearest and dearest destroyed in the most disproportionate way possible.

I’m afraid, Boris Johnson, that the promise of a few wind turbines by 2030 simply won’t soften the hammer blow to the life chances of our region’s young.

Darren Grimes: Not even Charles Moore can save the BBC

23 Sep

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

When the former editor of the Guardian and exemplar of metropolitan liberalism, Alan Rusbridger, tweets about it being “inconceivable that someone fined for refusing to pay a licence fee” could become Chairman of the BBC, readers of this site could be forgiven for assuming that I would be a fervent supporter of such an anti-licence fee appointment.

After all, anyone who could robustly challenge this anachronistic and regressive form of taxation on anyone wanting to watch live television, from within the behemoth itself, would surely pave the way to reforms that we at Defund The BBC want to see, right? I’m afraid I’m not so optimistic.

Charles Moore, the fantastically eloquent former editor of the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator is reportedly Downing Street’s favoured choice to take over at the Corporation as Chairman when David Clementi’s three-year term expires in February 2021.

Such a move, argue proponents of licence fee reform – and those in favour of bringing the BBC more in touch with the public it is supposed to serve and unite – would send a strong signal to the upper echelons of the Corporation that this Government means business, and isn’t afraid to set a conservative cat among the uber-woke pigeons.

But I’m afraid we are way past the point of message-sending being enough to save the BBC from itself. Earlier this month, some hopeful conservatives were hailing Tim Davie, the latest Director-General of the BBC, as a man with a plan that could save the broadcaster from Titanic-like disaster.

Consider, for example, reports that Davie was set to tackle “perceived left-wing comedy bias” as he arrived, dressed in jeans, for his first day in the job. At this point, Frankie Boyle seems to have decided to ask Davie to hold his beer – and watch how it’s done.

During his BBC Comedy New World Order show, in which humour masquerades as virtue signalling and applauding each other’s woke credentials, so-called comedian Sophie Duker cracked a so-called joke about killing white people.

She said: “When we say we want to kill whitey, we don’t really mean we want to kill whitey,” before adding, “we do”. The rest of the panel quickly realised there is no way in which they could surpass what Duker had just contributed to the wokeometer. The BBC has refused to be drawn on the row over the show. So much for challenging left-wing ‘comedy’.

The Corporation’s new boss also spoke about cost-saving measures. The BBC’s rich list was published last week to much outcry: in total staff pay has soared from 3.5 per cent to £1.5 billion, while the BBC pushes ahead with its plans to strip a million over-75s of their free TV licences.

Gary Lineker earned a table-topping £1.75 million in 2018/19, and the Guardian reported that he has agreed to a pay cut – a new five-year contract worth a quarter less than his current one – adding that Gary “knows his responsibility to the BBC in terms of his use of social media”.

Yet as soon as the first shoots of change were beginning to sprout, Lineker dismissed the Guardian’s report of the story as untrue, and said that the Corporation recognises he “tweets carefully”. In what reality? Lineker has a history of virtue-signalling on Twitter on everything from the English Channel crisis to Brexit, and all semblance of impartiality is thrown from the window. So, no change there either then.

To rub further salt in the wound, Zoe Ball is now earning £1.3 million, after the BBC pledged to tackle the gender pay gap. She got a £900,000 pay rise, despite losing a million listeners last year. Would this be allowed to happen in the private sector just to fiddle their gender pay gap statistics?

And as the BBC spends our own cash on lecturing us about what good value for money the licence fee is and boosting their diversity, you’d be forgiven for believing that the liberal bastion’s only diversity issue is its lack of diversity of thought. But it now seems to be intent on getting rid of the much-loved 64-year-old Sue Barker from A Question of Sport. The only under-represented groups on our screens are the disabled and the over-50’s.

Why should we believe that any new Chairman could have any meaningful impact and deliver change, when the new Director-General has seen his pledges fail in his first month in the job?

What it all boils down to, ultimately, is that we, folks, are utterly powerless to do anything about this. Just to watch our telly sets, we are forced to fund the salaries of those that luxuriate in millions of pounds, pay for hate-filled so-called comedy and put up with right-on woke opinions that blatantly breach impartiality rules – or face the threat of prison. It’s just not on, and the licence fee should have been decriminalised yesterday, never mind today.

