Book review: Murray tries and fails to stir up panic about a “war on the West”

27 May

The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason  by Douglas Murray

This author makes, in his introduction, a number of preposterous claims. Here is his opening paragraph:

“In recent years it has become clear that there is a war going on: a war on the West. This is not like earlier wars, where armies clash and victors are declared. It is a cultural war, and it is being waged remorselessly against all the roots of the Western tradition and against everything good that the Western tradition has produced.”

How can Douglas Murray suggest that this “war”, as he terms it, has only “in recent years” become apparent?

At pretty much any time one cares to name in recent centuries, conservatives have feared that tradition is in danger both from barbarian invaders, and from reformers within the gates who wish to sweep away all we have built, and erect a glittering new edifice in which their reign of virtue can begin.

The French Revolutionaries promised this. Various varieties of Communist promised it. In the 1960s, rebellious students and satirists set out to subvert every traditional source of authority.

In order to justify his hysterical tone, Murray goes in search of enemies who today pose a mortal threat. By page four he has found the Communist Party of China, and complains:

“almost nobody speaks of China with an iota of the rage and disgust poured out daily against the West from inside the West.”

That is true, and this reviewer would not wish for one moment to downplay the horrors perpetrated by China. But the same double standard was applied by many in the West to the Soviet Union.

The problem is not new, and working out what to do about it, or how to contain it, is the work of decades, perhaps of centuries.

But Murray’s fiercest argument is with those inside the West who wish to debilitate the West. In 2017, he recalls, he brought out The Strange Death of Europe, in which (as he says in the volume under review) he asked why the Europeans have allowed mass migration, “and why they were expected to abolish themselves in order to survive”.

According to Murray, only Western countries “were told constantly that in order to have any legitimacy at all…they should swiftly and fundamentally alter their demographic makeup”.

That is a gross over-simplification. In pretty much every Western country, there have been big arguments about immigration. In Australia, the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, pretty much anywhere one cares to name, politicians have come to realise they will only possess legitimacy if they avert unrestricted immigration.

Africans are at this moment suffering in abominable camps in Libya because the European Union has devised ways to stop them crossing the Mediterranean.

A further paradox, untouched on by Murray, is that many British politicians of immigrant descent – one thinks of such figures as Kwasi Kwarteng, Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman, Priti Patel and Kemi Badenoch – express conservative opinions with wonderful gusto.

If Enoch Powell were still alive, he would perhaps concede that the British nation and British political tradition have proved more adaptable, and durable, than he had feared.

Where does Brexit fit in Murray’s narrative of a war on the West? He ignores that question and is instead indignant that “we have been pushed into racial hyper-awareness”:

“In recent years, I have come to think of racial issues in the West as being like a pendulum that has swung past the point of correction and into overcorrection.”

He continues:

“Racism is not the sole lens through which our societies can be understood, and yet it is increasingly the only lens used. Everything in the past is seen as racist, and so everything in the past is tainted.”

Is this really true, or is the pendulum already swinging back against such a simplistic reading of history? On one of my regular walks I pass a house, on a leafy slope on the Highgate side of Hampstead Heath, in the window of which for some months I was faintly irritated to see a hand-written sign which said “SILENCE IS VIOLENCE”.

The sign has now been taken down. I accept that this does not amount to conclusive proof that the moral panic which swept at hurricane force across Britain as well as America after the murder of George Floyd has blown itself out.

But things have died down a bit. No more statues have been thrown into Bristol harbour. Churchill still stands in Parliament Square, his plinth at present unsullied by accusations that he was a racist.

On page 126 of his book, Murray alludes to a Policy Exchange pamphlet in which Andrew Roberts and Zewditu Gebreyohanes rebutted the slurs cast at Churchill in February 2021 during a panel discussion at Churchill College, Cambridge.

So the pendulum does still swing, and contentions which for a short time have held sway are exposed to criticism, and cease to be quite so fashionable. It turns out to be possible to disapprove in the strongest terms of racism, without supposing it offers a complete interpretation of the past.

Gebreyohanes has just become Director of Restore Trust, an organisation set up, as she explained in a piece for The Times, to return the National Trust to its founding values and objectives.

Murray is in grave need of opponents, and inclined to magnify their importance. Many of those he finds are in the United States. He digs up Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, both of whom used to be more influential than they are now, and various other figures who may or may not become influential.

Karl Marx is dug up too, and we are reminded of some of that thinker’s today unacceptable views on race. Murray remarks ruefully that although the bust of Marx in Highgate Cemetery has from time to time been daubed in red paint, there have been “no online petitions or crowd efforts to pull it down and kick it into a nearby river”.

There is actually no river nearby, and to kick this colossal bust anywhere would be a difficult task, liable to end in many stubbed toes.

Marx, however, suffers what is in some ways a greater humiliation. He is ridiculed, or treated as a mere curiosity. If one does not wish to pay to enter the cemetery, one can see him through the railings on the southern edge of Waterlow Park, at a distance which reduces the bust to an acceptable size.

That is how the British public has long been inclined to deal with intellectuals who take themselves too seriously: it peers through the railings and laughs at them.

It seldom occurs to Murray that the best way to deal with fashionable absurdities is to laugh at them, and to trust to the good sense and conservatism of the wider public. Edmund Burke (absent from this book) put the point with genius in his Reflections on the Revolution in France:

“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little, shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of the hour.”

Murray has flattered the loud and troublesome insects of the hour by writing a whole book about them.

Since this ill-titled volume went to press, Vladimir Putin has ordered the invasion of Ukraine. There the true war on the West is being waged. The Ukrainians’ fight for freedom reminds us how trivial most of the pseudo-war recounted in this book really is.

