On April 18, 1775, the great American patriot Paul Revere rode through the night to deliver his countrymen a simple warning: ‘The British are coming! The British are coming!’ Today, as an American pollster returning to spend time in the UK after several years, I bring you an equally urgent warning: ‘Woke is coming!’
Over the past decade we in America have seen two destructive forces creep up and poison our democracy, our society and even our economy: populism on the Right, and Wokeism on the Left.
The rise of populism has shredded the political fabric of the country. The rise of Wokeism is undermining the principles of economic freedom and meritocracy.
And thanks to social media, these forces know no borders, seas or oceans. Faith in democracy itself is at an all-time low.
We all know about the damage done by populism. Even today, about half of Republicans – a quarter of Americans – continue to believe Donald Trump is the legitimate President. They are objectively incorrect but they believe they are right and righteous. And that makes them dangerous.
But less well-known and potentially even more damaging is Wokeism.
The rise of populism has shredded the political fabric of the country. The rise of Wokeism is undermining the principles of economic freedom and meritocracy. Pictured: The statue of Winston Churchill defaced, with the words (Churchill) ‘was a racist’ written on it in June
To put numbers behind the terminology, 38 per cent of the UK population doesn’t know what ‘Woke’ means. Just over a third, 34 per cent, know nothing about ‘cancel culture’.
And if the remaining two-thirds of the population have heard of it, many think it’s about toppling statues or choosing your pronouns.
Some of the elite in this country claim Woke doesn’t actually exist, or that it’s just like any other pressure group, or that it is purely a political movement for electoral gain. There is some legitimacy to each assertion.
Yet Woke really is here. Like an as-yet-undiscovered tumour, slowly but steadily metastasising as it did in my own country.
It is like coronavirus, impacting different people in different ways and there’s no known antidote.
And as a pollster, my job isn’t just to measure the present. It’s to see the future with clear eyes… and then inform and enable people to control it. At its core, Woke is an ideology that classifies us into tribes and disrespects our individuality.
It judges us not by our actions but by our appearance, seeking to create the perception that our history, our economy, and our society have been built on – and are defined by – exploitation, grievance and victimisation.
It labels whole groups of people as co-conspirators in crimes committed generations or even centuries ago.
Walking through London and observing the astonishing buildings – some of them older than my entire country – still fills me with reverence. But through the eyes of the Woke community, one would never see the majestic beauty of British architecture or the staggering accomplishments of your society.
They bury their heads in shame, convinced by the premise that these buildings exist only because of the wealth stolen from other countries through imperialism and greed.
In their view, the founding sin of America was slavery. Yours was the British Empire.
That may seem like ancient history. Literally. But not to the Woke.
To put numbers behind the terminology, 38 per cent of the UK population doesn’t know what ‘Woke’ means. Just over a third, 34 per cent, know nothing about ‘cancel culture’. Pictured: Police officers take the knee at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020
There is real inequality in Britain and America today. We must be clear about that. Discrimination is still too common, a cancer that infects everyone and everything around. I’ve seen with my own eyes what it does to the human condition. Where it is found, it must be eliminated. No exceptions. No excuses.
For the past two months, I’ve been conducting public opinion research in Britain to quantify precisely where the country stands.
Our surveys and focus groups covered a range of topics, from politics to business, from society to culture, in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Studies, the think-tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher. We had a simple mission: to listen to what all Britons truly think and feel – not just the loud ones with their social-media-enabled megaphones – and then report the information.
We stayed clear of fear and negativity. There’s been enough of them already. We highlighted points of unity, though they are admittedly few. Prepare yourself… Our polling found that when asked to choose between the statements ‘The United Kingdom is a nation of equality and freedom’ and ‘The United Kingdom is an institutionally racist and discriminatory nation’, more than a third of the British public (37 per cent) say that this is a racist country.
Similarly, if you ask whether British society ‘gives people a fair chance to get ahead if they work hard and take responsibility’, or ‘is full of injustice and inequality that holds too many people back’, 42 per cent (and 58 per cent of Labour voters) say the country is full of injustice and inequality.
These are disturbing findings. Yes, the clear majority still believe that Britain is a good place. But many millions of Britons do not.
BLM protesters toppled slave trader Edward Colston’s statue into Bristol harbour in May 2020 (pictured)
For the past two months, I’ve been conducting public opinion research in Britain to quantify precisely where the country stands. Pictured: Protest in London in August 2020
Of course, some people will argue that Woke is a concern, but not the main concern. And in the short term, both sides are right. When British people go to bed at night, they don’t lie awake worrying about the rise of cancel culture. If they’re thinking about politics at all, they’re thinking about the rising hospital waiting times, crime, or the rising cost of living that makes it difficult for some people to pay their bills.
So why am I ringing the alarm bells? Why am I acting like Paul Revere in reverse?
Because once you dive into our findings, an even more alarming picture emerges – particularly when you break down the country by age, party and community. Britain, for example, is increasingly voting according to culture, not economics.
The way to reach Conservative voters used to be through ideas such as entrepreneurship and wealth-creation. Now it’s about stability and security.
