Shaun Bailey: The Mayor of London should build up opportunity – rather than knock down statues

22 Oct

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

For better or for worse, the place you grow up in shapes the kind of person you become. When I look back on my childhood years, spent in a council house in Ladbroke Grove, I can see that the very best and the very worst of London were right there on my doorstep. And I can see how that shaped me and my friends.

At the time, Ladbroke Grove was a working-class community with a big racial mix. Between Moroccans and Poles, Irish and Nigerians, we looked like a Dulux colour palette of races; but there was very little racial tension. We were a real community, friendly with neighbours, helpful to those in need. There’s no doubt that these were some of the best aspects of London: multiracial, inclusive and welcoming.

But things changed as I got older. I don’t really know why. Maybe I just started to notice the other side of things. But whatever it was, crime and drugs became real problems. Gangs formed and started feuding. Houses were broken into. Cars were stolen. Friends got caught up in dealing.

This was the worst of London. Kids who couldn’t see a way up or a way out. Parents struggling to make ends meet. An area that was being left behind, forced to deal with problems by itself. Physically, we were only two and a half miles from South Kensington; but our realities were separated by much more than distance. And this is something we still see today in London.

It’s a reminder that one of London’s strengths is our diversity, the people of all backgrounds and nationalities who call this city home. But one of London’s biggest problems is rising crime on our streets. And we all know what crime does. It leaves innocent victims frightened, it drives communities apart, and it wastes the potential of every kid who gets caught in the vicious cycle.

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. At least twelve of my immediate peer group ended up in prison. And I’m pretty sure those kids would never have turned to crime if they’d grown up in better circumstances. So I was lucky to have my mum around. She kept me busy and on the right path. And she helped me to see that those kids often had the same potential I had: they just didn’t have anyone to help them make the most of it.

That’s why I decided to become a youth worker. I wanted to help bring out the potential of young people from areas like mine. When I ask myself how Ladbroke Grove shaped me, I can honestly say that the place where I grew up inspired me to do good. But more often than not, growing up in an area full of crime leads to a life full of crime.

So we need to do better. We need to build a city that’s safer, fairer, and more affordable. A city that our children deserve to inherit. But that means we need a Mayor who will deliver it. And it’s clear that Sadiq Khan won’t. Knife crime has reached historic highs. Good homes are unaffordable. Transport is overcrowded. The cost of living keeps rising. And Sadiq Khan blames everyone but himself. In fact, the only policies he’s announced in the last few months are an increased congestion charge, a plan to defund the police by £110 million, and a commission to decide which statues to tear down.

I can’t see how any of these proposals will help to build a better city. The congestion charge increase makes life more expensive for everyone: from businesses who need to get around to families who are now taxed for going to church. The plan to defund London’s police will make officers’ jobs that much harder — if they even manage to survive the cuts.

And it’s more obvious than ever that Sadiq Khan’s statue commission is a big mistake. During Black History Month, we should remember to think about the future as well as the past. And the future looks difficult for too many black Londoners. Young black men in London are half as likely to be employed as young white men. There are more FTSE 100 CEOs called Steve than CEOs who are black. How will tearing down statues fix these problems?

Our responsibility is to build a better future, not destroy our past. And that will be my priority as Mayor. Hiring 8,000 more police to make our streets safer. Working with the Met to improve relations between officers and the communities they serve. Reversing Sadiq Khan’s congestion charge hike on day one. And introducing a mentoring programme for Londoners from deprived communities, so they get expert advice on how to achieve their goals.

The only thing standing in the way is Sadiq Khan. So next May, I’m counting on ConHome readers get out and vote for the city they know Londoners deserve. Together, we can build a safer, fairer and more affordable city. Together, we can shorten the journey from Ladbroke Grove to South Kensington.

Interview: Goodhart says Johnson understands better than Starmer that a graduate meritocracy alienates manual workers

21 Oct

Sitting on a bench on a sunny afternoon in Hampstead, on a grassy bank with a view of Erno Goldfinger’s modern house at 2 Willow Road, David Goodhart warns of “the dark side of creating a cognitive meritocracy”.

In his new book, Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century, Goodhart contends that this meritocracy now shapes society largely in its own interests, and has devalued work done by hand or from the heart.

He believes Theresa May, Nick Timothy and Boris Johnson have so far shown greater signs than the Labour Party of comprehending what has gone wrong, and the need to uphold a national social contract.

Goodhart adds that we are sending far too many people to university, creating “a bloated cognitive bureaucratic class” and “a crisis of expectations for the kids”, many of whom find their degrees are of no real worth, and turn instead to protest movements such as Momentum and Black Lives Matter.

He laments “the lack of emotional intelligence of highly educated people”, and also touches on his own outbreak of rebellion after failing to be picked for the First Eleven cricket team at Eton.

ConHome: “Let’s start with the distinction you made in your previous book, The Road to Somewhere, between the Somewheres and the Anywheres.”

Goodhart: “The new book is The Road to Somewhere part two. It’s motivated by the same interest in understanding the political alienation of so many of our fellow citizens and what lies behind it.

“One of the complaints about the previous book was that the Anywhere/Somewhere divide is too binary. Obviously it is somewhat binary. But in the real world it is somewhat binary.

“People who read the book will know there’s lots of sub-divisions in the Anywheres, lots of sub-divisions in the Somewheres.

“A lot of the Guardian-reading classes felt I think very defensive about the last book – possibly rather less so about this one. The last book made more enemies because I was pointing out to a lot of people who think of themselves as progressive, and indeed on the side of the people who I call the Somewheres, that they are part of the problem.

“They like to think it’s the rich and the corporations that are the problem. But actually it is the lack of emotional intelligence of highly educated people whose priorities have dominated our society for the last generation or two.”

ConHome: “So this is new? Or it’s got worse, anyhow.”

Goodhart: “Exactly. It’s only really in the last 25, 30 years that the liberal graduate class has become so dominant, more numerous, and less inhibited about pursuing their own interests – generally thinking, for most of the time, that these are in the general, common interest, and indeed some of the time they are.

“Quite a large part of this is about educational stratification. It’s about the dark side of creating a cognitive meritocracy.

“We’re in the middle of a great deluge of books having a go at the meritocracy. There’s the Michael Sandel book, The Tyranny of Merit, there’s a guy a few months ago called Daniel Markovits who wrote a book called The Meritocracy Trap, he teaches at Yale Law School and is partly talking about his own very, very high-flying American students, and how even they suffer from it in some ways.

“These bigger reflections on the limits of meritocracy have mainly come from America. It’s quite interesting to reflect on why that is. One obvious reason is that meritocracy only really became – contrary to Michael Young’s intention [in The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033, published in 1958] – a feature of Centre-Left politics back in the Eighties, Nineties.

“After all, the Left had been at least formally more egalitarian than meritocratic. Meritocracy after all is the opportunity to be unequal.

“As that bold religion of socialism died, meritocracy became the soft soap version for modern social democrats, as the Left was forced to accept much of the political economy of the Centre Right, the Reagan/Thatcher reforms.

“It was easier for them to tell the meritocracy story than for the traditional Right, who at some level were still defending privilege. But even the Right was quite happy to take up the meritocratic mantle – the joke was that Tory party had been the party of people with large estates and was now the party of estate agents – they practised meritocracy while the Left talked about it.