Alistair McNair: Our local council is indoctrinating primary schools with Critical Race Theory. We must be brave enough to resist.

3 Feb

Cllr Alistair McNair represents Patcham & Hollingbury Ward on Brighton and Hove Council.

The Green Party, who are trying to run Brighton & Hove City council, love to think they are also running the country, and never shy away from discussing national issues such as nuclear weapons. However, yet again the city council finds itself in the national news. Usually, it’s just because of incompetence – an inability to de-weed, collect the rubbish, or ensure our parks don’t become sinkholes. This time, it’s more sinister.

Brighton & Hove City Council have pledged to be an anti-racist city and they want to ensure children are anti-racist too. And it’s not just a pledge – it’s £100,000 over five years, and a Racism Adviser too. Racism is a problem, one that needs constant attention, and one that can affect all people – my wife is Ukrainian and has had verbal abuse in Hove in the past – but I didn’t realise our children are also racist. However, their school’s policy, and their thinking in general, adheres to Critical Race Theory (CRT). This is an American theory dating back to the 1970s which has come to espouse the idea that white people have privilege, should feel guilty for past racial crimes, and atone for them – by becoming less white. It believes race is a social construct and that society has been deliberately structured by white people along racist lines. It is overtly critical of colour blindness – that is, trying to treat people equally without reference to their race. It privileges the beliefs of individuals over reason and facts. Are children racist? We don’t need facts, they must be, and so are you!

Of course, the green-led council insists it is not using CRT – but it is. It uses all the language of Critical Race Theory – the terms ‘white privilege’ and ‘structural racism’ can easily be found on its website. Even the word ‘anti-racist’ is troubling. If you don’t declare yourself an anti-racist, you must be racist – yet this word, to my mind at least, only seems to have started to be used with the rise of CRT.

Recently at Children, Young People & Skills committee, a committee on which I sit, Adrian Hart, an indefatigable campaigner on this issue, asked for a moratorium on the Council’s Anti-Racist Schools’ Strategy, which aims to provide racial literacy training, so that councillors could evaluate its appropriacy. Councillors also asked to see anti-racist training material being given to teachers. Conservative and Labour councillors supported Mr Hart, and his request to see teacher training material, only to be told by the Green Party Chair of the Committee, Cllr Hannah Clare, that the material was owned by a private education provider and we couldn’t see it. Quite ironic for a Green councillor to support a private sector education company. We voted, along with Labour councillors, to see this material and have only just received some of it – redacted. Rather, we have received two PowerPoints which refer to white supremacy, very specific newspaper headlines, and spurious research with no citations. The reading list is full of books related to CRT such as White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. We now look forward to a proper debate about it.

It would be quite right to teach Critical Race Theory in schools in a genuinely critical fashion, at least at secondary school level. What is it? Where did it come from? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Why are we learning about it? Children should be debating contemporary issues such as CRT, and they do, but learning to question rather than accept. It’s quite another thing for there to be racial literacy training. Training means ensuring people think the same – in this case that you have white privilege – tell that to parents in my ward of Patcham & Hollingbury. Training is not proper education. The Green-led Council only wishes children, teachers and residents to accept their beliefs – that racism is structural, that white people have white privilege, (that global warming is leading us to imminent catastrophe) – without question, and they want to start by telling children they should feel guilt over their race.

One criticism university lecturers sometimes have, and I work in the tertiary sector, is that students lack practice in critique. What trouble are we in, as a society,2 if councils themselves actively encourage group-think and the use of racist theories such as CRT? We need to be brave – like Adrian Hart who managed to garner 4,000 signatures for his petition. We live in a diverse and tolerant society and must stand up for it. We should strongly contest the use of terms such as systemic racism, white privilege, and white supremacy. We should defend liberal values, try to bring people together, and point out that pernicious use of language such as white privilege might seem worthy at face-value, but actually presents a grave danger to our multicultural, liberal, reason-based society. Unfortunately we might need to focus on fighting this danger in our councils rather than spending time tackling failure to collect the rubbish.

Daniel Hannan: Through their intimidating fervour, woke hardliners are pushing our Enlightenment values to the brink

8 Dec

Lord Hannan of Kingsclere is a Conservative peer, writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

What do you see in the above image? It’s a self-portrait by William Hogarth from the late 1750s, in which he sits palette in hand, absorbed in the work of painting the Muse of Comedy. An apt theme for the bawdy satirist, you might think. But the curators of the Hogarth exhibition currently on at Tate Britain could see only one thing – slavery, supposedly embodied in the curved mahogany chair:

“The chair is made from timber shipped from the colonies, via routes which also shipped enslaved people. Could the chair also stand-in for all those unnamed black and brown people enabling the society that supports his vigorous creativity?”

Seriously? That’s what you see? I suppose, if you are determined enough, you will find racism everywhere – even in works by an 18th-century London artist who had no connection with slavery and whose political views tended towards radicalism.

The fact that Hogarth was no slaver does not deter the woke inquisitors of Tate Britain (whose chair, talking of chairs, is Roland Rudd). Nor does his humane and often sympathetic portrayal of the handful of black characters who make it into his works. Hogarth was satirising the world he knew, and many of his black subjects appear as servants in grand houses, looking out on scenes of upper-class degeneracy. He occasionally gives them the tiniest hint of a sardonic smile, as if they alone understand what is going on.

What might have been an interesting exhibition that set Hogarth (who was, for want of a better shorthand, a Eurosceptic) within the context of contemporary Continental trends instead descends into a harangue against the man it is meant to celebrate.

