Alex Morton is Director of Policy at the Centre for Policy Studies, and was a member of David Cameron’s Downing Street Policy Unit.
We all know that people on the left tend to think that justice and righteousness are on their side. But increasingly they also seem to feel that right-wing views are simply illegitimate to hold.
The panels on the BBC’s flagship political shows, as we’re all aware, are massively biased in favour of Remain. But if goes beyond that. The ERG are consistently described in the press as “hardliners”, whereas if you are trying overturn the largest democratic mandate in British history by supporting a second referendum before implementing the result of the first, in defiance of the manifesto upon which you were elected, you are portrayed as a principled objector.
Or consider the media response if 15,000 children had played truant to call for balanced immigration policies (which the vast majority of voters would support), rather than to protest against a doomsday version of climate change. I suspect the papers would be full of the reports on the threat of indoctrination by politically motivated teachers – if the organisers were not already being investigated for thought-crime.
It is not just the media. Holding right-wing views, being right-wing, or even just departing from the politically correct orthodoxy, is an increasingly risky business.
More recently, the CEO of the charity Women’s Aid – the impeccably progressive Katie Ghose – was forced to step down because (in her previous role as head of the Electoral Reform Society) she had paid UKIP some pro forma compliments while speaking on a panel at its conference.
Even the state is attacking right-wingers and right-wing views
The problem is not just that a culture war is raging. It is that the state – even under a Conservative Government – is often leading the charge.
A 74-year-old from Suffolk was contacted by police after writing about gender issues – despite not committing any crime, and despite there apparently not being enough officers on the streets to deal with knife crime. Miranda Yardley, a transsexual who dissents from the new orthodoxy on gender identity, was charged with hate crime after getting into a Twitter spat. After ten months of hell, the case collapsed on its first day, with the judge ruling that “there is no case and never was a case”.
A few years back, we had the loving foster parents who had three children removed from their care because they had committed the crime of supporting UKIP. (Ironically, by the same left-wing council in Rotherham that was later found to have covered up sexual abuse by racist grooming gangs.)
If you are an advertiser whose campaigns “support sexist stereotypes” you can have them pulled from the public gaze without compensation. And God help you if you try to show Londoners a picture of butter.
If you are a free market think tank, you can be told off by the Government quango the Charity Commission for being too political, while big charities continue to push a left-wing agenda of more state spending. The British state itself will often donate large sums to these charities, which then lobby for more state spending and state intervention. Meanwhile, vast numbers of quangos constantly pump out calls for more intervention and banning and restricting (a recent favourite being banning gas hobs).
Universities, meanwhile, which are massively supported by the state, are not just 9:1 in favour of Remain but have become a place where we need to “decolonise” the curriculum but simultaneously where no-platforming is on the rise. If I were at university, I would genuinely fear that my grades would be affected by my views.
The police, the BBC, that local authority in Rotherham, the Charity Commission, the Advertising Standards Agency, universities, charities like Women’s Aid – all these are at least partially funded, supported, or even fully operated by the state. Yet have been used to prosecute a war on right-wing people and right-wing views. No wonder conservative and small-l classical liberal views are in full retreat.
The goal is to shut down debate – especially in the case of the fake liberals
This is not just a case of a few left-wing authoritarians. The self-declared “moderate” centre also contains many people who are prepared to shut down right-wing points of view.
The whole point of a liberal society is you do not tell people what to do, or think or say – other than, for example, banning direct hate speech that incites violence, or stopping direct discrimination against individuals. Yet many people who use the term ‘liberal’ today are anything but.
The goal of much of this is to make people afraid to express right-wing views in public and delegitimise them as a very concept – something which has become more important in the social media era. I have lost track of the number of people who have told me they are afraid of saying things or supporting right-wing causes publicly.
Bias in the media will always be with us – which requires robust, free debate to counter, rather than echoing left-wing calls for censorship. But the state, and all its agencies, should make sure that it is not endorsing, let alone waging, a war on right-wing opinions. That means refusing to fund charities which will not tolerate genuine diversity of views. Trying to ensure more balance within universities and the education system. Punishing regulators, police officers and councils when they clearly overstep the mark.
Conservatives must protect conservatism
Coming out as a gay man at school, I learnt that the more you apologise for yourself, the worse it gets. Conservatives have been told that they should sit down and shut up. Instead, they need to fight back. At the very least, a Conservative government should on basic liberal principles oppose this war on anyone who deviates from the new orthodoxy.