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How fake culture wars are assisting Boris Johnson and the Tories

Union flags (and those of other nations) are waved during the climax of Last Night of the Proms - Credit: Redferns via Getty Images

The much-discussed culture war is being manufactured by the right, in order to obscure the real wounds in society

The Remainers have been routed, the immigrants outed. Jeremy Corbyn has gone and Keir Starmer never really arrived. Everything should be wonderful in Great Borisland. But it isn’t, so who is to blame? The kraken wokes: giant mythical beasts sucking the lifeblood from our society and threatening democracy itself.

Their multi-tentacles of political correctness and ‘elf and safety gone mad, snowflakery, loony leftiness and cancel culture reach into every aspect of our lives and must be cut off.

It’s a fight for survival between the monster of the deep thinking and the surface feeders who are supposed to be running the country.

Except it isn’t. It’s all an illusion, a distraction. There is no monster, just a small, generally benign, creature made to look bigger and more dangerous by the people above deliberately stirring the waters to distort its reflection.

If you can’t be rude to your neighbour, blame the woke; if you can’t tell an off-colour joke, blame the woke. They are just the latest manufactured enemies of the people in a long and dishonourable line that runs from “blacks, gypsies and Irish” through gymslip mums, welfare cheats and benefit scroungers to immigrants and the biggest bogeyman of all – the EU. These groups have one common purpose: to divert attention from real problems and the failure of successive governments to deal with them.

This administration is more craven than most in its scapegoating and deflection. A minister is found guilty of bullying, two more of breaking the law, another of cronyism – quite apart from a prime minister who lies as easily as he tousles his hair – and what is the response? Nothing to see here. Ignore it and it will go away.

The BBC postulates leaving Rule, Britannia! out of the Last Night of the Proms? Boris Johnson “lets it be known” it’s a bad idea. Students decide they can live without a picture of the Queen in their common room? Gavin Williamson weighs in. A cricketer is rejected for posting racist and sexist tweets? Oliver Dowden offers his twopenn’th.

These are people with proper day jobs making decisions that affect people’s lives. This isn’t a bit of fun, like being asked their favourite biscuit in a Mumsnet interview; they are stopping what they should be doing to take time to comment on something inconsequential where their opinion has not been sought.

“Approved” symbols, such as statues and flags, are revered and to be protected by law, while “woke gestures” like taking the knee are to be sneered at – and protests that have any impact at all are to be outlawed.

Because we are in a “culture war” – this government loves a bit of conflict analogy – in which the “majority” are being silenced. That is presumably the 52% who voted Brexit (which I seem to recall happened).

Fortunately, they have just been given a voice by a new television station – GB News – because the Mail, Sun, Times, Telegraph, Express, Spectator, LBC, Guido Fawkes, Westmonster et al have completely failed to get their views across.

So GB News will be speaking up for the food bank clients, the disabled, the exhausted delivery drivers? It will find out why taxpayers’ money was handed in its squillions to friends of the governing party? It will consider the plight of young homebuyers who find themselves with £100,000 bills to make safe a flat that cost only £88,000? It will examine why fishermen and farmers suddenly find their livelihoods threatened, why pubs and guesthouses can’t find staff?

Maybe it will. Or maybe it will give airtime to such under-heard people as Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and Nigel Farage. Maybe it will send its young political correspondent to a Downing Street briefing to ask the prime minister “how can we help?” Maybe it will ask pundits and controversialists struggling to get their opinions out to the masses – people like Dan Wootton, who could previously reach only Sun readers and his 377.6k Twitter followers, the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson (82.8k) and the Express’s Carole Malone (52.2k) – to expound on such little-aired subjects as lockdown, immigration and cancel culture.

All this firepower to stamp out the dreaded woke, aided and abetted by the ladies and gentlemen of the press, with the Mail – as ever – in the vanguard, rushing to offer a berth to Julie Burchill when her offensive tweets were too much even for the Telegraph and Twitter. A dangerous strategy that: Mail Online snapped up Katie Hopkins when her cockroaches column was one pile of bile too many for the Sun, but her output soon proved too unpalatable even for them. Burchill’s self-glorying essay in the Mail was apparently a one-off, but how long before she joins her former husband Tony Parsons in a GB News armchair?

In this world, free speech and personal liberty are sacrosanct. For some… I can be as nasty as I like, but don’t you dare call me racist. I can urge people to shun big tech firms or banks of which I disapprove because they need to be “brought to heel”. But if you suggest that advertisers might not wish to support Andrew Neil’s new venture, then you’re a bigoted fanatic peddling hate.

And if you take the government to court for spending hundreds of millions of our money on buying medical supplies (that don’t do the job) from pet food manufacturers operating from a tin shack, Turkish T-shirt salesmen or a bloke down the pub, then you are not a hero, but a “vainglorious” fox-killing barrister.

The whole point of newspapers and broadcasters is to inform, entertain and hold the powerful to account. They should be all over the pandemic procurement scandal. They should be questioning (just reporting would be a start) the donations pouring into Tory party coffers just before and just after newly-ennobled people take their seats in the Lords. To think they used to drum people out of public life for £500 in a brown envelope or an injudicious snog.

And when the vainglorious fox killer wins his case and a court finds that a minister broke the law, they absolutely should not accept Matt Hancock’s “it was a technicality” or Michael Gove’s “I don’t agree”. Can they not see where this is going? Accountability should not begin and end with the position on a ballot paper the under-informed Mrs Scoggins of Darlington chooses to put her cross.

Instead, we have this phoney war on woke, typified by the relentless attacks on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, because the government and its press enablers think that Mr Scoggins and his working-class “mates” (of whom they know little and understand nothing) care only about going to the pub and the freedom to abuse the ref and footballers with black faces or pony tails. For on such myths, election campaigns are fought and won. Never mind the hungry children. Or integrity.

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