Where you or I might see, for example, a room filled with comical drunks, the show’s curators prissily tell us that “the punch they drink and the tobacco they smoke are material links to a wider world of commerce, exploitation and slavery”.

Where you or I might see, at the end of the Rake’s Progress, a young dandy brought so low that he ends up in a madhouse, the authors of the wall text see a white man “shackled and near naked, like the enslaved African”.

Where you or I might see, in Marriage A-la-Mode, a morality tale about a faithless couple, the authors see “overall a picture of White degeneracy”

Consider this image above: Southwark Fair, painted in 1733. Again, what do you see? A rumbustious outdoor crowd, yes? A vivid portrayal of ordinary people carousing noisily and chaotically? Well, reader, check your privilege. The young black boy playing the trumpet in the foreground might look as if he is joining the fun. But apparently “the dog makes a racist juxtaposition with the trumpeter”.

And what happened to the canvass itself, hmm? It turns out that “Hogarth’s Southwark Fair, painted for Mary Edwards, was subsequently owned by William Atherton, who joint-owned two plantations in Jamaica”. Hogarth might as well have fashioned the coffles himself, eh?

“All is race, there is no other truth,” says a character in one of Disraeli’s novels. That sentiment, already slightly nutty when Dizzy penned it in the 1840s, was utterly discredited a century later. But it is making an unlikely comeback in the Anglosphere.

Everything – absolutely everything – is nowadays seen through the prism of race. Horatio Nelson is judged, not as the man who sank our enemies’ fleets, but as someone who failed to support an abolitionist measure in the House of Lords. Jane Austen (a strong abolitionist) is condemned because her clergyman father (also an abolitionist) would have become the trustee of a plantation had a friend of his died – which he didn’t. Every work of art, music and literature is judged by standards which, in effect, damn every white man born before the First World War.

The oddest thing about this monomania is its timing. I understand people becoming obsessed with slavery at the height of the campaign for abolition. I understand people seeing things in racial terms while fighting for desegregation. But why now, at a time when (at least before the rise of BLM last year) race relations had never been better?

I know optimism about race infuriates wokies, but take pretty much any measure you want – mixed marriages, mixed neighbourhoods, violence, composition of Parliament and Cabinet, public attitudes towards immigration, acceptability of racist language – and find me a less bigoted decade.

Why then, when slavery still exists in parts of Asia and Africa, are we so preoccupied with Britain’s past participation in the trade? After all, we don’t extend the same test to anyone else. Go to an exhibition of Chinese or Arab or Russian art and you won’t be lectured about how everything you see is the product of forced labour. No, our obsession is purely – and paradoxically – with the country that poured its blood and treasure into a campaign to end the slave trade.

I fear the monomania is precisely the attraction. The experience of many ages teaches us that people respond to simplicity and certainty. From Marxism to Salafist extremism, we are drawn to creeds that allow us to interpret everything, from marriage to music, through a sacred precept. The very unreasonableness of the creed turns out to be part of its appeal, giving devotees a sense that they are set apart from the run of humanity.

The devotees may be few in number, but their intimidating fervour allows them to set the agenda. Just as the Bolshevists pulled behind them mainstream Russian socialists (who had had enough of Tsarist tyranny) and just as the jihadis pulled behind them peaceful Muslims (who had had enough of secular dictators), so woke hardliners exert a pull on moderate Leftists who have little time for cancel culture, but who don’t like to line up with conservative opponents of identity politics.

Thus, one by one, the Enlightenment values that we have taken for granted since Hogarth’s age are extinguished. A long night stretches before us.

Is racism in Britain increasing?

21 Jul

Lewis Hamilton became the target of racist abuse on social media on Sunday after winning the British Grand Prix, while a week earlier Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Sako were targetted following England’s defeat by Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

Such disgraceful incidents provoke the fear that racism is on the increase.

But it would be a great mistake to imagine that what happens in the lawless spaces of social media provides a true reflection of what is happening in wider society.

The letters column in a traditional newspaper has an editor, whose tasks include preventing that space from being infiltrated and taken over by racists, or other disgusting people, who set out to pollute debate and drive out reasonable contributors, the latter coming to feel they have better things to do than wrestle in the mud.

To work out whether racism is increasing or diminishing, it makes more sense to start with some polling carried out last summer:

“New research from Ipsos MORI shows that the British public have become avowedly more open-minded in their attitudes towards race since the mid-2000s. However, seven in ten still think there is at least a fair amount of tension in Britain between people of different races and nationalities, and there are concerns about inequalities in public services, the police and politics.

“The vast majority, 89%, claim they would be happy for their child to marry someone from another ethnic group, and 70% strongly agree. This is an improvement from January 2009, when 75% said they would be happy overall, and 41% strongly.

“Similarly, the vast majority (93%, nearly all of them strongly disagreeing at 84%) disagree with the statement that, “to be truly British you have to be White”. In October 2006, 82% disagreed,  55% strongly. The proportion who agree with the statement has fallen from 10% to 3% in the last 14 years.”

This encouraging picture was confirmed in March 2021 in the Sewell Report, issued by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was chaired by Tony Sewell, pictured at the top of this article.

All but one of the ten members of the commission were from ethnic minority backgrounds, yet they found themselves accused of setting out “to whitewash the problems of racism in Britain”.

The row which blew up at the time of publication obscured the many astute observations in the actual report, too numerous to be summarised here, or indeed in the news coverage.