We at Defund The BBC will not be pacified by totemic position holders, even one as gifted as Moore, and it would seem the public agrees with us. We’ve already raised £60,000 in our crowdfunding efforts from those that recognise that the licence fee is a regressive anachronism in the modern broadcasting world.  And it’s time for the Conservative Party to pull its finger out and drags the Corporation, against its own will, into the twenty-first century and back in touch with the public that it purportedly serves.

Darren Grimes: We must reject demands that the EU would make of no other independent state

9 Sep

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

The line parroted at us Brexiteers more times than anything else is back with a vengeance: “You didn’t know what you were voting for!”

Yet no objective spectator could reasonably conclude that we voted for the self-humiliation of accepting EU satellite status in our vote to take back control. A political and media class so blinded by their Boris and Brexit Derangement Syndromes are refusing to accept what is patently not in the national interest.

Brexit is back in the news with this week’s news about Number 10’s plans for the Northern Ireland Protocol in the event of a No Deal Bexit.

Predictably pro-EU commentators are back to dismissing British independence as fantasy. It’s this view of our country and its electorate that saw Theresa May’s Conservative Party slump to its lowest national vote share since it was formed in 1834, and Labour swept from its one-time heartlands.

Whatever one thinks of the current row over future Government policy and international law, there is no fantasy in rejecting demands that the EU would ask of no other independent, sovereign nation state.

Brussels wants EU trawlers access they currently enjoy under the much-hated Common Fisheries Policy, and that wants is to slavishly follow the Unions’s laws to guarantee a ‘level playing field’ for firms in the EU. These demands would bind the UK’s legislative hands to the asphyxiating clutches of the EU’s regulatory orbit. All we’re asking is to be treated like Canada, South Korea or Japan with a low-fat, bog standard Free Trade Agreement.

If not, we trade on much the same terms as our Australian cousins do with the EU. Sure, there’ll be some disruption – and even with a deal there would be disruption in leaving the single market and the Customs Union.

But no self-respecting democracy and the world’s fifth largest economy could accept the sort of concessions demanded by the victor after a war had been won – with a financial penalty, and a surrender document signed and sealed.

Whilst I find comparisons between the election of Donald Trump and Brexit to be intellectually lazy, there are comparisons to be made in the telling response by those who were rejected wholesale at the ballot box, despite the full machinery of the state, the media, the political class, the moneyed elite and every organisation with an acronym swinging in behind them.

In a new book on President Trump: You’re Hired!: Untold Successes and Failures of a Populist President, Casey Mulligan details the administration’s successes, failures and scandals.

The book features Kim Darroch, who was once Britain’s man in Washington until he was booted out for a leaked cache of classified Foreign Office communications, in which Sir Kim described Mr Trump as “radiating insecurity” and called his early administration “inept”.

The book recalls how at a large reception at the British embassy in Washington, hosted by Sir Kim and with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and blocker of all things No Deal Brexit, Philip Hammond, was the guest of honour.

Hammond is reported as being delighted that “In the past year, we did not exit and you did not build that wall!” Another comment was reportedly that “we don’t know what will be the royal-baby name, except that it will not be Donald!” The potentially damaging comments and disregard for democratic mandates were allegedly made at an event with a dozen or so of Trump’s staff and journalists.

These events highlight precisely what our issue was until December last year. Our vote for Brexit was led by a political class that would sneer at the working class who clearly don’t know what’s good for them in ignoring their sage, sophisticated and high-brow wisdom by voting for Brexit and Trump.

The same sneering set refuse to learn this lesson, time and again. For the last four years they have swallowed every single line from Brussels and used it as a stick with which to beat their own country’s national interest and reasonable request for fairness.

It’s easy to forget just how much better things have got. Boris Johnson saw off the Bercow speakership, a Remain Parliament that was doing all it could to thwart our vote, the Supreme Court decision and much else. Vote Leave is now in Number 10 and determined to deliver on that fundamental pledge to take back control.

