Cllr Gary Powell is a councillor in Buckinghamshire
The many readers of ConservativeHome involved with local authorities, as elected Members, as officers, or as employees in any other capacity, should not underestimate the potential influence we have in protecting the basic freedoms that underpin British values: freedoms that are now under serious attack and that will continue to be eroded in a most egregious way, unless a solid and sustained conservative resistance to that attack emerges soon.
Local authorities and local Conservative associations reflect a microcosm of what is happening to the Conservative family nationally, with many officials and activists clearly too scared to express in public, the conservative political opinions they actually hold. Even as much as “liking” someone else’s post on social media containing an opinion at variance with the current leftist orthodoxy is often viewed as too risky. Indeed, it really is risky, as the Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, discovered when she dared to “like” a post by Piers Morgan in which he had suggested that “people with a cervix” should actually be called “women”. The Salem rent-a-mob went into a frenzy, with demands that wicked Ms Duffield should have the Labour whip withdrawn and suffer party expulsion.
If we Conservatives allow the barnpot Left to set the political agenda and impose their own ideology as the unassailable cultural norm, then we seriously diminish the responsibilities of officials elected to local and national government. Political government involves much more than administrative practicalities. We should also be ensuring – particularly as conservatives – that we are acting robustly to protect the rights of women, the safeguarding of children, and the inviolability of individual liberty. This requires us to speak out courageously and challenge zealots and conformist opportunists who trample on the basic human rights of our citizens. If the Conservative Party no longer has the stomach for defending basic civil liberties and the rule of law, then we can be sure another party on the Right of the spectrum will eventually emerge to take on that responsibility, arriving as the adults, committed to restoring order and to offering protection from the bullies who have been kicking us around with impunity.
The German expression “mundtot machen” – making someone “mouth-dead” – aptly describes what we are currently witnessing in British society – indeed, in western societies – when people are silenced by coercion. This has its own version of pandemic contagion. It is a compelled oral necrosis: a rapidly-spreading pathology that threatens to kill the soul of our society and of the rest of western civilisation via death by a thousand cuts.
Our politicians, media, police, and judiciary are hosts that are well on the way to colonisation by this infectious agent that is spread and maintained by fear and bullying. So many of the very people charged with protecting our freedoms have become either enforcers of the new mouth-dead orthodoxy, or else timid or opportunistic bystanders, watching on while good people are sacked, vilified, and silenced, for the crime of having the “wrong” opinions. A “wrong” opinion, by the way, is any opinion that is offensive to the dominant section of today’s identity-politics-obsessed Left.
Take the recent case of the school pastoral assistant, Kristie Higgs (44), who was dismissed for “gross misconduct” from Farmor’s School in Fairford, Gloucestershire, after an anonymous individual (remember the Stasi?) reported Mrs Higgs to her employer for expressing wrongthink about LGBT+ sex and relationship “education”. Mrs Higgs had aired her views in a relatively small private social media network. She is a Christian, and she took the school to an employment tribunal on the basis that she had suffered discrimination because of her religious beliefs. Religious belief is supposed to be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010: however, the tribunal ruled that the school had been warranted in dismissing her and attempted to justify its twisted ruling by claiming the dismissal was related not to her religious beliefs, but instead to the fact that her posts could lead others to believe she had “unacceptable” views about lesbian, gay, and trans people.
The very foundation of freedom of speech and of religious belief is surely the legally-protected right to hold and express beliefs that some others – or even many others – may find “unacceptable”. Otherwise, your religious beliefs are no longer a protected characteristic. My impression, I am appalled to say, is that Christians tend to be singled out for special mistreatment where inconsistency in applying the law is concerned, so your odds might be better if your religion is not Christian, should you express socially conservative beliefs anywhere and get grassed up to the Politburo.
A further similar recent example is that of Maya Forstater, who lost her job after opining on her private social media account that it is impossible to change biological sex. The employment judge found that Ms Forstater had been dismissed fairly, because her view was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. So the Ministry of Truth seems to think that a belief in basic biology is “not worthy of respect” to the extent that you and your children deserve punishment by being deprived of your income stream; whereas, by contrast, it apparently is “worthy of respect” to believe the law should be changed in a way that allows any non-trans male-bodied rapist to mendaciously self-identify his way into women’s changing rooms.
This topic of cultural Marxism evokes a detail in Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”, where the eccentric and unwilling judge, Azdak, symbolically uses the unjust statute book of the ancien regime to sit on, instead making judgments according to his best insights, which generally lead to fairer outcomes. Yet our Statute Book serves us far better than the convoluted post-modernist justifications of ideologically-captured judges. While such judges sit contemptuously on our Statute Book, we Conservatives must not sit timidly on our hands. If we continue to lose our freedoms, many of today’s bystanders will discover that, despite their cooperation with the witch-hunters, the hands they once sat on will not be spared the manacles.