The Commission pointed to the “many instances of success among minority communities”, observed that family is often “the foundation stone” for this success, and went on to remark that family breakdown “is one of the main reasons for poor outcomes” in some communities:

“This Commission finds that the big challenge of our age is not overt racial prejudice, it is building on and advancing the progress won by the struggles of the past 50 years. This requires us to take a broader, dispassionate look at what has been holding some people back. We therefore cannot accept the accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race, and the pessimism about what has been and what more can be achieved.”

As the Commission found,

“All the data tells us that the UK is far more open to minority advancement than 50 years ago. And while some doors at the top remain hard to lever open, people from some minority backgrounds are successfully taking up opportunities. In fact, as of 2019, the ethnicity pay gap – taking the median hourly earnings of all ethnic minority groups and the White group – is down to just 2.3% and the White Irish, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups are on average earning notably more than the White British average.”

But this should not be taken to mean that all is well:

“Overt and outright racism persists in the UK. Examples of it loom larger in our minds because we witness it not just as graffiti on our walls or abuse hurled across our streets, but also in the more private setting of our phones and tablets. The rise of social media platforms mean racist incidents can go viral in hours. What is too often dismissed as ‘trolling’ means many prominent ethnic minority people routinely receive racist abuse from people who cannot be traced and held to account.

“Making anonymous abuse harder online is a complex issue but should be a public policy priority. Speech resonates long after it is heard. Being made to feel that you do not belong, that no matter how patriotic, law-abiding and hard-working you are, you can be treated differently because of your skin colour, stands against everything this country holds dear. A multi-ethnic democracy like ours cannot function properly if people can denigrate their fellow citizens in such deplorable terms on the grounds of their race.”

It has become clear that social media platforms have to be held responsible for the material they publish. In the beginning, they abolished editors, which seemed like a liberation.

Editors, after all, were quite often excessively restrictive, and yielded to the temptation to spike letters which showed up the perfidy, or stupidity, or inaccuracy of whatever the newspaper had reported.

Then an aggrieved correspondent would have to try to get a hearing in some rival publication.

In those days racists could not just press a button on a keyboard and send direct to its target, under the cloak of anonymity, whatever vile abuse had just occurred to them.

The editorial function is now being rediscovered – with reluctance, for it costs money – by the providers of social media platforms.

So it seems likely that they will soon be able to prevent such easy distribution of racist slurs.

But that will not be the end of the matter. The question will remain of how far racism has been eradicated, and how far it has merely been suppressed, or driven underground.

It is possible that by purifying the internet, we shall create a perverse incentive, at least in yobbish minds which regard themselves as oppressed, and yearn to shock respectable opinion by somehow contriving to publish racist obscenities.

When I lived in Germany in the 1990s, there were a few marginalised thugs who knew the most shocking thing they could do was to declare their support for the Nazis, so duly did so.

And when I have reported on opinion in Britain’s pubs, I have sometimes found anger about unrestricted immigration, and restricted free speech, as in this piece for ConHome from 2014, attempting to account for the surge in support for UKIP.

If such concerns had been reported earlier and more prominently, it is possible that in 2004 Tony Blair would have decided not to risk allowing immediate, unrestricted immigration from newly acceded members of the European Union such Poland.

Racism should not be thought of as a problem that is worse in Britain than elsewhere. A study in 2019 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights on ‘Being Black in the EU’ revealed, the Sewell Report pointed out,

“the percentage of Black respondents who experienced racial harassment in the past 5 years. The figure was 63% in Finland, 52% in Luxemburg, 51% in Ireland, 48% in both Germany and Italy, and 41% in both Sweden and Denmark. In comparison, 21% of Black British respondents reported such harassment, the second-lowest result in the countries surveyed. The UK had the lowest figure for Black respondents who experienced discrimination in job-seeking, education (either themselves or as parents), health, housing, public administration or other public or private services such as restaurants, bars or shops within the past 12 months.”

After thanking the mainly young people behind the Black Lives Matter movement for “focussing our attention once again on these issues”, the authors of the Sewell Report went on:

“But most of us come from an older generation whose views were formed by growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. And our experience has taught us that you do not pass on the baton of progress by cleaving to a fatalistic account that insists nothing has changed.”

Much has changed for the better, and sometimes the obsessive urge to define people in racial terms seems all wrong, as Matthew Parris explained in a recent piece for The Spectator:

“The dream for which my family fought in what was then Rhodesia is now not so much unfashionable as forgotten. The ‘dream’, I mean, of multiracialism; a growing irrelevance of skin colour or ethnic origins; the gradual convergence of the world’s peoples; the building on our planet of a shared culture, shared values, a shared membership of our human race; and a slow but steady dissolving of our differences.”

Most of us can at least agree that being British is a political, not a racial characteristic; as I argued in my last, unmemorably tactful attempt to tackle this subject for ConHome.

Alan Mak: The British-Chinese contribution to our country is a success story that should be told more often

20 Jul

Alan Mak is a Government Whip and MP for Havant. He is the first ever Minister and MP of British-Chinese heritage.

When ConservativeHome asked me to write this article, it prompted me to think widely about the contribution British-Chinese people have made to our country. It also prompted me to look into the wider historical background to the community’s establishment in the UK, and examine how the British-Chinese are doing in general.

Firstly, we should be clear about who we’re discussing. The British-Chinese are UK citizens of Chinese heritage, many born and bred in this country, and who call the UK home. They should not be conflated with people from China, and it would be wrong to assume that British-Chinese people agree with (or have any interest in) the policies of the Chinese Government. Sometimes the British-Chinese are included in the umbrella term “people of East Asian and South East Asian heritage”, a much broader category which also covers people of Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian heritages; this article is not about them.