“In America in particular this coincided with a period of grotesque increases in inequality, and slowdowns in social mobility pretty much across the western world.

“Meritocracy tends to get it both ways. It’s both criticised for not being sufficiently meritocratic, and it’s criticised in itself, for its own ideal – the Michael Young critique, which is essentially an egalitarian one. He was a very old-fashioned egalitarian socialist.

“Most people would go along with the Michael Young critique if you express it in terms of why on earth would we want to turn society into a competition in which the most able win and most of the rest feel like losers?”

ConHome: “It’s a very bleak, utilitarian idea, isn’t it. It doesn’t even contemplate the idea of human beings being of equal worth, which is the Christian idea.”

Goodhart: “The foundation of Christianity, and the foundation of democracy. One person one vote.”

ConHome: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…”

Goodhart: “In recent times, too much reward and prestige has gone to this one, cognitive form of merit.

“Of course we all believe in meritocracy at some fundamental level. You do not want to be operated on by someone who’s failed their surgery exams. The people who run your nuclear research programme should be your top nuclear physicists.”

ConHome: “If you support Arsenal, you want Arsenal to have the best players.”

Goodhart: “You do not choose the England cricket team by lottery.”

ConHome: “In your new book, while remarking on the role played by chance in deciding a life course, you say your rebellious streak, mucking up your A levels and so forth, emerged as the result of your failure to get into the First Eleven cricket team at Eton.”

Goodhart: “I compare myself to John Strachey, who became a leading Communist in the 1930s after failing to get into the Eton First Eleven.

“My self-regarding explanation for that is that I was captain of the under-16 team, and I was a very selfless captain.”

ConHome [laughing]: “You gave everyone else a bowl.”

Goodhart: “I was an all-rounder, so I came in at number seven or eight, and I bowled fifth or sixth change, so I didn’t really develop either skill to a sufficient level to get into the First Eleven.”

ConHome: “Too much of a team player. And why did you not get those six votes when you stood on a Far Left ticket for a full-time student union job at York University, and just failed to win?”

Goodhart [laughing]: “That was bloody lucky. I’d be a f***ing Labour MP now.

ConHome: “Your father, Sir Philip Goodhart, was a distinguished Conservative MP. Anyhow, you feel relieved not to be a Labour MP.

“Which leads on to the question: who, politically, gets what you are talking about? Did Nick Timothy and Theresa May?”

Goodhart: “Well I think so. People sometimes say I influenced the notorious ‘If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’ [May’s party conference speech of October 2016], but I think Nick is perfectly capable of thinking of that himself.

“But I contributed to a climate of opinion that made those sorts of ideas more legitimate and mainstream.

“It’s a shame that section of that speech…”

ConHome: “Came out all wrong.”

Goodhart: “I think what she said is perfectly right and perfectly legitimate, and she was actually aiming not so much at the Guardian academic, what Thomas Piketty called the Brahmin Left, she was aiming more at the people who don’t pay their taxes and the corporations who don’t pay their taxes, the people who live in the first-class airport lounges.

“All she had to do was preface it by something like ‘Of course there’s nothing wrong with being an internationally minded person…'”

ConHome: “There are lots of people here in Hampstead who think of themselves as citizens of the world, but they love Hampstead as well, and would rise up in their wrath against any threat to Hampstead.”

Goodhart: “They don’t have to love their country, but it’s also important they feel some kind of attachment to their fellow citizens, rather than feeling only attachment to international bodies or people suffering in faraway lands.

“Of course one should as a human being feel that. But national social contracts remain incredibly important, central to politics in many ways, and if the best educated and most affluent people are detaching themselves from those social contracts then I think there is a problem.

“And it’s reasonable for politicians to talk about it.”

ConHome: “To some extent both Trump and Johnson – without falling into the trap of imagining them to be identical – their success is partly explained by the work you’ve been doing.”

Goodhart: “Populism is a bastard expression of a majority politics which has not received expression in recent decades. The politics of what one might call the hard centre.

“Daniel Bell, the American sociologist, was asked for his political credo, some time back in the 1990s, and he said ‘a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics and a conservative in culture’.

“And I think that combination, I suppose someone like David Owen in this country might have come closer to it than most people, is very attractive, and I think it’s almost a majority one, but for various contingent historical reasons neither of the main political parties of the Centre Left or Centre Right have at least until recently adopted it.

“A lot of populism is a bastard form of that kind of lost centre actually.

“But I think both the Theresa May and to some extent the Boris Johnson government, when the Conservative Party decided it was going to be the party of Brexit, and particularly given how they’ve shifted to the Left on economic management, they probably come closer to that combination at the moment than any other political formation.

“And in some ways that’s a good thing. Boris rather oddly represents that combination, perhaps more than Starmer. And I do think, although I’ve been a member of the Labour Party most of my adult life, I resigned only a couple of years ago, I couldn’t bear the direction, because of Corbyn, yes, but even for Starmer I think there’s a real problem, me and Matt Goodwin argue which of us used this analysis first: that it’s easier for parties of the Right to move left on economics than it is for parties of the Left to move right on culture.”

Goodhart ended with some remarks about universities: “It’s absurd that we subsidise, even with tuition fees, the grand motorway into higher education. We’re international outliers in the very expensive form of higher education, which is residential higher education.

“Breaking that is I think pretty important in some ways. It’s a difficult thing to do. You get accused of wanting to kick away the ladder.

“We do need to readjust, and not allocate all of the prestige and reward to people that take the academic route, particularly as you just get diminishing returns.

“The most useful people, the Einsteins, are always going to be the people with the very highest academic, intellectual insight, producing new knowledge.

“What’s happened, though, is a whole great bloated cognitive bureaucratic class has emerged that piggybacks on the prestige of the higher intellectual cognitive class, and it’s now become dysfunctional.

“The knowledge economy simply doesn’t need so many knowledge workers, and yet we’re on automatic pilot, we’re creating a crisis of expectations for the kids.

“Even before AI comes along you can see this in the collapse of the graduate income premium. It used to be 100 per cent or 75 per cent, it’s now for most kids who don’t go to the most elite universities below ten per cent.

“They have these expectations. I think a lot of the political eruptions of recent times – Bernie Sanders in America, Jeremy Corbyn and the Momentum movement, even perhaps the Black Lives Matter movement, although there are obviously other factors there – are partly an expression of the disappointment of the new middle class at the lack of higher status and higher paid employment.”

The Government and self-ID. Scrapped for now. But the pressure isn’t going away.

24 Sep

Given the enormous amount of news about Coronavirus and Brexit, a contentious matter has gone under the radar in recent months. That is, whether the Government would drop proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 to allow for “self-ID”; in other words, a person being able to change their legal gender without a doctor’s approval or undertaking other administrative processes.

In 2017, Theresa May announced her government would run a consultation on reforming the GRA, with the expectation that it would allow transgender people to change their birth certificates without a medical diagnosis. Johnson’s Government, on the other hand, has reversed the idea. In April Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister, signalled that the existing checks would stay in place – something she confirmed to Parliament this week, and has received an incredibly polarised response over.

