Boris has failed to fight wokeness

Boris has failed to fight wokeness. By Joanna Williams.

Boris Johnson appears to be on the verge of being removed as Britain’s PM. He promised much and got our hopes up, but delivered little — a masterful politician.

Many voters who helped Boris Johnson to huge electoral success in 2019 wanted change. Red Wall voters hoped for a government that might better reflect their hopes and interests. But time and again they have been left disappointed. One of the prime minister’s most notable failures has been his inability to put up a fight in the culture wars. Under his leadership, the Conservative government has done little to stem the tide of woke policies and practices.

We have had some bluster, of course. Talking heads deliver anti-woke soundbites on demand. Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is permanently up for a fight against ‘wokery’ in the civil service, most recently declaring war on ‘absurd’ staff-training courses, including one called ‘Check yo’ privilege’. Culture secretary Nadine Dorries can be relied on to put the boot into the ‘left-wing snowflakes’ who are ‘killing comedy, tearing down historic statues’ and ‘removing books from universities’. …

But despite these verbal grenades, over the course of the past two-and-a-half years the tide of woke policies has continued to swell. Schools have gone further than before in promoting gender ideology among even the youngest pupils. Many primary schools permit children to change their names and pronouns while at school, regardless of whether parents give their consent. Some go so far as to accommodate young girls who bind their breasts, despite acknowledging the detrimental physical impact this practice has on young children. And it was the Conservative Party that introduced legislation preventing parents from withdrawing children from mandatory relationships classes. …

Rees-Mogg may have criticised right-on staff-training sessions, but they have continued to proliferate, not just in the civil service but in the NHS, too – at huge cost to taxpayers. We need to ask why a Conservative government with a huge democratic mandate, comprising many voters in traditionally working-class areas, has not been able to stem this woke onslaught. …

Boris Johnson’s own first instincts are usually woke, too. Until recently, the question ‘what is a woman?’ had frequently left the PM floundering. He responded last year by ducking the question altogether, mumbling, ‘biology is very important but…’. We will never know whether this waffle was driven by cowardice, confusion or conviction. …

Members of the Conservative Party just cannot agree on whether to be woke or oppose woke — and this confusion extends right into the heart of Downing Street. All too often it seems that policies are made and statements issued in order to win support from those who speak loudest on Twitter rather than the millions of voters that put Boris Johnson’s government into office.

One reason why the government has shown itself to be so ineffectual in tackling woke is because so few ministers seem to understand what is at stake. They don’t seem to realise the role woke language and practices play in reinforcing and legitimising class prejudices. Woke is not a passing fad driven by a handful of ‘loony lefties’ that can be challenged with a few pointed soundbites. Woke ideas need to be taken seriously and challenged morally, intellectually and systematically.

It is clear that Boris is not the man for the job.

Could this be part of the problem?