The British-Chinese are around 400,000-strong and the country’s third biggest visible ethnic minority, dispersed around the country but largely living in cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. Nobody speaks for all these individuals, and I certainly don’t claim to.

Though present in Britain for at least 150 years, most first generation British-Chinese immigrants came to this country from the 1960s onwards, leaving behind Mao’s Cultural Revolution to look for opportunities elsewhere. Some, like my father, came via Hong Kong, then a British Colony – and most toiled away night and day in low-wage, labour-intensive jobs in takeaways, restaurants and laundries in their new home.

My father’s generation now look on with pride as their British-born sons and daughters have flourished in an impressive and wide range of fields unimaginable to their parents. Britain has given them limitless opportunities to shine and make the most of their talents. Today, prominent British-Chinese figures include a Deputy Chief Constable, a Team GB and world champion athlete, entrepreneurs and business leaders, public servants in our Armed Forces, NHS, schools and civil service, and many others building careers in a wide range of sectors.

Whilst the restaurants and takeaways present in almost every British village, town and city are often the most visible symbols associated with the British-Chinese, they do not represent all that British-Chinese people have achieved in the UK. There is much more, and in my view the British-Chinese make an outstanding contribution to our country. This reflects the hard-working nature and aspirational values of a community that places a premium on education, family values and social mobility.

Figures in the recently-released Sewell Report, and the last census, bear this out: British-Chinese children outperform every other ethnic group at Key Stage 2, GCSE and A-Level, are the most likely to attend university, and are then amongst the highest earners ten years after completing their first degree (earning more than the White British average). In fact, Sewell calls on the Department for Education tounderstand and replicate the factors that have led to educational success” for British-Chinese people.

Social mobility is very high, with only five per cent of British-Chinese children remaining in the same routine manual positions as their parents. Second, third and fourth generation British-Chinese are less likely to work in geographically-isolated restaurants and takeaways with long, unsociable hours, and are occupying more professional jobs. British-Chinese people are the least likely ethnic group to receive state benefits, and the least likely to be stopped by the police.

The Sewell Report identified different outcomes for different ethnic groups on a range of indices from educational outcomes to home ownership, and from that statistical perspective the British-Chinese are, in general, doing well. My generation is certainly better off in many ways than my parents’ or my grandparents’. Unsurprisingly, The Economist described the British-Chinese as “a model minority as well as a silent one” – referencing the tendency to keep their heads down, particularly when it comes to getting involved in public life or coming to the attention of the media.

Coronavirus has brought an unwelcome development in that regard, and proved a tough time for some. Whilst the British-Chinese community has nothing to do with the virus breaking out, the pandemic led to a growth in abuse, perpetrated by a senseless minority, against both British-Chinese people and others of East Asian appearance.

During the first wave, the Metropolitan Police recorded 166 verbal, online and physical attacks in February and March 2020 on people of East Asian appearance, up from 66 during the same period in the previous year. By April 2020, this rose to 261, then 323 in May, 395 in June and 381 last July. I raised this with the Home Secretary, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council has been robust in asking its forces to respond proactively to reports of such incidents.

The British-Chinese have much to be proud of, and we can all play a role in telling the British-Chinese story better. This could include launching a “Museum of the British-Chinese” to gather together stories and exhibits that illustrate the British-Chinese contribution, from supporting the Allied war effort in World War I to present day work fighting the pandemic (possibly modelled on America’s national equivalent); and introducing a “British-Chinese and East Asian Heritage Month” to highlight contemporary success stories and raise awareness of how the community started in the UK.

Single-issue identity lobby groups often speak about Britain’s minorities with a pessimism bias in their narratives. Only by focusing on the facts, and empirical data specifically, can we discern a more accurate, balanced picture. Modern Britain is a place where everyone can thrive regardless of their background, and the success of British-Chinese people reflects the opportunities our country continues to provide.

Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Johnson will not be goaded into admitting his view of taking the knee may have changed

14 Jul

Boris Johnson was challenged by Sir Keir Starmer to explain why Priti Patel, a few Conservative MPs, and indeed his own spokesperson have all in recent weeks cast doubt on whether England football players should take the knee.

The Prime Minister had a choice. He could do the prudent thing, which was constantly to reiterate his admiration for the England football team, and his abhorrence of racism.

Or he could be madly imprudent, and admit that he and some of his colleagues might in the course of the Euros have changed their minds, abandoned their initial reservations about taking the knee and come to realise that far from indicating support for Marxism, such an act is a wholesome expression of what all decent people feel.

Johnson did the prudent thing. He admired the team and abhorred racism.

His critics accuse him of not telling the truth, but how gleefully they would have fallen on him if he had admitted that his ideas have changed, so that what he might once have regarded as acceptable he would now regard as intolerable.

Such a glimpse of the truth would have been taken by the media, including social media, as an admission of moral turpitude, and a tremendous victory for Sir Keir.

Not just this Prime Minister, but any Prime Minister, indeed any leading statesperson, is required to express conventional views, and condemned if by some accident he fails to do so.

Walter Bagehot explained, in his essay on The Character of Sir Robert Peel, how a young politician “acquires the creed of his era”:

“He assumes its belief as he assumes its costume. He imitates the respectable classes. He avoids an original opinion, like an outré coat; a new idea, like an unknown tie.”

Johnson is by temperament unrespectable, and continues to indicate his sympathy with the unrespectable classes by keeping his hair in a mess.

But that was today as far as it was safe for him to go. When he counter-attacked it was from a safely anti-racist perspective: the Home Secretary had “faced racism all her career of a kind” which Sir Keir had not experienced; the Labour Party had put out a leaflet in Batley and Spen which it was Sir Keir’s duty to disown.