The strength of feeling on GRA is obvious from the fact that 102,000 people responded to the Government’s initial consultation on the subject. It is reported that thirty nine per cent of these came from Stonewall, which advocates for self-ID. 

Proponents of the concept argue that the current processes are intrusive and distressing; these include providing two medical reports (one to show a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”, and the other to outline details of what treatment has been received), obtaining the consent of a spouse if married, demonstrating that a transgender person has lived in their acquired gender for at least two years, and paying £140. Self-ID would put an end to all this.

Many, particularly women’s rights groups, feel it goes too far, however. While polls routinely show that the public is sympathetic to trans rights, there are concerns about transgender women with male anatomy being able to access female-only facilities, such as prisons and changing rooms. From women’s sport, to census data collection, self-ID would have enormous practical and legal implications.

The Government clearly wants to achieve a compromise on the matter. Although ministers haven’t carried forward self-ID, they want to speed up the process for those wanting to change gender. Truss, for instance, said that the Government would be “opening at least three new gender clinics this year” to reduce waiting lists; that the process would be “kinder and more straightforward”, mainly by moving online, and that the fee would be reduced to a “nominal” amount.

Is the debate closed, though? While it looked that way this week, the Government will still find itself under enormous pressure to reform the GRA – not only from activist groups.

For starters, there’s its own MPs. Crispin Blunt has been one of the most vocal about the decision. He said it had caused “crushing disappointment”, and accused Truss of not proposing legislation – so as to avoid it being voted down. “Does she appreciate that her statement does not command a majority in this House?” Were his words.

There’s also the fact that Scotland is close to implementing self-ID, as Rebecca Lowe and Victoria Hewson recently pointed out in their column for ConHome. This will either exacerbate demands on Johnson’s Government to change direction – or give it evidence of why self-ID is practically untenable.

Lastly, one of the big surprises this year was that Google UK attacked Truss over self-ID. On June 18, the company Tweeted a petition to its followers (which now stand at 190,000), inviting them to sign a petition asking her to reform the GRA. “Don’t roll back on trans dignity”, it read, along with the hashtag: #TRUSSTME.

It emphasised a sinister, broader point, which is the capacity for tech giants to try and influence political policy (something troubling considering the Government’s increasing reliance on them – not least to help get out Britain’s contact tracing app).

With all that being said, Truss was robust in her response to Blunt’s criticisms, and no doubt many people will have been impressed with her actions.

But with Conservatives having u-turned on the matter, it’s a reminder that shifts in leadership can easily change the direction of this battle. The Government has got its way for now, but the debate is far from over.

Doug Stokes: The Conservatives must rally to the flag of the Enlightenment tradition as the culture wars rage

20 Sep

Doug Stokes is a Professor in International Relations at the University of Exeter.

Slowly, perhaps too slowly, the Conservative Party is waking up to the importance of the ‘culture wars’. These struggles over meaning will only grow in significance as the UK charts its post-Brexit destiny, itself intimately bound up with questions of culture and identity. How can a nation know what it wants if it does not know what it is?

On the Left, ‘woke’ politics, with its binary worldview of moral certainty, sin, guilt and deconstructive redemption through Western self-erasure is more akin to a secular theology than a programme of political transformation. It offers little to the vast majority of the British people who are sick of its banal virtue signalling, and the open contempt of its high priests in the media, universities and throughout British institutional life.

The Labour Party now faces a likely irreconcilable balancing act, insofar as it must bring together its hyper-woke graduate middle-class activist base and the socially conservative and now ‘Blue Wall’ former Labour voters. Keit Starmer will have to learn to do the impossible: to bend his knee whilst climbing walls.

For its part, the Conservative Party should plant its flag firmly within the Enlightenment tradition of reason, freedom and equality of opportunity. Coupled with a progressive patriotism, this would be a winning cultural formula, and essentially pushes at an open door. Moreover, it would bring together its ‘levelling up’ agenda with a collective story that binds and unifies and links the past with the present to map a future.

There is both a party political but much more important existential element to the increasingly ‘hot’ culture wars. In party political terms, if the Conservatives fail to grasp this nettle, a new party to its right may well do so. At the moment, there is a political vacuum, amplified by its flaccid response to Black Lives Matter riots and continued assaults on the nation’s heritage and history.

Of more pressing existential import is the dangerous game being played by leftist ‘woke’ theologians. From what is little more than anti-white racism peddled by ‘critical race theorists’ and their ‘white privilege’ useful idiots in our universities, media and boardrooms, new forms of divisive thinking predicated around racial interest articulation are beginning to emerge. Preaching to gullible white liberals about their alleged privilege is an easy sell, and this seems to be the underlying gamble: guilt-tripping will help lead to political change.

However, beyond the BBC, lecture halls and other privileged islands, guilt will likely not go very far. It is hard to see how the woke priesthood’s catechism of privilege and self-flagellation will be received in such places as Rotherham. Failure to contain this genie, released by the explosive assault on British identity, places our valuable multicultural dispensation in grave peril. The twin crises of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic have justifiably meant the party has been slow off the blocks in recognising this, but it must not linger for much longer.

At the moment, we are living through a unique structural moment in British politics. Strategically, the party should restructure elements of our legal-institutional matrix, much of which underpins the left’s culture war arsenal. Failure to do so will mean that whilst the Conservatives are in power, its exercise will be stymied time after time, and in the culture wars at least, conservatives will suffer a death of a thousand cuts.

What are the elements of this matrix? On the one hand, the party faces a largely left-hegemonic institutionalised ‘fifth column’, composed of quangos and assorted charities. Despite their hyperbole, the UK remains one of the most socially progressive societies on earth, as even a cursory glance at most data metrics show very clearly.

However, these entities have both a bureaucratic and economic self-interest in evidencing ‘forever’ grievance narratives that feed the left’s culture war. For over a decade, various Tory chancellors have pumped billions into these bodies. Why?

Crucially, in a market of diminishing inequality, these ‘social justice’ organisations and theorists have evolved and adapted to new market realities with often Orwellian conceptual innovations to evidence injustice and thus drive political change and their continued funding. From junk science mandatory tests for unconscious biases in corporate boardrooms to students being paid to police alleged unintentional micro-aggressions in our universities, forms of embedded egalitarianism are often illiberal and increasingly authoritarian.

A ‘grievance industrial complex’ exists to evidence the above, but in a market of diminishing inequality, the complex must adapt with ever more bizarre and illiberal conceptual innovations to make sure demand for one’s services is maintained in the context of a diminishing supply of injustice.

Philosophically, this grievance industry deliberately conflates equal outcomes with equal opportunities. The script is familiar. If there’s an unequal outcome, anywhere and at any point, likely explanatory variables are ignored in favour of an amorphous ‘systemic’ conspiracy to reproduce a system of discrimination. It does not matter that this ‘systemic’ conspiracy is totally at odds with readily available data on the incredible financial, educational and cultural advances of the UK’s diverse population.

Conveniently, ‘justice’ is achieved by a redistributive agent of technocrats to intervene to impose equal outcomes in the name of social justice and to combat this ‘systemic’ conspiracy. Similar to the USSR, this conception shifts debates from an examination of underlying processes that allow humans to participate equally to one of top down imposition to achieve outcome parity, usually by a self-interested elite that has a self-interest in mission creep and the maintenance of their power.