With David Frost, or “Frosty The No Man” as the UK’s Chief Negotiator, the EU Commission is riled in a way in which May’s Number 10 operation never riled it. When she would threaten No Deal in an attempt to keep the Brexit spartans within her parliamentary party at bay, the EU Commission would reliably call her bluff. But when Frosty The No Man and Boris Johnson do it, as we’ve seen by the response from Brussels this week, the EU has no idea how this is all going to play out.

One thing seems clear: the bravery of the British people to stand up and be proud of country and place against the Anywheres, against those who told them they’re stupid, ignorant and bigoted for their vote for greater democratic accountability and powers to be brought back closer to home.

It has paid off in the end. The blood-curdling screams of the sneering commentariat are back with a vengeance, revealing to us one thing: this time they know we have a Prime Minister who really means it when he says that No Deal is better than a Bad Deal.

Damian Grimes: Out of office but in power. How the Left keeps losing elections, yet gets its way nonetheless.

26 Aug

I appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live last weekend. To put it bluntly, I was surprised to get the bid from the producer (who was a delight to work with) to speak about education. I know the BBC is set to spend £100 million on boosting its diversity and inclusion, but I felt that diversity would stop short at cultural conservatives from working class backgrounds who don’t have degrees.

The appearance itself was over in about ten minutes. I felt it went pretty well. I argued that we have a relentless focus on the 50 per cent of kids that finish their 16-18 education taking A-levels, at the expense of the other half that do not – who tend to be our country’s least well off.

And that it’s wrong to attack the seven per cent of kids that go to private schools, instead of discussing why it’s no longer the case – as it was for an astounding 33 years, from Harold Wilson to John Major – that our Prime Ministers are educated at state schools.

Yet later – as I was sitting down preparing to stuff my face silly with Yorkshire puddings – I had a text from a mate informing me that I was trending on Twitter, and that the mob was outraged.

“What the hell have I done now?” I pondered aloud, as I read tweets going viral with their own alarming R rate, including offerings from an Oxford professor and those with EU flags in their Twitter biographies.

I grasped that my crime was to be “uneducated” – an ignorant oik with ideas above his station. How dare someone who once worked as an apprentice hairdresser offer his views on the BBC? And more importantly to them, how dare the BBC offer up the opinions of Someone Who Isn’t Like Us?

Ben Norton sagely pointed out on Twitter that the same Oxford professor who places such a high bar for TV slots, with general snobbery for the likes of me, applies a different standard when it comes to the terrier-sized teenager Greta Thunberg, who lectures us all on the science of climate change without any of the qualifications you would generally associate with such a platform.

The incident got me thinking about why the Left keeps losing.  It focuses too much on issues that appeal massively to city-dwelling Twitter, so reinforcing its own biases. It convinces itself that the endorsements of actors and pop stars will see them through to victory. They believes that there’s a majority which cringes Rule Britannia, and dislikes rituals of national celebration, or having pride in place and nation. And it seems to think that the only issue which matters right now is self-ID reforms for trans men and women.

Does any of this matter? You might wonder why I’ve chewed your ear off for 500 words on how much of a left-wing cesspit Twitter is: why the hell I even bother myself with it? As Jonathan Swift once said, it is “the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.”

The same can be said about Twitter. But the problem arising from it is that those on the platform are disproportionately in the media – policy-makers and commentators who are in a position to shape public policy and shape the national debate to their liking. Their views, mirroring Twitters, are reflected in our institutions.

For a Conservative Government serious about levelling-up, focusing on those that don’t do A-levels upon leaving school and ignoring the blather about private schools should be a priority. For a Conservative Government serious about challenging the Marxist march through our institutions, getting conservatives into positions of power should be a priority. And for a Conservative Government serious about winning again, sorting out the immigration crisis in the English Channel should be a priority.

The consequences of ignoring all this, and comforting yourself with the knowledge that the loony Left keeps losing elections, is this: each time a politician bends the knee, the BBC indulges itself by removing anthems, a museum removes a bust to rewrite history, and rioting is ignored by the police, we move one stop closer to allowing a tyrannical Twitter-dwelling minority to become very powerful indeed.

