I had meant to keep this website purely for writing life, and not include anything from my paying job in politics. However, such a huge and monumental shift in political discourse in this country has happened, that I felt compelled to write about it. That’s right people, Lawrence Fox’s Reclaim Party has launched it’s first party political broadcast. Watch the drama unfold.
The mood is set by a dark oppressive background, Fox half emerges from the shadows like an ex-boyfriend whom you had three months of progressively more disappointing sex with in your first year of uni, who still pops up periodically and wants to earnestly rehash all the lows, and lows, of your “relationship”. Fox means you no harm though, he just wants to talk, again. He wants to massage your brain.
We will fight for equality for all. That’s it off to a good start I’d say.
We will make sure that you will not be discriminated against for immutable characteristics. Nice.
Or for holding mainstream political opinions that do not conform with the woke agenda. Nine seconds in and this is the first dog whistle. Dog whistles work by seaming to say something benign to the general population, but is in fact a coded message to those in the know. This appears like a benign and reasonable statement, but I suspect it will be interpreted as “People should not face consequences if they chose to express racist, homophobic, sexist or other similar opinions.
Where Mr Fox is right is that unfortunately racism has become something of a mainstream political opinion over the last ten years. Do you know what also used to also be mainstream political opinions? Public hanging, child slavery, hell… just slavery, women as property and the impossibility of rape happening in marriage. Times do change, what is considered mainstream changes, our understandings change, we now, thanks to science and academia, have the ability to genuinely see the impacts of these attitudes – and the impacts are not good, for everyone.
Let’s digg a little further into this sentence and unpack “Woke agenda,” another dog whistle which is a close relation to the “gay (or homosexual if you’re posh and/or old) agenda.” I’ve been trying to find the gay agenda for years, it’s not in Waterstones, Amazon doesn’t stock it, it’s never in the second-hand bookshops I go to. Those gays are keeping it really close to their chests!
The fact of the matter is that there is no group of “woke” people who have some secret plan to undermine the world, just as there is no patriarchy meeting at 9am every Monday to work out how to undermine women that week.
What we do have is groups of people who are keen to discuss their experience of the world and how we can work together to make it better. And, is it me, or did this film start off saying that Reclaim will fight for equality for all? I’d love to see the policy work that Reclaim have done to show how they will fight for equality for all, while also allowing racist and other discriminatory attitudes to exist. It appears to me that wanting both of those things to happen at the same time is extremely naive.
Yes, public debate is not in a great place just now, but here’s the secret: it never has been. Public debate is messy and can get nasty, people pick sides and then chose not to listen or dig deeper. This has always happened. The advent of social media has made it particularly difficult and way to quick, but there has never been an golden age of public debate which has also been fully inclusive, and there probably never will be. Because humans are terrible, messy people, and that won’t change.
Children will be taught how to think, not what to think. Back on strong form, I love a bit of critical thinking. I look forward to seeing Reclaims policy paper on the reform of the education system and how it will be funded. Oh, and do remember that education is a devolved area so if you are talking about Westminster politics here, and I strongly suspect you are, you are really only talking about England.
They will be taught that the British Empire did good as well as bad. Aye, it may have done some good, but I think the millions of people who we sold in to slavery, butchered, tortured, imprisoned and the millions who starved to death because of our interfering in long tested successful agricultural practices, as well as the decimation of previously self-sufficient countries which now puts them in economic servitude might out weight say… cricket.
Yes, I know we also fought to end slavery, but we were one of the nations that helped start, support and kept the industrial trans-Atlantic slave trade to begin with. Good we did our bit to end it, yeah, but it’s as good as wiping your own bum after taking a shit.
I know that Mr Fox and myself will probably not see eye-to-eye on this issue, so let’s give the kids all the fact about the empire, both good and bad, and let them make up their own minds with those critical thinking skills they’ll get. Oh, by the way, have you done a full costing on that policy, and do you intend to give it a legislative footing?
…and the freedoms they enjoy are paid for by blood. Wow! Dark turn. This sentence is so vague that it’s impossible to tell what it means. It normally means Nazi’s. Yes, people did die fighting against the Nazi’s, and I imagine most of the population would agree not letting Nazi’s win is a good thing.
However, the one possible just war in the history of our state appears to be rolled out to cover all ills. That’s if they mean war, what do they really mean when they say “blood,” I don’t know? Could they mean the Norman harrowing of the north? The plantation of Ulster? The Tollpuddle Martyrs? The Conquest of Wales? Or the Highland and Lowland Clearances? All examples of when the institutions that preceded the UK state we now live in supressed and executed its own people who paid for desiring their freedom from it in… blood (and economic hardship, but that doesn’t sound as good). One just war does not erase all of that.
Another reason I dislike this sentence so much is that the “people died so you could have the freedom to……” is so often used to stop people expressing an opinion. Stopping their freedom of speech (see below). It goes like this.