The Conservative Party must reboot its philosophical thinking around this crucial distinction: there has been a dangerous and lazy drift across British institutional life from equality of opportunity that is entirely consistent and optimal for a functional market democracy to one of equity or equality of outcomes.

To the extent that the latter conception wins out over the former, conservatives will keep losing battle after battle in what is in fact an ever hotter and ongoing value-conflict raging within the anglophone West.

Of far more strategic significance however, is the foundation upon which this grievance industrial complex sits. It is quite shocking that, after ten years of Conservatives in government, the Equality Act of 2010 has been left totally unreformed.

Although this legislation was intended to safeguard access to equal opportunities, it has in fact morphed into the central juridical weapon of the left. In particular, section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 – the Public Sector Equality duty – has breathed into being an army of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officials across huge swathes of national life.

Through mission creep, this has imposed huge costs on our public sector, helped shift social discourse to one of outcome equality as being the central metric and weaponized the duty to ‘foster good relations’ to transform organisational cultures in often highly illiberal ways.

No doubt the ‘optics’ of reform will be seized on by political opponents, but this is why the party should bundle this up within a much broader cultural offering: a reassertion of the primacy of the Enlightenment tradition of reason, freedom of speech and conscience and equality of all before the law, regardless of creed, class or colour.

It is these values that have helped challenge dogma, champion freedom and defend those gains once made. These are now under radical assault, with those questioning the orthodoxies of the ‘great awokening’ often targeted for harassment and censure. The Conservative Party should lay a firm claim to the enlightenment tradition and let that be its lodestar in the culture wars. Failure to do so will place our current dispensation in deep peril; it is time to wake up.

Doug Stokes: The Conservatives must rally to the flag of the Enlightenment tradition as the culture wars rage

20 Sep

Doug Stokes is a Professor in International Relations at the University of Exeter.

Slowly, perhaps too slowly, the Conservative Party is waking up to the importance of the ‘culture wars’. These struggles over meaning will only grow in significance as the UK charts its post-Brexit destiny, itself intimately bound up with questions of culture and identity. How can a nation know what it wants if it does not know what it is?

On the Left, ‘woke’ politics, with its binary worldview of moral certainty, sin, guilt and deconstructive redemption through Western self-erasure is more akin to a secular theology than a programme of political transformation. It offers little to the vast majority of the British people who are sick of its banal virtue signalling, and the open contempt of its high priests in the media, universities and throughout British institutional life.

The Labour Party now faces a likely irreconcilable balancing act, insofar as it must bring together its hyper-woke graduate middle-class activist base and the socially conservative and now ‘Blue Wall’ former Labour voters. Keit Starmer will have to learn to do the impossible: to bend his knee whilst climbing walls.

For its part, the Conservative Party should plant its flag firmly within the Enlightenment tradition of reason, freedom and equality of opportunity. Coupled with a progressive patriotism, this would be a winning cultural formula, and essentially pushes at an open door. Moreover, it would bring together its ‘levelling up’ agenda with a collective story that binds and unifies and links the past with the present to map a future.

There is both a party political but much more important existential element to the increasingly ‘hot’ culture wars. In party political terms, if the Conservatives fail to grasp this nettle, a new party to its right may well do so. At the moment, there is a political vacuum, amplified by its flaccid response to Black Lives Matter riots and continued assaults on the nation’s heritage and history.

Of more pressing existential import is the dangerous game being played by leftist ‘woke’ theologians. From what is little more than anti-white racism peddled by ‘critical race theorists’ and their ‘white privilege’ useful idiots in our universities, media and boardrooms, new forms of divisive thinking predicated around racial interest articulation are beginning to emerge. Preaching to gullible white liberals about their alleged privilege is an easy sell, and this seems to be the underlying gamble: guilt-tripping will help lead to political change.

However, beyond the BBC, lecture halls and other privileged islands, guilt will likely not go very far. It is hard to see how the woke priesthood’s catechism of privilege and self-flagellation will be received in such places as Rotherham. Failure to contain this genie, released by the explosive assault on British identity, places our valuable multicultural dispensation in grave peril. The twin crises of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic have justifiably meant the party has been slow off the blocks in recognising this, but it must not linger for much longer.

At the moment, we are living through a unique structural moment in British politics. Strategically, the party should restructure elements of our legal-institutional matrix, much of which underpins the left’s culture war arsenal. Failure to do so will mean that whilst the Conservatives are in power, its exercise will be stymied time after time, and in the culture wars at least, conservatives will suffer a death of a thousand cuts.

What are the elements of this matrix? On the one hand, the party faces a largely left-hegemonic institutionalised ‘fifth column’, composed of quangos and assorted charities. Despite their hyperbole, the UK remains one of the most socially progressive societies on earth, as even a cursory glance at most data metrics show very clearly.

However, these entities have both a bureaucratic and economic self-interest in evidencing ‘forever’ grievance narratives that feed the left’s culture war. For over a decade, various Tory chancellors have pumped billions into these bodies. Why?

Crucially, in a market of diminishing inequality, these ‘social justice’ organisations and theorists have evolved and adapted to new market realities with often Orwellian conceptual innovations to evidence injustice and thus drive political change and their continued funding. From junk science mandatory tests for unconscious biases in corporate boardrooms to students being paid to police alleged unintentional micro-aggressions in our universities, forms of embedded egalitarianism are often illiberal and increasingly authoritarian.

A ‘grievance industrial complex’ exists to evidence the above, but in a market of diminishing inequality, the complex must adapt with ever more bizarre and illiberal conceptual innovations to make sure demand for one’s services is maintained in the context of a diminishing supply of injustice.

Philosophically, this grievance industry deliberately conflates equal outcomes with equal opportunities. The script is familiar. If there’s an unequal outcome, anywhere and at any point, likely explanatory variables are ignored in favour of an amorphous ‘systemic’ conspiracy to reproduce a system of discrimination. It does not matter that this ‘systemic’ conspiracy is totally at odds with readily available data on the incredible financial, educational and cultural advances of the UK’s diverse population.

Conveniently, ‘justice’ is achieved by a redistributive agent of technocrats to intervene to impose equal outcomes in the name of social justice and to combat this ‘systemic’ conspiracy. Similar to the USSR, this conception shifts debates from an examination of underlying processes that allow humans to participate equally to one of top down imposition to achieve outcome parity, usually by a self-interested elite that has a self-interest in mission creep and the maintenance of their power.

The Conservative Party must reboot its philosophical thinking around this crucial distinction: there has been a dangerous and lazy drift across British institutional life from equality of opportunity that is entirely consistent and optimal for a functional market democracy to one of equity or equality of outcomes.

To the extent that the latter conception wins out over the former, conservatives will keep losing battle after battle in what is in fact an ever hotter and ongoing value-conflict raging within the anglophone West.

Of far more strategic significance however, is the foundation upon which this grievance industrial complex sits. It is quite shocking that, after ten years of Conservatives in government, the Equality Act of 2010 has been left totally unreformed.

