13 June 2019

Conservatives cannot afford to shy away from the culture war

By Tim Dawson

The culture war is raging all around us and it’s time for the Conservative Party to go into battle.

An eminent philosopher has recently been removed from a government appointment because of a series of inaccurate tweets by a left-wing journalist. An award-winning Doctor Who writer, who also happens to be a gay Conservative, has been sacked from an upcoming BBC Books anthology because of views on transgenderism which the majority would agree with. A Conservative Leadership contender has been castigated for refusing to describe himself as a feminist.

The left is on the march — through the BBC, through our universities, through our cultural institutions — and it’s essential that the Conservatives do something about it.

This is not about importing America’s toxic culture clash to the UK; that would be dreadful. It’s about accepting that the UK has a serious set of cultural problems, which need a concrete policy response.

My background — unusually for a Conservative — is as a writer, for the BBC and for private companies.

Well, I say for private companies; the truth is, in the world of television and radio scriptwriting, the BBC dominates the market, much as it does in News – most roads, particularly for the jobbing hack, eventually lead to the publicly-funded behemoth.

This dominance gives the BBC, and the handsomely-salaried commissioners and managers who work in it, enormous power. And this same principle applies across Universities and the arts in general.

The Conservative approach so far has been to appease, with Conservative politicians going out of their way to appear on board with identity politics and committed to big government with even bigger bills. The first problem with this is its ideological incoherence.  A Conservative government which elevates state apparatus above the individual and seeks to expand rather than curtail its influence is not really conservative.

Second, in doing so Conservatives create a rod for their own backs: powerful public sector vested interests who will always resist the free market because a free market would curtail rather than expand their influence.

It is foolish to pretend that the University sector and the BBC aren’t dominated by left-wing bias. Ultimately, however, the problem and the solution come down to one key motivating factor: money. We know that human behaviour is influenced by opportunities to accrue wealth and thereby self-interest. It is in both the BBC’s and universities’ interests to push big government dogma.

And this attitude permeates the complete cultural ecology. ‘Arts groups’ — often pinned to an identitarian label — recieve funding from central or local government and effectively turn into organs of the state. The artists are reliant on public funds, largely because their output is not commercially viable. They are incentivised to dress to the left, which they do with verve; wherever you find an ‘arts group’, dishevelled men in Che Guevara t-shirts are always nearby.

Fear of the BBC and the academic sector also frustrates meaningful conversations about health policy. The NHS uses the BBC to provide endless self-aggrandising programming; witness the BBC’s saccharine “NHS at 75” season.

Sure, the NHS has its advantages but it has many disadvantages too. Ironically, people who have decided that the EU is the font of all that is kind and lovely are often unwilling to recognise that health provision in France, Italy, Holland, Germany and Belgium is demonstrably superior. We must have a debate about our health service; this is impossible as long as it is allowed to clog the airwaves with BBC-endorsed agitprop largely unchallenged.

Now is the time for the Conservative Party to strike. Frustration with our increasingly restrictive cultural life is spreading through the non-identitarian left and right; and the wider public. Our cultural institutions are pursuing diversity of everything, except thought. Meanwhile, if you do express a viewpoint outside of metropolitan acceptability – even if most people agree with you – you can face brutal reprisals.

I am, like most reasonable people, in favour of looking after individuals who through no fault of their own need help: the sick, the old, the unlucky. I do not think it sensible to extend this benevolence to left-wing academics in universities with no real value; nor theatres staging work nobody wishes to see; nor, frankly, legions of insulated BBC managers.

What is, for example, a University of Salford ‘Creative Digital Media’ degree worth in the wider economy? The answer is very little; certainly, not what it costs to ‘study’.

The obvious next question is what Conservatives should do about this; and I’ll offer an answer in a forthcoming piece for CapX. But the right cannot shy away from the culture wars. The diversity industry is massive and merciless and it will require serious determination to win this fight.

Much like Thatcher versus Scargill, the Conservatives will need to put in a Herculean effort, bolstered by the knowledge that they’re doing not only what is right but essential.

And it will be worth it: to re-entrench our core values of freedom of thought and expression. The culture war is raging and the left are winning. I hope the next Prime Minister, whoever it may be, will begin the fightback.

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Tim Dawson is a writer and journalist.