Sir Keir attacked Johnson for “putting an England shirt on over a shirt and tie while not condemning those booing”.

Which was rather Bagehot’s point: Johnson tried to dress like an England fan, though being Johnson, he had the cheek to get it slightly wrong, and thereby attract more attention.

Amanda Milling: How we’re going to ensure that everyone is welcome in the Conservative Party

6 Jul

Amanda Milling is the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase and co-Chairman of the Conservative Party.

Six weeks ago, Professor Swaran Singh’s investigation into racism and discrimination within the Conservative Party was published.

While the report found no evidence of institutionalised racism, it set out the need for the Conservative Party to overhaul its complaints process so it was more transparent, and to simplify our Code of Conduct to ensure members have a fuller understanding of the standards expected of them.

The report set out 27 recommendations for the party to accept so we can begin to tackle these issues.

The first step in this process is the publication of an Action Plan setting out how we will implement the recommendations. Today we are publishing this plan – which you can read in full here.

The Conservative Party has always been a trailblazer when it comes to breaking through barriers, and it is core to our identity as a party that no one should be held back or discriminated against for any reason.

Regardless of race, background, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation or anything else, everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, and everyone should be welcome in the Conservative Party.

As Co-Chairman of the Party I am determined to fix the problems that the Singh investigation shone a light on because, for me, one case of discrimination is one too many.

This Action Plan is the first stepping stone in tackling where we have fallen short and ensuring we put things right.

This Action Plan sets out how over the next year we will update our Code of Conduct so everyone is aware of the behaviour we expect of them. We will be improving our communication to members and training our Party officers to enable them to investigate and address issues effectively. And we will be clarifying how the complaints process works and what actions we will be taking at every step of that process.

Within the same timeframe as publishing the Action Plan the recommendations required us to review and clarify our Social Media Complaints Rules – this work has already been done and approved by the Board and will be further reviewed with the fuller review of the Code of Conduct.

As Co-Chairman, I am also aware of some of the frustrations and distress our process has, at times, caused to both the accused and the victims. We are determined to provide our complaints team with the resources to investigate and resolve these issues in a timely manner. Some cases are incredibly complex and rightly need a thorough investigation.

However as part of the recommendations, and as part of my determination to provide a better system, we will be introducing clear guidelines and expectations on how long we might reasonably expect cases to be investigated.

As part of these recommendations, we were asked to improve the transparency of our complaints system including notifying respondents about the identity of members of the panel that’s assessing their case. These processes are now in place increasing confidence for those going through the complaints system.

The Action Plan sets out a clear path over the next year for the Party to put right the findings of Professor Singh’s investigation.

There’s no denying these recommendations are challenging. It requires the whole Conservative Party family – members, Associations, elected representatives and Conservative Campaign Headquarters – to work together to implement these recommendations.

We will all need to get to grips with a clearer Code of Conduct. Associations Officers will need to set aside time for training on the complaints process to ensure all complaints are handled to the highest standard. CCHQ will be working with the voluntary party to deliver these changes and ensure the smooth implementation of Professor Singh’s recommendations.

This is not something that can be delivered by CCHQ alone. Over the coming weeks and months I will need your help to make these changes and I hope you will work with us to improve our Party for the better.

It’s only by reviewing our Code of Conduct, implementing training, and improving transparency that we can ensure our complaints process can root out racism and discrimination while ensuring it’s fair and easy for those that need it.

At every step of the way we will be working with you, the Conservative Party family, to ensure we are held accountable to delivering these recommendations and sticking to the timeline set out in the Action Plan.

The recommendations set out by Professor Singh require the Party to provide an update on its progress in delivering the Action Plan. You have my full commitment that the Party will update you on that progress in six months time.

Let’s use this Action Plan as a way of ensuring we right the wrongs of the past, and build on being a Party of aspiration and opportunity to all.

Ben Obese-Jecty: As an ethnic minority party member, my experiences have been positive. But Singh’s report shows room for growth.

27 May

Ben Obese-Jecty is a former British Army Infantry Officer and stood as the candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the 2019 General Election.

The publication of Dr Swaran Singh’s independent investigation into alleged discrimination within the Conservative Party has made for interesting and at times tough reading for Conservative members.

Allegations of discrimination, particularly racial and specifically Islamophobic, have dogged the party in recent years, and while this report offers a welcome degree of closure to the issue, it also offers a robust and granular view of where there is significant scope to address current failings.

My own experience as a party member spans across multiple associations, as an association executive officer and even as a prospective parliamentary candidate, but across these varied groups I am yet to experience, or indeed encounter, any racism. Even within the febrile atmosphere of social media, particularly Twitter, I am yet to experience any intra-party bigotry.

The findings of Singh’s investigation are thorough and sometimes scathing, pulling no punches in revealing the number of incidents of alleged discrimination and their respective outcomes. It is notable that the investigation details how the party takes an even-handed approach to the handling of all complaints, whether they are anti-Muslim in nature or otherwise. But amid the findings and recommendations it is also important to recognise that the report found no evidence of institutional racism, which is hugely welcome.

While those on the Left continue to bivouac on the moral high ground on matters of race, despite the damning EHRC report into Labour anti-Semitism only last year, the abuse I have endured during my time in politics has always come from the supposedly more “inclusive” end of the political spectrum. A narrative that often depicts black Conservatives with the ugly neo-racism of race-treachery, of “Uncle Toms” and “House Negroes” accompanied by social media memes of tap-dancing cartoon characters that play on the most racist tropes of the American Deep South. This is bigotry that largely goes unseen, or washes over those who are happy to ignore it. To hear it casually used on Good Morning Britain without an eyebrow raised by presenters is astonishing.