Although this legislation was intended to safeguard access to equal opportunities, it has in fact morphed into the central juridical weapon of the left. In particular, section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 – the Public Sector Equality duty – has breathed into being an army of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officials across huge swathes of national life.

Through mission creep, this has imposed huge costs on our public sector, helped shift social discourse to one of outcome equality as being the central metric and weaponized the duty to ‘foster good relations’ to transform organisational cultures in often highly illiberal ways.

No doubt the ‘optics’ of reform will be seized on by political opponents, but this is why the party should bundle this up within a much broader cultural offering: a reassertion of the primacy of the Enlightenment tradition of reason, freedom of speech and conscience and equality of all before the law, regardless of creed, class or colour.

It is these values that have helped challenge dogma, champion freedom and defend those gains once made. These are now under radical assault, with those questioning the orthodoxies of the ‘great awokening’ often targeted for harassment and censure. The Conservative Party should lay a firm claim to the enlightenment tradition and let that be its lodestar in the culture wars. Failure to do so will place our current dispensation in deep peril; it is time to wake up.

Neil O’Brien: Introducing the new Levelling Up Taskforce – and its first report on how we can measure progress

7 Sep

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

Were you still up for Penistone? One of joys of election night last December was winning so many seats we’ve not held for decades.

The constituencies we won over in 2019 are quite different from the party’s traditional base, in the deep red bits of the map above. Seats we gained last year don’t just have lower earnings than the seats we held, but earnings five per cent lower than Labour seats. Of the bottom quarter of seats in Great Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by us than Labour. Compared to seats we gained, homes in Labour constituencies are a third more expensive.

Many of the places we won have felt neglected for a long time. And led from the front by the Prime Minister, the new Government has committed to “levelling up” poorer places. But what does that really mean? How can we measure if we are succeeding? How can we get the private sector growing faster in these places, making the country stronger overall?

To help the Government answer these questions, I and 40 other Conservative MPs have formed a new Levelling Up Taskforce.

Our first report is out today, looking at how we can measure progress. It also examines what’s been happening in different parts of the UK economy over recent decades.

Income per person in London (before paying taxes and receiving benefits) grew two thirds faster than the rest of the country between 1997 and 2018: it’s now 70 per cent higher in London than the rest of the country, up from 30 per cent higher in 1997.

While the divergence seen since the 90s has been a story of London pulling away from all of the rest of the country, it follows decades in which former industrial areas in the north, midlands, Scotland and Wales fell behind. Between 1977 and 1995 South Yorkshire, Teesside and Merseyside saw GDP per person fall by 20 per cent compared to the national average, and most such areas haven’t caught up that lost ground.

Why does this matter?

It matters, first, because opportunity is linked to the economy. There are fewer opportunities to climb the ladder in poorer places. Not just fewer good jobs, but less opportunity in other ways.

In London, over 45 per cent of poorer pupils who were eligible for free school meals progressed to higher education in 2018/19. Outside London there were 80 local authorities where richer pupils who were not on free school meals were less likely than this to go to university. Overall, more than 60 per cent go to university in places like Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. But less than a third go places like in Knowsley, Barnsley, Hull, and Thurrock.

It also matters because more balanced economies are stronger overall. In an unbalanced economy, resources like land and infrastructure are overloaded in some places, even while they are underused elsewhere. This might be particularly true where cities have seen population shrinkage, and have surplus infrastructure and land. If there are greater distances between workers and good job opportunities that makes it harder for people to get on: not everyone can (or wants) to move away from family to find a better job.

More balanced is stronger overall, but on a wide range of measures the UK is one of the most geographically unbalanced economies. In Germany 12 per cent of people live in areas where the average income is 10 per cent below the national average, while in the UK 35 per cent do. It is very striking that there is no industrialised country that has a more unbalanced economy than the UK and also a higher income, while all the countries that have a higher income have a more balanced economy.

What are we going to do about it? Well, that’s the question our new group will try to answer.

The answer isn’t any of the traditional Labour ones: pumping public sector jobs into places, or subsidising low wage employment, or trying to hold back successful places: we’re interested in levelling up, not levelling down.

Different things will work in different places.

For example, transport improvements might make a bigger difference for remote areas. The ONS defines certain places as “sparse”: the north of Devon and Cornwall, most of central Wales, Shropshire and Herefordshire, most of Cumbria and the rural north east, along with large parts of North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and North Norfolk. In these places income levels are 17-18 per cent lower. Even controlling for the qualifications and age of people living there, these sparse areas have income levels between £600-£1,300 a year lower, likely driven by poor connectivity.

In other places, the answers are different. I’ve written before about how the way we spend money on things like R&D, transport and housing is skewed towards already-successful areas, creating a vicious circle. We should change that.

But tax cuts could also play a bigger role in helping poorer areas. There’s actually been convergence between regions at the bottom end of the earnings distribution, driven by things like the National Living Wage, tax cuts for low income workers, and things like Universal Credit, which have reduced the differences between places by levelling up the poorer areas more. In poorer places, more people benefit from these policies.

The reason there are growing gaps between areas overall is divergence higher up the income scale.
Looking at the gap between earnings for full-time workers in London and the North East, the pay gap shrank for the bottom 30 per cent of workers, but grew for those higher up. For those at the 10th percentile the pay gap between the two places shrank from 32 per cent to 20 per cent. But for richer folks at the 90th percentile, it grew from 62 per cent to 88 per cent.

So how do we get more good, high-paying jobs into poorer areas? There are a million different specific opportunities, but one that’s relevant in a lot of Red Wall seats is advanced manufacturing.

Over recent decades, Chancellors have tended to cut capital allowances (a tax break for investment) in order to lower the headline rate of corporation tax. I’m not sure that was a good idea: Britain has a lower rate of fixed capital investment than competitors and our tax treatment of investment is stingy. But either way, this change has had a pronounced regional impact: it favours services over manufacturing, so helps some areas more than others.

One way to blast our way through the current economic turmoil would be to get businesses investing again by turning capital allowances right up (“full expensing” in the jargon). That would be particularly likely to help poorer areas. Indeed, when we have tried this in a targeted way before it worked.

Government should think more about how tax and spending decisions can help us level up. It should produce geographical analysis of all budgets and fiscal events, setting out the different impact that tax and spending changes will have on different areas. The Treasury’s Labour Markets and Distributional Analysis unit should have geographical analysis added to its remit.

This whole agenda is exciting. But a lot of people are cynical, because they heard New Labour talk the talk – but not deliver. We’ve got to deliver. So let’s hold ourselves to account, and set ourselves some ambitious goals.

Let’s get earnings growing faster than before in poorer areas. Let’s get unemployment down in the places it’s worst. They say that “what gets measured gets managed.” So let’s “measure up” our progress on levelling up.

Rebecca Lowe: CNN’s “individuals with a cervix” Tweet, and why denying biological sex can harm those its meant to help

4 Aug

Rebecca Lowe is the former director of FREER, and a former assistant editor of ConservativeHome. She is co-founder of Radical.

I’m going to assume you saw three things on Twitter this weekend. But don’t worry, I’ll go through them briefly, now, and I’ll explain my annoying Twitter-centricity, below.