Today, the way to reach Labour voters is to talk about (in)equality rather than economic opportunity.
It’s been said that Americans and Britons are two nations separated by a common language. In the same way, Britons are two peoples separated by uncommon priorities.
Labour voters are much more likely to say that Britain is racist, unequal and generally broken. Unlike Tory voters, they believe that the political and economic system are stacked against them.
Among those who think they know what Woke means, more Labour voters would say they are very or totally Woke than not, and more would say they are proud to be Woke than reject it as divisive – the opposite of the public as a whole.
But the most alarming finding is when you break down the country by age. The people who told us that Britain is institutionally racist and discriminatory were overwhelmingly the young.
As a pollster, my job isn’t just to measure the present. It’s to see the future with clear eyes… and then inform and enable people to control it. Pictured: Frank Luntz with former US President Donald Trump
Among those aged 18 to 29, 57 per cent felt that way – 20 points higher than any other age group. They are also by far the most likely age cohort to describe themselves as Woke. They see the world around them entirely differently from those who are older, and that makes inter-generational co-operation very difficult.
While a majority of the public believes that ‘white privilege’ exists, the young are the only group who agree that it ‘must be addressed directly with specific education, training, and public policy’, and that ‘white people need to understand that their whole lives have been easier because of the colour of their skin’, rather than that ‘our focus should be on the people who need help regardless of skin colour’.
As if that wasn’t enough, here’s something truly troubling. Young people as a whole in this country are more likely to feel Britain is systematically racist than the non-white community who are actually experiencing the racism – because that’s what the young are being taught and told.
One more time: racism and discrimination do exist. But if you’re brought up to consider yourself a victim, you will be a victim.
If you’re raised to believe you have control over your life, you will have control.
And if the people who have impact over how you think tell you again and again that your country is awful, eventually you will come to that conclusion yourself.
This matters for two hugely important reasons.
The first is to do with freedom of speech – something as cherished in your country as it is in mine.
The real problem I have with Woke culture is that it is just as intolerant as what it claims to oppose. It tells me that my voice should not be heard simply because they define me as being ‘privileged’ in certain ways.
That I can be dismissed, dehumanised. Delegitimised.
Instead of lifting up those in need, it seeks to tear everyone else down.
In Britain as a whole, we found that 28 per cent of people have stopped talking to someone, in person or online, because of something political they once said. But among 18 to 29s, that rises to 53 per cent, a majority.
We are bringing up a generation that does not understand or appreciate that we have a duty to disagree. That the more certain you are in the virtue of your beliefs, the more necessary it is to listen to those who challenge them and to do so with mutual respect. And that it’s ultimately to their benefit. Iron sharpens iron.
Social media has had a catastrophic impact in this regard. In Britain and America we are moving away from listening to news that informs us towards seeking news that affirms us – towards talking only to those we already agree with while demonising those who don’t.
No wonder that the top worry for parents and grandparents is that children are too addicted to technology. They see the invasive, pervasive and values-shaping impact of screen time. It’s not about the technology, it’s that they know the internet is doing more to shape their family’s world view than they are themselves. And with that comes guilt, and worry.
Wokeism doesn’t just destroy friendships or the quality of debate, it also undermines respect for the past, faith in the future and a commitment to economic freedom for everyone.
It says that you didn’t succeed in life through hard work, effort and perseverance. That your company didn’t succeed because it paid good wages and made good products.
No, it succeeded because you exploited others, even if you didn’t realise you were doing so and even if that exploitation took place decades or even centuries ago.
With Woke and with populism alike, there is a greater emphasis on punishing the past than fortifying the future.
Wokeism doesn’t just destroy friendships or the quality of debate, it also undermines respect for the past, faith in the future and a commitment to economic freedom for everyone. Police guard Churchill’s statue in April 2021
The US has seen a parade of companies writing seven-figure cheques to Black Lives Matter, abasing themselves before the warriors of Woke, in the hope of being spared. It doesn’t work. It never did. It never will. In today’s world, you can talk all you want about your corporate purpose or the charity donations. The Woke will still hate you.
It’s no longer about results or performance. It’s about virtue signalling. The appearance of caring.
One of the most striking findings in our survey is that people do not want to listen to businesses talking about how good they are, or giving us their views on political and social issues.
The Woke PR staff at Ben & Jerry’s may think that tweeting Home Secretary Priti Patel about immigration policy will get its customers on side. But no one else agrees.
The British public does care about climate change and the environment, something on which – uniquely among the countries I’ve worked in – both Left and Right agree. But that is where the consensus ends.
What, you will ask, can you do about Woke? How can you and your Government ensure that Britain doesn’t go the way of America?
And there are two answers to that. The first is a bad one. It’s to do what Donald Trump did. Turn everything into a culture war. Stoke up bitterness and division. It’s a trench-warfare approach to politics that can yield short-term electoral gains but no long-term solutions.
I’ve seen where it leads. In America now, I can’t even put Republicans and Democrats in the same focus group. Within a few minutes, someone will say: ‘How can you say that?’ And five minutes later, it’s anarchy.