In responding to the news that only orchestral versions of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia! will be played at this year’s Last Night of the Proms, Boris Johnson said: “I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness.”  Wise words, Prime Minister, wise words – but what are you going to do about it?

It might not be fashionable for people like me to express my views about our national broadcaster on Twitter, but for a Government with an 80-seat majority to also be rendered unable to focus on and fix these pressing issues is a sign that, yes, whilst the Left does indeed keep losing, it’s not really all that far from the levers of power.

Darren Grimes: Johnson must face down the teaching unions with Thatcher-like resolve

12 Aug

“As Conservatives, we believe absolutely in equality of opportunity – the idea that every child, in every part of the country, should have a fair chance. It is not only the most important thing we can do to unleash the UK’s potential, but is at the heart of creating a fair and just society.”

That’s page 13 of the Conservative Party’s winning manifesto last year; a manifesto that secured Boris Johnson an 80 seat majority, saw seats that had always been red change with chameleon-like ease to boast a shade of blue, banished Jeremy Corbyn to the dustbin of history and ensured we could, finally, heal the divide and Get Brexit Done.

That, my friends, will have all been for nothing if the Prime Minister does not face down the teaching unions with Margaret Thatcher-like resolve. With warnings of Covid-19 growing inequalities between our richest kids and our poorest kids, Johnson will be rejected by the aspirational working class that voted for him in large numbers, whose hard slog is made easier in large part by an understanding that they’re ensuring a better lot for their sons and daughters.

The National Education Union, in providing its half a million members with a “checklist” of 200 safety demands for the reopening of our schools, has proven itself to be more concerned with being a thorn in the side of the Conservative Party over being the guardians of children’s interests. One item on the list asks the Government to answer: “Does the timetable include sufficient creative subjects, and space for dialogue and sustained thinking?”. There can be nothing more outrageous than to play politics with the future of our kids.

While Keir Starmer stands idly by as unions attempt to wreck the future of our children, raising questions about just how tough he would be in the top job, the Prime Minister can stand strong knowing that he has the public on his side if he decides to take on the unions. YouGov found that 57 per cent of Brits agree that schools should open after the summer, with only 25 per cent believing they should not.

Evidence from the Public Health Agency of Sweden, in a document titled Covid-19 in schoolchildren: A comparison between Finland and Sweden, compares two similar countries with very different approaches to lockdown: Finland was conventional in its closure of schools, Sweden famously much bolder in its refusal to countenance such an illiberal approach to its economy and society. The report concludes that the closure of schools had no measured effect on the number of cases of Covid-19 among children: “Children are not a major risk group of the Covid-19 disease.”

In a further boost for science-based evidence, on Monday morning, Russel Viner, a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and President of the Royal College of Peadiatrics told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “reopening schools is one of the least risky things we can do.” He then told Times Radio that there’s “at least five studies from around the world” that would suggest “there’s very, very little transmission of this virus in schools.”

How many times have you heard this government boast of how heavily it is following the science, they’re absolutely mad for “the science”! If that’s presently the case there will be absolutely no wiggle room for it not to return our schools to normal without a moment’s hesitation and resist following Labour in kowtowing to union pressure.

While our kids have been banished from our schools, I was delighted to learn of the Invicta Academy, that has delivered virtual lessons in English, Maths and Key-Stages 1-4 via Zoom in the likes of London, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Lancashire. The message from the entrepreneurial and community-minded founders of the project to the obstructive teaching unions is clear: if you try and delay the reopening of our schools, we will find a way to ensure our nation’s kids don’t suffer.

The problem is that it isn’t kids in Surrey or Oxfordshire that will suffer the most. According to the UCL Institute of Education, our kids on average understood 2.5 hours of schoolwork per day during lockdown. This, however, varies widely with 28 per cent of children in the South East doing more than four hours of offline schoolwork a day, compared with only nine per cent in the North East. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 31 per cent of private schools were delivering four or more hours of live online lessons a day, with state schools at a paltry six per cent.

The Prime Minister must be the champion of those who suffer disproportionately from our educational divide and disadvantage that his government’s response to Covid-19 has widened further. If, or when, it comes to future lockdowns, which would be utterly ruinous for the British economy, employment and wider society, our schools simply must keep the doors open from next month.