The Conservative Party has undoubtedly grown and changed over the course of my lifetime. Where once a non-white Conservative MP would be extremely unlikely, the contemporary party is now more diverse and more representative than at any previous point in its history. Indeed, the Conservative Party has now had double the number of ethnic minority Cabinet members that the Labour Party has had. There are currently as many British Indians around the Cabinet table as the Labour Party have had ethnic minority Cabinet members in its entire history.

Much has been written before of the diversity we have seen in the Cabinet and the great offices of state during this government. More yet has been written by those who view this as the wrong type of diversity, of brown-washing Conservative racism. Accusations that are mired in their own soft bigotry. The belief that black and brown Conservatives lack the agency to forge their own path. But the success that the party has had regarding the diversification of its MPs is indicative of an organisation that has already recognised the need to evolve and is doing so with aplomb.

No political party can claim to be completely free of those with prejudices, be they overt or more pernicious, any large organisation can expect to contain those with unsavoury views. But removing those whose bigotry is known before it can be allowed to fester and spread is a key step to assuaging fears and convincing sceptics that it is an issue being taken seriously.

That the party leadership has committed its time to being subjected to this level of scrutiny should provide a degree of reassurance in that regard, and the fact it has agreed to implement all of Singh’s recommendations in full shows the party’s commitment to improving things where there have been failures.

The findings from the Singh investigation propose deep reforms and provide a welcome chance for the party to assess how best to adapt and address the opportunity to make it a political home for all those who wish to be a part of it. As a party we should welcome measures that can help address existing shortcomings, transform the way the party works and broaden its appeal beyond its core voter base.

While the Conservative Party has not traditionally been seen as a natural home for voters from Britain’s ethnic minority populations, there is no reason why an ideology that speaks to personal responsibility, hard work and aspiration cannot continue to win support from those who feel that they are values which represent them. With the party committed to a levelling up agenda across the country, why shouldn’t a place where talented individuals are able to thrive no matter their background be the most attractive proposition?

Local authorities should not be funding lobby groups such as the Runnymede Trust

12 Apr

Last week saw the publication of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, sometimes dubbed the Sewell Report. It is an interesting and important piece of work from an impressive panel and offers detailed recommendations based on thorough research. It is proper that it should be scrutinised and debated. Yet the response from of its critics amounted to little more than abuse and wilful misrepresentation. BBC broadcasts announced that “racial equality campaigners” were greatly dismayed by the report – thus giving a sly implication that the report must be against racial equality. The consideration that the credentials of Tony Sewell and his fellow commissioners in fighting racism are rather stronger than those of their BBC critics, was overlooked.

One of those the BBC was keen to quote was Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust. If the BBC wanted an emphatic and rapid condemnation, rather than something more nuanced or considered, then they could rely on the Runnymede Trust to produce the goods. But the BBC’s audience was presented with the message that the response was impartial and expert – rather than entirely predictable and contrived. A report in The Times offers rather more context:

“The director of a charity that called for the government to retract the Sewell race report has branded Boris Johnson an “entitled Bullingdon Club brat”.

“The Runnymede Trust, under Halima Begum, has been a strident critic of the government. It has joined legal action accusing it of cronyism for handing three key coronavirus-related jobs to politically connected figures.

“It has also attacked the report by Dr Tony Sewell on race relations, released last month. Critics of the long-established charity have questioned whether it has been “hijacked” by socialists.

“Begum, 45, a Labour Party member, has described the report as “entirely lacking in credibility”. The trust helped to co-ordinate a public letter this week calling for the government to “repudiate the commission’s findings immediately and withdraw its report”. The letter states that “signatures from politicians and political party representatives will not be accepted in this open letter to preserve its political neutrality”.

“Begum is open about her political leanings. She became chief executive of the trust last September after standing as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour in Poplar & Limehouse in the 2019 general election campaign. She failed to make the selection shortlist but campaigned for Labour.”

Begum has also attacked Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, as an “Islington-born millionaire one-percenter”. Other staff members on the Trust had previously worked for Labour MPs.

A leader in The Times says:

“The suspicion must be that the trust’s response was prepared in advance rather than on the evidence, and with a political subtext…

“In a further indication of its priorities, the trust joined a venture last year called the Good Law Project, which sought to sue the government over its appointment of three senior figures in its response to the pandemic, accusing it of nepotism. These appointees included Kate Bingham, who has achieved success in heading the government’s vaccine task force. The project itself has nothing to do with the trust’s stated objectives.”

The Runnymede Trust refutes claims of being partisan by stating that it is responsible for “holding” the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community. The Group does include the Conservative MPs Helen Grant and Sir Peter Bottomley and the Tory peer, Lord Sheikh. But its Chairman is the Labour MP Clive Lewis who sent a highly offensive tweet about the Sewell Report.

This saga should caution local authorities against given credence – and their Council Taxpayers money – to assorted lobby groups. The Runnymede Trust is by no means the worst offender. We also have Stonewall, an increasingly extremist outfit with its creepy demands to promote transgenderism in primary schools. Councils wishing to embrace virtue signalling via box-ticking find such associations tempting. What’s a few thousand pounds out of a budget running to hundreds of millions? In return, they can win an award or be recognised as “partners” or “champions” and display a logo with some mushy tautology about “valuing values” or “being positive about positivity.”

