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Sic ’em, Triggs!

Let’s sool the Human Rights Commissions onto the Woke

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

In Canada an old friend of mine, Bruce Pardy, wrote an opinion piece last week calling on conservatives to start to do what the Left does to us, back to them – to turn their own institutions against them. He had in mind Human Rights Commissions and the whole progressive ideology that is embedded in human rights legislation. In an ideal world, a right-of-centre government would have the courage to repeal these human rights codes and these bodies. I’ve been calling for it for a decade, since the s.18C Bolt and QUT fiascos. But we now know that that simply won’t happen – our rather pathetic political class, including supposed conservatives, has become woke, to keep company with the universities, Big Tech, mainstream media and big business. So despite the fact rights were originally understood as protecting citizens against government and the state (‘vertically’, in the jargon), more and more human rights have been transmogrified into instruments that also affect citizen-to-citizen behaviour (‘horizontally’). Of course the sort of compulsion brought to bear on businesses and private citizens by these codes and commissions mimics the loves of the Left. They are used to pressure Christian bakers to provide cakes for homosexual nuptials and female aestheticians to wax transsexuals with male genitalia.  But they are never used to make private shopowners serve the guy with the MAGA hat or to stop Twitter and Facebook from censoring right-wing speech they detest. For the latter, the Left finds a new-found love for ‘private businesses being private’, baby.

So my Canadian friend’s argument is this: In principle a conservative ought to be opposed to extending rights protections to cover stopping discrimination on the ground of political belief. But in today’s world, with so many institutions captured by the Left and cancel culture wokeness extending its grip daily, that’s a mistake. We now live in a world where people are cancelled left and right – actually, only right. So let’s call for human rights protections to be extended to political beliefs. Protect it all, and enforce it all against private companies, universities and the public service. Yes, yes, yes, that will impose even more limits on the private sector. They’ll be even more limited in their ability to hire and fire. They’ll find even conservative employees will be able to make all sorts of claims that they were fired or not promoted due to their political leanings. Human rights regimes may well become so unwieldy they’ll become sclerotic, slow and fall into disrepair and disrepute (especially if they receive no extra funding, which might just be something our useless conservative governments can manage). Better yet, these additional burdens will fall disproportionately on the big end of town, the universities and on governments. This is their agenda. They’re enthusiastic about it. So let’s give it to them good and hard.

Not a bad idea, is it? Let’s face it. Our instinctive ‘preserve what exists’ conservative view in favour of free markets, free speech and small government, and of keeping pseudo-government agencies out of our lives, is losing. We’re losing. So continually trying to preserve the status quo – ‘thus far, but no farther’ – looks to be a mug’s game. As my friend in the Great White North argues, why not try giving them a taste of their own medicine? If we can’t abolish the human rights codes and commissions, let’s push for an extension to protect political beliefs and then inundate the bastards with claims.

In Britain this past weekend there were local council elections as well as a Westminster Parliament by-election. Labour took massive losses in both. The by-election was in the seat of Hartlepool. For all 47 years since it was created out of Old and West Hartlepools, this constituency has been a Labour seat. Back in 2016 it also had one of the highest ‘vote for Brexit’ tallies in all of the UK. So Labour, after replacing Jeremy Corbyn with human rights barrister Keir Starmer, the man who devised Labour’s strategy of not accepting that 2016 referendum result and instead calling for a second referendum (an idea blown out of the water by Boris’s big election win at the end of 2019), then went and chose as its Hartlepool candidate an absolutely rabid Remainer. The man was such an EU-phile he had to delete his Twitter history after being pre-selected. It’s as though Labour thinks its long-standing working class supporters are morons. (In fact, on Twitter there are loads of examples of Londonista wokerati Labourites saying the most appalling things about northern working class voters; for a century their base.) I could be wrong but this does not strike me as a winning election strategy.

The problem is that a woke, Brexit-hating media, together with the vast preponderance of the views found on social media, paint a picture that is very much of the sort you’d hear in any chardonnay-sipping, inner-city, well-off lefty home over your vegan dinner before the nightly self-flagellation ‘white guilt’ session. These views are no doubt popular on Twitter. But they are not popular in the real world. (Memo to Scott Morrison: stop being in thrall to the Twitterati and grow some cojones.) Only about five per cent of the voting population ever posts anything on social media. (Confession: I don’t. And I never read it either unless a particular tweet is specifically sent to me.) It is by listening to this sludge that Labour in Britain managed not just to lose a seat they’d held for a half-century; they lost it in a by-election where it went from the Opposition to a government that’s been in office (if you count Theresa May as being in office) for eleven years. And with an absolutely huge swing.

I claim no insightful genius in saying, ‘Labour in Britain is in really big trouble.’ The problem is that around the anglosphere the political spectrum is realigning. The rich now overwhelming vote left. (Just go and check the data for the last two US presidential elections.) Meanwhile the working class is moving into the ranks of the conservative parties. And they are the home of those who value patriotism, limiting immigration, judging individuals not groups, standing up for social views that only a decade ago were rock-solid normal and uncontested – these days described as ‘hard right’– things like believing in biology and basic scope for free speech without being cancelled. The economy is becoming less and less of a point of contention.

This causes strains in both big parties on the right and the left. With majoritarian voting systems (like Britain’s, Canada’s, the US’s, and ours), it’s a battle to see which side tears itself apart first. Had Britain’s Labour party accepted the woeful, Brexit-in-name-only offered up by Theresa May, it would have caused the right side of politics to tear itself asunder. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party might have won last night’s by-election. But Labour didn’t accept it. Boris came along. Brexit got done. And it’s the Left that looks set to tear itself apart for the next decade or more. Who will it be in Australia, because I promise you this is coming?

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