Darren Grimes: “Hey folks, eat out and spend more – no, not you, fatty. And here’s a new tax for you, consumer-friendly online retailer.”

29 Jul

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

“C’mon folks, Dine Out To Help Out at the taxpayer’s expense, feast like a Bourbon King to help Britain’s hospitality sector…!

“…Except you, fatty!”

“C’mon folks, get splashing the cash on retail to get the economy moving again and speed up our economic recovery…!”

“…Online retailer? Not you, I think you’ve caused quite enough trouble on our high streets, ta very much.”

It used to be a source of much hilarity when I worked in the think tank world and would see article after article from left-wing columnists about the so-called influence that think tanks have upon influencing and shaping the Conservative Party and government policy.

They do, of course, achieve way beyond their size and numbers – but with HS2 still going ahead, strict new junk food rules that ban pre-9p, advertisements and a proposed online sales tax, if there is a think tank playing the role of puppet master, it certain;y isn’t one on the side of business and the consumer.

By nature Conservatives, especially the rank and file membership, are wary of taxes, and are therefore unsympathetic to tax rises. They tend to think that people spend their own money more wisely than the Government spends it.

They regard taxes as an unfortunate necessity, because some things, such as defence, law and order, foreign policy, and some parts of care for those needing to be caught by society’s safety net have to be handled collectively.

Polling carried out by Survation for  the Adam Smith Institute reveals this to be the case beyond the Conservative Party’s card carriers. There is popular support for reducing taxes after the lockdown to help boost the economy and jobs – with young people the most supportive of tax cuts after the lockdown. You can understand why: they might not be casualties of Covid-19, but they have disproportionately suffered from the economic response to the disease. Young people who are trying to enter the workforce might well experience long-run lost earnings too.

I have two brothers back home in County Durham, both younger than I am at the ripe old age of 27; both struggling to find employment as many receive their P45; both wondering what their post-COVID future will look like, and both desperate for the experience that only gainful employment can offer.

We should be doing all they can to ensure that young people like them, in those highly-targeted former Red Wall areas and beyond, are offered the best possible chance to get back into work as quickly as possible.

That’s why I find it completely and utterly baffling that the Conservative Party seems to be doing all it can to kick consumers and businesses whilst they’re down. It’s those consumers and employers that we need to be helping to secure precious economic growth, and to regain those record levels of employment that we recently enjoyed and benefited from.

We should have a laser-like focus on reducing the tax burden on enterprises, supporting housing reform, improving accessibility to child care and championing trade over vested interests – instead of waxing lyrical about how fat Britain is and how one extra dose of nannying is all we need to get us off of our bottoms and away from our calorific excesses.

It really is quite something to see the Prime Minister, who once railed against paternalistic Toryism, becoming the champion of it – only days before the Government offers a taxpayer bung to encourage us all to stuff our faces to support British hospitality.

The proposals for taxes on online goods also don’t make any sense. At a time when many had no other choice but to shop online, these are taxes that are likely to get passed on to workers and consumers. They would make it much more difficult to sign a trade agreement with our American allies, are not what we should be doing at this unfrozen Brexit moment and will do nothing to alleviate the burden our consumers and high streets are facing. The solution to solving the issues our brick and mortar stores face will not be solved through clobbering online shoppers.

The question that it’s about time Her Majesty’s Treasury should ask itself would be: “which taxes should we cut to boost growth and jobs?” The answer is the taxes that discourage employment – such as National Insurance. We should reduce Corporation Tax, not by cutting the rate, but by allowing businesses to deduct the full cost of expenses they incur in the year that they incur them. In general, we should reduce or eliminate the taxes that discourage enterprise, employment and expansion – God knows, my younger brothers and millions like them could do with the helping hand.

Darren Grimes: Today, it’s Conservatives who are the real rebels – against woke conformity and the cancel culture

15 Jul

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

I’m often emailed by very kind folk who think I am acting bravely. I’ve always questioned this; after all, I am merely offering my opinions. But what they’re getting at is that ordinary conservatives are told their ideas and values are reactionary, prejudiced, sexist or racist, and to stand up against the trend, for the views of the common sense majority, is now considered brave to do.