The first of these things was a tweet by CNN, saying: “Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65”. The second thing was a range of people replying to CNN’s tweet with variations on the theme of, “Cervix-havers?! You mean women!”. And the third thing was a less wide-ranging set of people responding to these “Women!” tweets, with claims that the people who wrote them were transphobic.

Now, to anyone who doesn’t follow this stuff, it must sound a bit “inside baseball”. And, yes, I know there’ll be comments below this column telling me: “The world is bigger than Twitter!”, and “Get a life!”. But the point is that this kind of exchange – “Women!”, followed by “Transphobe!” – is becoming common. And so is the thing that instigated it. Organisations like CNN know full well what they’re doing when they say things like “individuals with cervixes”.

Indeed, in our fortnightly Radical column, we’ve written many times about the powerful lobby pushing the agenda that leads to wording like CNN’s. As we’ve documented, this lobby has captured our institutions – local authorities, schools, medical providers, police forces, and so on. And commercial organisations have proven keen to extract financial gain from what’s become a raging culture war. (I don’t use terms like “culture war” lightly, but it’s hard not to see all this in that way.)

Now, one obvious response to this weekend’s problem – as various sensible-seeming people have pointed out – is that organisations like CNN could simply refer to “women and other cervix-havers”. Or, “women and transmen”. Because that’s where the crux of the matter lies. The main reason that accusations of “Transphobe!” are levelled at the people who shout “Women!”, is that the accusers believe – counter to scientific acceptance – that not all cervix-havers are women.*

This is not, generally, however, because those who shout “Transphobe!” believe that someone born a man can have a cervix. Rather, it’s because they believe that being a “man” or “woman” is not determined by biology, but rather by the way in which someone “identifies”.

So, they shout “Transphobe!” largely because there are some natal women who identify as men, but who haven’t had their reproductive systems removed to meet their desire to present themselves as men. And these transmen, the “Transphobe!” shouters believe, are not covered by the term “women”, because -regardless of their extant cervix, or any biological fact – they are now “men”.

Nonetheless, I imagine many of the people who shout “Transphobe!” wouldn’t like the solution on which CNN write “women and transmen”. And this is, surely, because such a phrase would work to emphasise an essential difference between people who are natal members of a sex set, and those who identify into it.

And what the “Transphobe!” people want is to elide these two things. In other words, if “transwomen are women”, and “transmen are men” -as their mantras go – then, the phrase “women and transmen” is problematic, because the “full” reduction of this would, of course, be “women and men”.

Now, the solution on which CNN write “women and transmen” would, also – I believe – not go down too well with many of the people who shout “Women!”. (I should confirm at this point that I am one of those people, albeit one who prefers calm, reasoned argument to shouting, wherever possible.)

And this is because the people who shout “Women!” see the CNN tweet as a particular kind of intentional political act – a sexist one. This kind of tweet, in other words, serves purposefully to help to write women out of the picture, in an insidious way.

So, we appear to have reached stalemate: people shouting across each other on the internet, with no hope for mid-ground pragmatic solutions. Or, do we?

Well, aside from my concerns about what all this means for women – and, particularly, girls, as I’ve set out here, before – I’m also worried by the lack of concern for transpeople that is shown by those who shout “Transphobe!”, whenever anyone refers to the realities of biological sex. I wonder whether, potentially, this worry could help us – or, at least, those of us entering these discussions from a shared position of good will – to find a point of agreement.

The point here, surely, is that shouting “Transphobe!” in response to “Women!” cannot really be in transpeople’s interests. This is not only because unfair accusations of prejudice help nobody: they dilute focus on real instances of prejudice, and also make people scared to enter into necessary discussion. But it is also because transpeople’s needs cannot be fully met if, as a society, we pretend there is no such thing as biological sex.

Rather, if we recognise, as we must, that transpeople have some particular needs that differ from the needs of the natal members of the biological sex with which those transpeople identify, then it cannot be that “transwomen are women” – if “women” is to mean what it needs to mean.

These needs include some transwomen’s need for testicular cancer treatment and some transmen’s need for cervical smears. On top of this, specific trans needs also include support against trans-specific prejudice, which differs from misogyny and misandry, from which many transpeople also suffer.

Now, meeting all of these particular needs requires widespread and formal awareness of the realities of biological sex – and that requires words, so we can discuss these things. Using the words “woman” and “man” for these purposes is simply reflective of the development of the English language.

Yes, we could begin to use other words for these purposes. Instead of “woman”, for instance, we could use “female-person”, or “womxn”, or “shwoman”, or “abc”. But we would come to the same place, and that is a place in which this particular word would refer to what it is to be a natal member of one particular biological sex.

Using “woman” to mean a natal member of one particular biological sex is, therefore, exclusionary. But it is not exclusionary for hateful reasons; it is not a value judgement. It is a functional term, and it is required for the meeting of sex-specific needs.

These needs go beyond healthcare. They also relate to sex-specific concerns around bodily privacy and security, as recognised in the Equality Act. They relate to matters of fairness, too. And if we have no relevant words, then – as with healthcare concerns – people will miss out on what they need.

In other words, if you deny the realities of biological sex, in order to be kind – and I am certain that the majority of the people who are committed to the mantra “transwomen are women” are committed to it because they think that it is kind, and good – then you will end up harming those people you seek to protect.

_______

*Of course, to state that “all cervix-havers are women” is not the same as to state that “all women have cervixes” (women who’ve had total hysterectomies, for instance).

Gary Powell: Local authorities and the transing of non-transgender young people: a serious child safeguarding issue

30 Jul

Cllr Gary Powell is a councillor in Buckinghamshire

Local authorities have a legal and moral safeguarding duty in relation to how their services impact on children and also people with protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. There are nine protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, sex, disability and gender reassignment. With the onward march of extreme gender ideology, we are seeing an alarming number of false positives among children identified – or “self-identifying” – as transgender. Most at risk of being catapulted along a false transing pathway are children who are actually gay, lesbian, on the autistic spectrum, or gender-non-conforming.

Councils need to take reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the services that they provide or support causing harm to children because of reckless political virtue-signalling, (which includes allowing boys to use girls’ toilets in schools). If they do not, then those local authorities will be in serious breach of their child safeguarding duties and their duties to avoid causing indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 with regard to sexual orientation, disability (autism) and sex. Betraying vulnerable children will rightly expose councils to legal action in due course by the victims of that betrayal.

The main purveyor in the UK of what I would term extreme gender ideology is the LGBT+ lobbying group, Stonewall: an multi-million-pound turnover outfit that receives over £600,000 from local and national government, and that I wrote about previously in Conservative Home. It has enormous influence on Relationship and Sex Education in schools via its LGBT+ education programmes. As a gay rights activist for forty years, I regard Stonewall as having become a highly pernicious influence in modern British society.

The LGBT+ movement, as distinct from the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) movement, is particularly effective at throwing mud at good people who oppose extreme gender ideology, including attempts to get gender heretics sacked merely for daring to say that biological sex is real. However, when a BBC Newsnight report highlighted the probability that gay and lesbian children are wrongly self-identifying as trans and being referred to gender clinics, the LGBT+ movement responded with silence.