“Our Greenwich Race Equality Scorecard was commissioned by the borough,” says the Runnymede Trust. An earlier one was produced for Croydon Council. Some funding was provided for that from the Trust for London (which is supposed to assist the work of the Church of England.) But it was also carried out in “partnership” with Croydon BME Forum – which is funded by Croydon Council.

While council officials in Croydon spend time and money on such reports, they show less priority for repairs on their housing estates. The film below indicates the scale of the neglect. It so happens that the tenants interviewed are black. Evidence of institutional racism? Probably not. More likely Croydon Council treats all its tenants equally badly. A proud boast…

 

 

 

 

Emily Carver: ‘White privilege’ and other forms of identity politics are dividing our society. It’s time to speak out.

7 Apr

Emily Carver is Head of Media at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

There’s nothing more tedious than scrolling through Instagram when it gets political. The usual selfies, photos of dodgy culinary creations and snaps of friends and family are replaced overnight with social justice infographics, anti-Tory soundbites and demands to check one’s privilege.

Last summer, Instagram became the platform for discussions about racism and how to tackle it. What began as legitimate outrage over what appeared to be the killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis soon morphed into a toxic – and largely one-sided – debate around ill-defined concepts such as “white privilege” and “white fragility”.

For days, scrolling the platform meant sifting through a barrage of statements on how “white silence is violence”, recommended reading lists for white people to re-educate themselves (all of them including Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, of course), and influencers issuing public apologies for failing to adequately display support for the Black Lives Matter movement (it’s not enough to be non-racist, you must be “anti-racist”, so the saying goes). Anything short of total self-flagellation appeared unacceptable to the vocal Insta-mob.

It was against this febrile atmosphere that an interaction with an acquaintance turned sour. The man in question had reached out to his followers for advice on how to teach his young child about her “white privilege”. Perhaps foolishly, I responded that he could instead teach his child not to judge people based on their skin colour. Radical, I know. However, as I half-expected, this was akin to blasphemy and was met with an instant “how dare you”, “embarrassing response” and “easy for you to say in your privileged white position”. When I didn’t bite back, I was blocked. Slightly bruised by the reaction, I decided to delete the app – albeit temporarily.

Given the contempt with which reasonable suggestions can be met, it’s not surprising that many people simply choose to remove themselves from these discussions. There are many who believe as a white person, I shouldn’t express an opinion on such matters. But when so many of our institutions have fallen hook, line, and sinker for identity politics, indulging in and perpetuating pseudo-scientific theories of “white privilege”, critical race theory and unconscious bias training, it is critical that people put their head above the parapet, however uncomfortable it may be.

Dubious literature furthering ideas of this sort has already been widely shared and used as teaching material in our primary and secondary schools, shedding plenty of heat but not much light on what are undoubtedly important issues. Now, we have got to the stage where even nursery teachers may soon be trained in “understanding white privilege”. As reported in The Times, The Early Years Coalition, which represents tens of thousands of nurseries and other providers, is now advocating a shift away from a “colour-blind approach to race”, so children “recognise racist behaviours and develop anti-racist views”.

But how exactly, one might ask, will encouraging toddlers to “see race” achieve anything but division? And were the Conservative MPs who criticised the advice not right to warn that it risks early years learning “becoming some kind of political Soviet indoctrination session”? Perhaps my aforementioned Insta-pal can enlighten me as to where I’m going wrong.

While some of the immediate indignation has subsided from the conversation around Black Lives Matter on Instagram, the ugliness in the debate around race in this country persists, with the release of last week’s race report revealing once again some of the tensions at play. Among many sensible recommendations, the report rejects critical race theory and terms such as “white privilege”.

The report’s authors, the majority of whom come from an ethnic minority background, were consequently bullied, racially abused and told they were “part of the problem” by those who disagreed with their conclusions. The report did conclude that there is still racism in Britain and it must be taken seriously but, crucially, that there is not enough evidence to conclude that the country as a whole is “institutionally racist” and that other factors, such as social class and family structure, also play as much, if not more, of a part in how people’s lives turn out.

To many, of all ethnicities, this report was a welcome intervention. It sought to take a nuanced look at ethnic disparities in this country in order to come up with evidence-based solutions to some of the challenges facing different minority groups. The report was not a “whitewash”, as some critics have said, but a challenge to the widely-held mistruth that any difference in outcome across ethnic groups is purely down to discrimination. This was met by accusations of “gaslighting” minorities from some of the most vocal people in the media, politics and academia, including a number of prominent Labour MPs who sought to undermine the entire 260-page report – not least, Clive Lewis who compared the report’s authors to the Ku Klux Klan in what was a rather ill-judged tweet, to put it mildly.

There is a vocal minority of people in Britain who dominate discussions in the media, and seem determined to import the racially-charged culture we see in the US. However, the picture in this country is complex and the parallels we can draw are limited, not least because of our dramatically different histories. It is working-class white boys who are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to educational outcomes. And while black Caribbean children are also underachieving at school, the data shows pupils of black African heritage are doing better (though, of course, there are huge discrepancies within these categories too). It reinforces why there is more to racial disparities than simply shouting “racism” – however unfashionable in our current climate it may be to say so.

It is likely that the Government suspected the report would be met by a level of outrage and, in the coming weeks and months, it will consider the recommendations in detail in order to inform policy. But, however much Conservatives may wish to write off the influence of social media and the contributions of the usual suspects as transient, unfortunately the belief that the UK is a racist country has taken a grip of many of our young people, including the highly educated. We must encourage critical thinking, especially when the conclusions we find don’t fit the current liberal woke orthodoxies. There is too little critical thinking in schools and far too much critical race theory and we will all suffer in the end, for it can only lead to division.