Some might be wondering how on earth we conservatives can possibly be the rebels, when the Conservative Party recently won a Commons majority of 80, the party’s largest since 1987? It may also seem odd to describe conservatism as rebellious when rebels, by definition, want change, and conservatives seek to conserve.

But while self-described conservative political parties across the West win elections, they are losing the institutions that act as the scaffold of our culture. Consider the Left’s dominance of our media; social media giants playing the role of custodians of an openly left-wing environment, and the boardrooms of corporations seeking affirmation from those media and cultural gatekeepers – always a good demonstration of their enlightened values at dinner parties and Davos drinks receptions.

The reason why conservatism is rebellious today is that the dominant cultural view is one that seeks to uproot our past, and what we stand for – making it revolutionary to stand against this view. In this culture war propagated by our generously funded universities and the BBC, it’s clear that the Left’s online battalion of outrage mobs and cancellation notices are aimed squarely at those who dare argue against it.

There’s also a world of difference in small-c conservatism and the big C Conservative Party. The Left is winning, despite being formally out power; in education, the arts, among the regulators and within all of their powerful functions over everyday life, because our politicians seem more concerned with looking good to Twitter over actually being good.

It is perhaps understandable; it takes real guts to put your head above the political parapet – the most high profile curreny example is being J.K. Rowling with her defence of sex-segregated spaces and biological truth.

According to Populus, approximately two-thirds of British people thought that a male-born person, with a penis, who self-identifies as a woman, should not be allowed to use female-only changing rooms. For suggesting that this view is justifable, Rowling is dismissed by those that her work made stars of as “rather conservative”. So even what can be read as moderate conservatism is enough to warrant Rowling’s cancellation. A school has since dropped its plans to name one of its houses after her after the online furore.

For ordinary folk, to be conservative requires balls of steel. No platforming is a regular occurrence in our supposedly world-class universities: I have been contacted by students who report that it is almost impossible for some societies to secure venue bookings to host democratically elected MPs with centre-right views.

Imagine that. Those who represent our country are now not able to engage in discussion with our nation’s young. The invitation will be issued, accepted, a venue secured – and then, like clockwork, left-wing students will apply pressure to the university societies and diversity teams to work their no-platforming magic.

Is all lost for Britain’s young? Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University, presents limited data that shows that Britain’s youngest voters, the Zoomers, seem to be diverging from voters aged between 22 and 39. He posited the idea that the chilling effect of political correctness could explain why the ‘Jordan Peterson generation’ is quite so conservative. However, the issues a warning: “The Conservatives are going to have to do a lot more to reverse the leftward drift of the culture if they hope to remain competitive in a generation’s time.”

In a brilliant interview last weekend, Ricky Gervais depressingly argued that The Office wouldn’t get the green light in today’s climate. He made the case that free speech protects everyone, and explained that the evolving definition of what constitutes hate speech is detrimental to society, when our speech is already policed via libel, slander, watershed, advertising and criminal laws.  And he delivered the wonderfully pithy line: “If you’re mildly conservative [on Twitter], you’re Hitler!” If only our Conservative politicians could defend our values in such a robust fashion.

If we look at reforms since 2010, with Tory-led or Conservative majority governments, there’s precious little in the way of public appointments or reforms that show the Conservative Party’s ideological commitment in this area. Remember what happened to the late and great Roger Scruton? But with or without the big C party, there is much we can all do.

Online cancel culture depends on social anxiety and fear, which creates this atmosphere of self-censorship for what are ordinary and widely-held views. Under-represented voices in the mainstream media, arts and academia agree with you, your politics and your value system. The more of us that come out of the closet – the political one – the more tolerant and reflective our culture will become. Producing better quality discourse and a more rigorous discussion of ideas.

Those with genuinely sexist, racist or homophobic views are, rightly, called out for being so today. But so are those unfairly accused of being so by those that disagree with them. We may have moved on from the Middle Ages: it is not the man who is executed anymore, but his character on Twitter. Free discussion is being shut down. Activists must be reminded that how you challenge uncomfortable views is, as is evidenced throughout history, through more speech, not less. We must be opening up, not shutting down, avenues to discussion and debate.