The allegations in a recent report on BBC Newsnight into events at the Tavistock Centre, England’s only NHS children’s gender clinic, highlight how out-of-control the western leftist obsession with gender ideology has become. BBC Newsnight had read a “sizeable portion” of staff interview transcripts resulting from a review into the Tavistock Centre GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service): a review triggered by “serious concerns about children’s welfare raised by staff in an internal report”. Newsnight reported that, in all the interview transcripts they saw, there was mention of homophobia in the families of the children attending the clinic. Transcripts contained reports of young people struggling with their sexual orientation, and some parents appearing to prefer their children to be transgender (and therefore heterosexual), rather than gay or lesbian.

How do children land up in these GIDS clinics? The Tavistock declares:

“We accept self-referrals as well as referrals from GPs and other professionals such as social workers, psychiatrists and teachers.”

Social workers, teachers … we are squarely in local authority child safeguarding and Equality Act territory.

How many local authorities are responsible for creating a culture that responds to the vulnerabilities of gay and lesbian children by giving so much prominence to transgender issues that children grasp at an escape route out of their stigmatised homosexuality? A lesbian girl who is attracted to females now self-identifies as a heterosexual boy in a female body. Not only that, but with staggering implausibility, children are treated by the medical and political establishment as capable of giving informed consent to receive hormones that will block their puberty – and after only three counselling sessions at a GIDS clinic. The physically damaging process of puberty blockers almost always leads to cross-sex hormones at a later date, followed by breast or genital amputations. This is surely a shocking and abject failure in child safeguarding.

Stonewall is strikingly quiet about the transing of gay and lesbian children. It campaigns for people to be recognised as trans without any diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and for people to be able to enjoy all the rights associated with being trans simply by self-identifying as trans. 80 per cent of transwomen retain their male genitalia. Predatory men with male genitalia pretending to be transwomen so they can access girls’ and women’s changing rooms? This is a child safeguarding nightmare.

Stonewall reveal on their website (page last updated in 2015) that 56 local authorities have signed up to their Diversity Champions programme (annual subscription £2,500). Of these, 10 are Conservative-run councils.

Not only are gay and lesbian children in danger of being wrongly transed with the tacit or active consent of their local authority: in equal danger are the many boys and girls who simply do not confirm to 1950s gender stereotypes, and who may become persuaded they are transgender. Children on the autistic spectrum constitute another high-risk group. The Tavistock Centre’s internal review revealed that 35 per cent of the children referred to them had autistic traits, compared to a normal community prevalence of three per cent.

A disproportionate number of children with autism are ending up in GIDS clinics: something about which a leading Asperger syndrome specialist, Prof. Tony Attwood, has expressed concern. Many such children can come to mistakenly view gender transition as a potential cure for their autism-related struggles and difficulties.

Local authorities have an important duty to support those children with genuine gender dysphoria, which is a complex and potentially very distressing pathology. However, this duty is matched by an equal duty not to cause harm to other groups of children, and to provide clear guidance to their own departments, schools, and partner agencies, in order to ensure that trans issues are taught about and dealt with in a sensible and sensitive manner. This is potentially a child safeguarding timebomb waiting to explode. Not for the first time, the suffering of child victims is being tolerated and ignored in the service of political or social expediency.

Crispin Blunt and Sue Pascoe: It’s time to correct the stoking of alarm and spreading of misinformation about trans people

16 Jul

Crispin Blunt is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT and Rights, and is MP for Reigate. Sue Pascoe is Acting Area Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation in North and East Yorkshire.

As the UK strives for a new global place in the world, it’s important that we place equal weight on our personal freedoms, the prosperity of our communities, and equality and equity of opportunity for our people as we level up our country.

We must not leave any section of our society behind because of misunderstandings, prejudice or fear.  It is the first duty of government to foster an environment where this exists for everyone. We hope as a Party, a Government and members of society that we can each hold out a helping hand to all those who still struggle, who still face the difficulties of daily life, who still cannot be their authentic selves.

Our freedom and our basic humanity are two of the key components of what defines us as individuals. When we cannot be our authentic selves, our freedom and our humanity is taken away from us.

During recent months, we had begun to despair with some sections of the media and its relentless stoking of alarm and spreading of misinformation about trans people. There appear to have been orchestrated campaigns to try and roll back the hard-won rights of not only trans adults but of vulnerable trans young people as well.

We would like to bust some myths.

  • Women and trans people have the same need to live in safety from abuse, sexualharassment and physical violence. Trans women and trans young people are not aninherent threat to women. Sadly, there are a small number of abusive people in thisworld of all genders and measures and efforts should focus on stopping their actions.
  • We are out of step with other countries around the world in adopting rights fortransgender people – from such countries as Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia to many of the states in the US to countries closer to home like Portugal, Belgium and Ireland. United Nations Free and Equal recommends that a range of measures are introduced by states to support transgender people, from legally recognising the gender identity of trans people in official documents through a simple administrative process in line with their lived identity to gender-affirming healthcare services free from stigma and discrimination.
  • The World Health Organisation made clear in 2019 that being transgender is not amental illness, and should not be treated as such.
  • Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.
  • Language respecting the sex in which trans women and trans men live has beencommon decency in Britain since the 1970s, and has been clearly upheld in UK law since 2004.It is never necessary to humiliate or degrade trans people in order to discuss sex and gender or to address health needs or social inequalities.
  • The Equality Act brought in the concept that gender reassignment was a ‘personal process’ rather than a ‘medical one’. Trans people have been accessing single-sex service and facilities in line with their lived identity for many decades,  and with proportionate protection from discrimination since 2010. Misinformation is driving current fear to try and change this. It will remain permitted under the Equality Act to exclude trans women from single sex facilities, such as a woman’s refuge, on a case by case basis, but it would be anathema to British values to attempt to blanket-ban trans people from toilets and shop changing cubicles.
  • Trans people already access services matching their gender under the law, except inrestricted individual circumstances, with all the protections that have been campaigned for to balance rights. This is why we say so much of the campaigning ismisinformed.
  • All that’s been asked for now for GRA reform is a minor change in administrative arrangements for birth certificates that only impacts the holder of the certificate onmarriage, death, getting a job or a mortgage. Can you remember when you last used your birth certificate or even where it is? GRA reform has never had anything to do with toilets or changing room cubicles.
  • Currently, less than 0.03 per cent of under 18s in the UK are referred to gender identity development services, of which only a tiny number may eventually go on to receive puberty-delaying medication for two or three years while under 16.
  • Changes to curtail trans young people’s healthcare could have serious unintended detrimental consequences on wider children’s health services. We have clinical safeguards such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to ensure best evidence-based protocols. ​We must be guided by evidence and clinical experts and not lobby groups to make policy decisions.
  • Only 5,000 trans people currently have a GRC, fewer than 100,000 have changed their driving licence or passport. The numbers remain small and any proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act would only apply to people living permanently in theirgender with all their other ID such as passports or driving licences already changed.

We really wonder if the good people of our great nation realise they are being manipulated through fear and false information to roll-back the basic dignity, privacy and safety of trans people who are just trying to live ordinary lives.