“I really feel uncomfortable with how Remembrance Day has turned into a glorification of war and away from its original purpose.”
“People died so you can have the freedom to say that!”
The implication here is that the original speaker was being ungrateful, but were they? No they weren’t. Using the death of solders – who’s motivations we have no idea about – to stop people objecting to state sanctioned violence is a way of… I don’t know, supressing that critical thinking you want all children to be taught in school, maybe? Trying to deny those people their freedom of speech and supressing their views because they don’t fit with yours?
We will reform public institutions to make better use of tax payer money. Good idea, have you got a list of institutions, their annual income, staffing costs etc, basically a budget? What about the statutory footing their on, and the work they legally have to complete? Have you commissioned a review as to where those savings can be made, and if there would be any unintended costs of the savings themselves? You’re on it? Great.
We will defund the BBC and open it up to the free market. The BBC is not perfect, no institution is, but for a party that is so wedded to the idea of Britain as it was last century it is strange that they would want to essentially cripple the greatest soft power we have, especially in the World Service. If you don’t like a programme or channel, you can always not watch it, like I do with Mrs Brown’s Boys.
We will stop the creep of hate crime legislation that seeks to criminalise speech and thought. I think if you look at the legislation and the guidance, thoughts are not criminalised at all. Everyone is still free to have all the thoughts they want to think. If you look at the guidance from the CPS they say that all cases that are thought to be motivate by hate against a specific group of people are flagged and investigated as to if there is also an element of hate crime. I think a key point here is that there is also a crime or crimes being committed here – so no one is getting pulled of the street and thrown in a cell for a though. A crime is being investigated, and the element of hate is considered in that investigation.
I suspect that Fox is not really talking about legislative technicalities here though. He’s talking about feelings. In some ways I have sympathy. The social media pile ons that appear with ever more frequency can make people afraid to express opinions or get involved in debate, and that is not a good place to be. However, spewing out every thought that enters your mind into the public sphere with no filter is also not a great either. There is a happy medium that can be found – but remember again, we are human so it will never be perfect, and a considered reaction to that imperfection is not to wildly swing in the opposite direction.
As much as people have a right to be able to say what they think, even if it is unpopular, nobody has a right to be listened to and nobody has a right to live without any consequences because of what they say.
We will ask the police to focus on actual crime, not thought crime.
We will reclaim our English language. What!? Who took it?! When did that happen?!
And we will legislate to introduce a free speech act. I look forward to the consultation process of that specific piece of legislation. Particularly the bit where there is evidence of people being denied their free speech. I am aware that some people (Fox) have been sacked because of views they’ve expressed or even had relationships end but I believe that come under employment law, and free will. This means essentially you are telling employers what they have to think about employees who damage their business, and I thought you didn’t like the thought police?
We will work to end injustice and inequality. Yay! I welcome your commitment to work for the people who face the greatest inequality in our country, such as the poor, children, people of colour, women, LGBTI+ people, travelling people. Glad you’re on board.
We will work to end division, rather than enforce it. Fantastic news, how will you do this? A roll out of mediation skills being taught in schools? Empathy lessons? A radical programme exploring the lived experience of marginalised groups? Although, surely, that is teaching people what to think? Hmmm. What a conundrum!
We will promote and uphold the values that make this country great. What are they? Values is such a nebulous term, and it is an excellent way of talking to people without saying anything. Everyone thinks they know what values means. Everyone assumes that their own values are right. Everyone assumes that everyone else values the same values. This is not how the world works in practice. Without a setting out clearly defined values, talk of values is meaningless. But wait, what’s coming along…
Freedom; equality under the law for all; tolerance; fairness; freedom of debate. “Freedom,” what exactly does that mean? Is it a freedom to, or a freedom from? If we are to judge this “freedom” by what has preceded it, it sounds like it might be freedom to tell people they can believe, think and say whatever they want, but they can’t sack employees who damage their business by expressing their opinions. Also make your own mind up (aka but agree with us) about the British Empire and people’s “blood” sacrificed for the freedom to say whatever you want – only as long as what your saying isn’t anti a thing that some people (not sure who) who made sacrifices may or may not have agreed with. I think. It’s impossible to tell at this point.
Most importantly we will see people for the rich, complex, individuals that they are. Great, I am all for that.
We will ask them to take responsibility for themselves rather than seeking to blame others. So, that means you can’t blame things on the “woke agenda,” right? Your career and relationship suicide is your own fault, yes?
The only box we ask you to tick, is British. What? What box? Why am I ticking boxes? Is this an election? How are we going to see people as rich and complex, while also only ticking the British box? I’m confused…
…and Mr Fox fades back into the darkness, like a shadow, a ghost, as if he was never here. His Adam’s apple bobs in his throat, and that is how you know…he is, emotional. In a quiet, restrained, very British way.