Our ancestors were much braver than we are today.  But all is not yet lost, come out and join the reasoned fightback against this madness.

Darren Grimes: Why I’m backing this new campaign to defund the BBC

1 Jul

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

It’s safe to say that the BBC has had a terrible Coronavirus war.

Allowing itself to become the propaganda wing for Black Lives Matter protestors; dismissing one protest in particular that injured 27 rank and file police officers as ‘largely peaceful‘. The Corporation has decided it can use our own money to tell us what to think further still – removing Little Britain from its increasingly skewed iPlayer content. It then announced it would spend £100 million of our dosh on producing “diverse and inclusive content”, when its only diversity problem is its lack of diversity of thought.

At the weekend, the BBC even went as far as to say gay men who exclusively fancy men are transphobic, placing itself at the very front of the barricades of the culture war that we appear to have imported from the United States. In a BBC News piece on Pride Month, the (since removed) bit of text told us that: “discrimination also extends to what some people describe as transphobic preferences in the dating world: from cisgender gay men not wanting to date trans men”.

A gay man exclusively fancying men? “Bigotry!” says Auntie Beeb.

Readers of this column will be aware many things grind my gears, but having to pay the BBC to watch Newcastle United get thrashed in real-time, via a Now TV subscription, is one thing that I find staggeringly incomprehensible. As if being a NUFC fan isn’t punishment enough? To watch any live telly, I have to pay for the BBC in its entirety, even if I watch none of it. Funding right-on Gary Lineker’s large pay packet with the threat of prison if I do not.

It might well have made sense when my mother was a child to ensure that house number 48 couldn’t pick up the signals from number 47 for nothing, using just a TV set with an aerial or even a coathanger, but the world of broadcasting has changed. Back in my mother’s day, there existed no technological mechanism to charge people based on what they actually wanted to consume.

Choice in television has since exploded. More than 480 channels are available to every UK TV viewer, as well as an abundance of other streaming services: people are now used to paying a subscription for the telly they want. With an understanding that if you don’t pay the fee, the only penalty you face is that those channels are switched off.

That’s not the case with the BBC’s Telly Tax. It’s single mothers like mine that are hardest hit by non-payment of the licence fee. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 72 per cent of cases, or 93,319 of 129,446 prosecutions in 2018 were brought against women. If you ask me, that’s too high a price to pay just to keep Strictly Come Dancing on free-to-view telly.

And then there are young people. It was reported in December that around 18,000 people under the age of 20 have been prosecuted in the last five years. Surely the liberal do-gooders advocating decriminalisation for middle-class coke sniffers, to protect young people from a criminal record that they deem to be a minor or harmless activity, must now recognise the human cost to young people and women from criminalisation for non-payment of the telly tax?

The same bunch that opposed Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax must surely be opposed to the BBC’s poll tax. A tax imposed on those who are increasingly likely to watch little or no BBC output, but must pay the £154.50 a year tax, regardless of income, to watch a TV set.

Inevitably, all of those arguing that our courts are overstretched, seized-up and that the justice system must be better funded, will recognise that substantial resources are taken up with thousands of prosecutions for non-payment of the licence fee, right?

If you have read all of these arguments and heard them all before, many have not. That’s why I’ve decided to join the Defund The BBC campaign, which is now managed by the same set of seasoned campaigners behind StandUp4Brexit, who held our parliamentarians’ feet to the fire in ensuring that our voice and our vote for Brexit was listened to. They want to do that again with the BBC.

Defund The BBC want to make the case to the public, lobby our Government and stiffen the resolve of our parliamentarians to do something about the biased, bloated, antiquated and regressive BBC. Anything you can donate to their crowdfunding efforts will boost their campaign to secure the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee by the end of 2020, and to fight for a commitment from the Government to change the Charter, so that its remit covers only BBC channels and content.

Our broadcasting and streaming habits have left the 1970s days of aerials and coathangers behind them, it’s about time that the regressive and antiquated BBC funding model – with its real, present and tragic human cost – was dragged into 2020 with them.