Yes, the bodies and life experiences of trans people will never be identical to those of people who are not trans. But that is not good reason to segregate and demonise them. It is also the same with trans young people. Parents of young people who are struggling with their gender simply want their children to have unconditional love and support – to explore their identity and time to enjoy their childhood with assistance from trusted multi-disciplinary professionals in the field free from political interference. That is the right and humane way forward.

In recent weeks, voices have spoken up from global businesses in the City, global media and entertainment businesses, members from across the Commons and the upper chamber; voices from across all sections of society, from within the LGBT community and its close allies, from faith leaders and parents of trans children but, most of all, from trans people with a simple message.

With one voice, asking for trans inclusion and equality, trans people say: we are just like you, human beings who just wish to go about our lives free from hate and persecution. Be kind, let us love and be loved. Let us be our authentic selves. We are not an ideology to be fought over by others.

The bottom line is most people in the UK do not want to reduce trans people’s inclusion in services or undermine their identities. Polling consistently shows the majority of women support trans women’s inclusion in services and reform of the GRA (see the British Social Attitudes Survey and recent YouGov polling).

Ipsos MORI reported this month that 70 per cent of Britons believe that transgender people face discrimination, with a quarter (26 per cent) saying they face a great deal. We have ended up entangling ourselves in unnecessary scaremongering against trans people at a time when most people want us focused on tackling Covid-19, rebuilding our economy and bringing our society together.

Equality and inclusivity for all is an essential bedrock of our free society. We wish to work towards a society where we treat each other with respect, dignity, compassion, tolerance and understanding. We wish to see policy measures which bring social cohesion, and focus on our common welfare, as we work together to emerge from these troubling times.

The “equalities” industry has entrenched division. It must be swept away.

11 Jul

“I have a dream,” declared Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” That inspirational cry for justice – for a colour blind society of individual opportunity and responsibility – has been betrayed. Those thwarting that dream are not the white supremacists, but the supposed “anti-racists” in the equalities industry.

This bitter irony will not have escaped the notice of the more assiduous followers of current affairs. Outfits such as “Black Lives Matter” have not been championing cohesion, harmony, and equal treatment. They have been dedicated to division, discrimination, and separatism.

We have seen ethnic minorities being targeted for abuse for exercising dissentient thought. As Kemi Badenoch, the Treasury and Equalities Minister, said:

“Sadly, some are willing to casually dismiss the contribution of people who don’t conform to their expectation of how ethnic minorities should think and behave. This, in itself, is racist.”

This is not an accident. BLM is a revolutionary group – with the usual demands about overthrowing capitalism, defunding the police, generally smashing the system, and so on. From their perspective, generating a race war makes perfect sense. They will be delighted if white people are antagonised and start unfurling “white lives matter” banners.

Enoch Powell gave a speech in 1968 quoting a constituent warning that the “black man will have the whip hand over the white man”. Fair-minded people would have to say that in the half century that followed, Powell’s lurid warnings of conflict have been proved wrong. We have remained an island of great tolerance. But police officers getting down on their knees to atone for their collective guilt in being white will not help race relations. Provoking thoughts that, “maybe Enoch was right after all,” is, of course, exactly what many BLM militants hope white people will think.

What should the Government’s response be? It should pass a Non-Discrimination Act ensuring the public sector follows the principle of true equality. That doctrine genuinely is and should be colour blind. We should not “positively” discriminate based on colour, or on sex or sexuality: this discrimination is exactly the evil our credo is meant to be fighting.

When I became a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham in 2006 I proposed that we should treat people on merit and regard their colour as irrelevant – and so cut back to a minimum, all the box-ticking, form filling, creepy ethnic monitoring, and the legion of staff required to undertake all this. At one of the first presentations I went to, the Regeneration Director talked about the Council’s programme to ‘help black and ethnic minorities into employment.’ The justification was that unemployment was disproportionately high among this – intrinsically artificial – category. But my point was that any help to unemployed people should be provided on an equal basis – that the ethnicity of an unemployed person is irrelevant and assistance should be purely determined by their individual need. They are people, they are not categories.

It would follow that a “colour blind” law would prohibit any part of the public sector (or any organisation funded by the public sector) asking anyone questions about their ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

There is lots of doublespeak in the law. Talk of “positive action” rather than “positive discrimination”, of “targets” rather than “quotas” abounds. Mike O’Brien, the Home Office Minister in the Labour Government, defended the introduction of ‘targets’ for ethnic minority recruitment into the police force. “Quotas are illegal,” he said. “Targets are about fairness, rewarding talent and putting an end to glass ceilings. Managers will have to deliver their targets.”  The reality is that discrimination is required.

As the sociologist, Peter Saunders, wrote in his excellent Civitas paper, The Rise of the Equalities Industry:

“This means that it is not unfair to discriminate against somebody provided you are helping someone else who belongs to a group which the government favours.’ Once such privileging would have been seen as abhorrent and the last thing public policy would set out to do. Now it is such a commonplace that we struggle to even notice it being done.”

We even saw the Association of Chief Police Officers declare:

‘”Colour-blind‛ policing means policing that purports to treat everyone in the same way. Such an approach is flawed and unjust … This is not enough. In a passively non-racist environment, racists can still thrive, discriminatory organisational structures and practices can still persist, and racism in the broader community can go largely unchallenged.”

Another way that the “equalities” agenda has harmed the interests of those it is supposed to help is for children in care. Social workers now seek, not a willing home, but an “ethnic match”. The upshot is that many black children are stuck in the care system, if only white prospective adopters are available. Thus those children are denied a permanent loving family and their life prospects are greatly harmed. A colour-blind law would make such discriminatory behaviour by the police and social workers illegal.

Could it be done? It would certainly break the consensus. One example will give a perspective on the parameters in which current policy operates. In 2011, David Cameron attacked Oxford University saying it was “disgraceful” it admitted so few black students. The university responded with statistics showing that it had 12,671 white students, 1,477 Asian students, 1,098 Chinese, 838 mixed-race, 254 ‘other ethnicity’ and 253 describing themselves as ‘black’. If the Chinese and Indians are ‘over-represented’, as they do well at A-level grades, should they be turned down to make space for white children with lower grades? With a colour-blind law, this pernicious exchange would not even be possible. Oxford would be prohibited from even asking their students such questions.

Would such a change be impossible? There is an analogy with Brexit. Initially only a handful of MPs would be expected to back such a demand openly. Just as only a handful of them backed Better Off Out when it was launched in 2006. However, there would be significant support in terms of public opinion, and not just among Conservatives.

In the film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Dr. John Prentice, played by Sidney Poitier, a black man is cautioned by his father against marrying a white woman. John tells his father:

“You think of yourself as a coloured man. I think of myself as a man.”

That encapsulates the issue we face.

A clean break is needed. Just lifting requirements on the public sector is not enough. All the equalities paraphernalia must be banished. All the grievance-mongering for collective groups swept away, to allow a true end to discrimination, with the rights of each individual valued and respected. All the quotas, targets, monitoring, thought policing, impact assessing, “Women’s Studies”, “Black Studies”, “Black History Month”, need to be not just pruned, but pulled up by the roots. Then put down plenty of salt to stop it all growing back. Then we can be – as the tennis player Serena Williams tweeted  – “one race, the human race.”

A longer version of this piece has appeared in The Critic.