In an attempt to regain the initiative in the Tory leadership contest from the ridiculous and devious Liz Truss, clever Rishi Sunak has apparently decided to play the ‘culture wars’ card, against Leftist ‘wokeness’. Or should that be ‘wokery’? In any case it’s an imprecise term (Google it), which is mainly used by the Right to stigmatise fashionably ‘progressive’ views like de-gendering public toilets, removing politically offensive statues, and generally undermining ‘patriotism’. (See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jul/29/rishi-sunak-liz-truss-culture-war-woke-nonsense.) This is meant to stir the prejudices of the tiny number of Conservative party members who at present, and quite ludicrously, hold the fate of the government – and hence of the country – in their arthritic and octogenarian hands. (I feel I can say this, being arthritic and octogenarian myself.)
I don’t have any particular view on toilets; but patriotism is ‘my thing’, especially when it’s founded on views of British history; and so I feel I have a contribution to make here. That contribution is spelled out in my Britain’s Contested History: Lessons for Patriots (published last week), which is a rather more nuanced account of the last two hundred years of British history than those favoured by either self-proclaimed ‘patriots’ or by those who want to ‘do Britain down’; and is also (I hope) an intelligent analysis of what ‘patriotism’ – anyone’s patriotism – should consist of. Both Truss and Sunak ought to read it. Of course they won’t.
I’ve characterised Truss as ‘devious’ because of the totally false picture she’s been painting of her deprived upbringing in Leeds; in what in fact was a leafy and ultra-posh suburb, at an excellent Comprehensive school, with a father who was a Professor of Mathematics, and a mother who was a nurse and a teacher. Leeds people are furious. Several commentators have drawn parallels with the famous ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ Monty Python sketch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue7wM0QC5LE). She’s aiming at ‘Red Wall’ voters, of course. But isn’t it worrying that downright lying has suddenly become more acceptable in politics? Another of Boris’s legacies, perhaps.