You might not believe it but your country is different. It is better. It is civil. I’ve done focus groups here with Labour and Tory voters and they disagree on many things. But they’re polite. They listen. They respond. You don’t want to lose that. You can’t.
In a Twitter thread, Ben & Jerry’s UK said that ‘”stronger” borders aren’t the answer’ and that ‘people cannot be illegal’
The other answer is something that emerged from our polling. When people talked about what was needed in Britain’s conversation about race, the words and phrases they used most were ‘mutual respect’, ‘fairness’, ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘tolerance’. Those are essential British values that need to be taught to ensure they remain prized and cherished. That we are stronger together. That we can disagree passionately, and yet be better for it.
And we also need to fix the economy: to share the genuine blessings of economic freedom with every citizen in every corner of the country. If anyone is held back or prevented from achieving their potential, the entire country suffers.
Populism, Wokeism and grievance do best when people feel they are doing worst. If you don’t think you’ve got the opportunity to build a better life, if you feel that the economy and political system are stacked against you, that’s when you’ll be most vulnerable to disillusion, division and disunity.
It’s a perpetual downward spiral.
So it’s truly bad news that – by a huge margin of 61 to 20 per cent – voters across the country agreed with the sentiment: ‘When I look at the politicians and how they treat us, I just think “f*** them all.” ’
Although the language is truly sordid, it elicits nodding heads across the country.
Yet, however great the dangers facing Britain, your destiny is not determined. In his farewell address to the country, President Reagan described America as a ‘shining city on a hill’. It pains me to say this, but that shine is gone. Today, autocracies such as China and Russia point to America and claim democracy is dysfunctional.
So this is my warning to you: don’t let the shine come off Britain, too. For once it’s gone, that shine may never come back.
Three peers banned from Lords bars – for refusing to attend ‘woke workshop’
By Anna Mikhailova Deputy Political Editor
Three peers face being banned from using House of Lords bars and restaurants after refusing to take a controversial sexual harassment course.
Former Tory party treasurer Lord Kalms, Lord James and Lord Willoughby will lose access to Lords’ facilities, and will be only allowed to communicate with staff by email, after refusing to take part in ‘Valuing Everyone’ training.
It comes after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Betty Boothroyd, who made history as the first and only female Commons Speaker, was one of 60 peers investigated for not completing the course.
A row erupted over the decision to open the formal probe into Baroness Boothroyd, despite knowing that she had been recovering from open-heart surgery. After the public outcry, Lady Boothroyd was finally cleared of breaching the code due to exceptional circumstances.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine called the training a ‘shocking waste of taxpayer money’ after completing it to avoid punishment.
It comes after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Betty Boothroyd (pictured in 2016), who made history as the first and only female Commons Speaker, was one of 60 peers investigated for not completing the course
The ‘Valuing Everyone’ two-hour session is run by a controversial consultancy firm that uses giant blue puppets in some of its courses. Challenge Consultancy has pocketed £885,354 for running the course across the Commons and Lords, a Parliament spokesman said.
After being found in breach of the Lords’ code of conduct, the three peers will be banned from the House’s ‘dining and banqueting facilities’, the Lords Library and meeting rooms which they can usually book. They will only be able to communicate with Lords staff, including clerks and the Lord Speaker’s office, by email.
The sanctions were approved by the Lord Conduct Committee, which is chaired by former Supreme Court judge Lord Mance. They will this month be debated in the Lords, which is expected to rubber stamp them.
The peers will only get the access back if they agree to the training, which Lord James, 83, who previously advised George Osborne, argued is an infringement on freedom of speech. Hereditary peer Lord Willoughby, 82, said the training was ‘misguided’ and amounted to ‘virtue signalling’. He told the committee: ‘The idea that we should be trained to value everyone is wholly misguided. However much training I get, I will never value everyone; as an example, I will never be able to value murderous terrorists, however many re-education or self-criticism camps I am required to attend.’
A row erupted over the decision to open the formal probe into Baroness Boothroyd (pictured in 2019), despite knowing that she had been recovering from open-heart surgery
Lord Stanley Kalms, 89, who ran electronics retailer Dixons, said: ‘During that period I was at the forefront of female equal rights and pay well ahead of legalisation.’
He questioned the Lords’ powers to ban people on the basis of ‘lack of training’, adding: ‘Does this mean the House could approve other embargoes, for instance no training in nuclear technology or not being able to read a balance sheet?’
‘Valuing Everyone’, which is voluntary for MPs, was made compulsory in the Lords last year.
Conservative MP Tom Hunt has previously said that peers should not be forced to do the course. Another MP criticised the training as ‘woke consultancies trying to milk the public sector’.
In April the House of Commons spokesman said the total spend from Parliament on Challenge Consultancy to date was £885,354, which primarily covers ‘Valuing Everyone’ training.
Lords authorities insisted the training is ‘informed by real examples of inappropriate behaviour by members that had previously typically gone unchallenged’.
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