Article 79

The Increased Frequency Of Press Articles Critical Of Current Policies.

As an example of this recent phenomenon, I quote from an article by Nick Timothy which appeared inThe Daily Telegraph of 27/9/21, entitled ‘Virtue signalling is now a clue that an institution is failing to deliver’, and sub-titled, ‘From the police to big business, preaching now masks a multitude of inadequacies’. He opens his article by stating that ‘there is no one so holy as a progressive pointing to the future’; that ‘they believe truth is their ally, their favoured change is inevitable, and they are on the right side of history’; and that ‘they do not question their assumption that those who stand in their way are corrupt, mendacious, or in the words of the deputy leader of the Labour Party, “scum”‘.

He goes on to observe that ‘amid the factionalism at the Labour conference, the sanctimony and virtue-seeking, is visible for all to see’; that ‘Keir Starmer kicked off by promising to reform the Gender Recognition Act’, by claiming that saying only women have a cervix “is not right” and is “something which should not be said”. In response, Timothy claims that ‘Starmer’s intervention is a case study in progressive politics’; that ‘he promises legal changes to make it easier for men to declare themselves as women and to access single-sex services and spaces without jeopardising the privacy and safety of women’; that ‘in doing so’, Timothy rightly claims that ‘Starmer ‘is not only denying biological reality’; but that ‘he is also claiming the right to tell us what to say and think’; and that ‘this issue arose because Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP and feminist who has criticised proposed changes to gender-recognition laws, has said she cannot attend the party conference because of threats against her made by activists’; that ‘instead of defending Duffield’, Timothy records that ‘Starmer asserted that she did not have right to say what is a biological fact’; that ‘this is yet another example of how those who believe in their own virtue and those who shout loudest about their virtuous beliefs are often those who show (recognise) the least virtue in the real world’; that ‘it is not just the Labour Party that proves it for the public services’; that ‘big business and even this government run by conservatives are also guilty’ (of this error); that ‘the problem runs deeper than hypocrisy’; and that ‘sometimes its claims to great virtue are cynical attempts to cloak seriously unethical behaviour’, as, for example, the ‘way in which Labour politicians campaigned to put Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street by accusing others (their opponents) of racism’.

Again, Timothy records that ‘big business (as exemplified by HSBC) appears to kowtow to a Chinese regime which has crushed Hong Kong, presides over the Uighur genocide in Xinjiang, runs campaigns in Britain lecturing that “we are not an island”‘. Yet again, he records that ‘companies wade into rows about gender fluidity, promise to “educate” their staff about critical race theory, give opinions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and invite employees to make clear their chosen pronouns’. Furthermore, he records that ‘many other firms resort to public declarations of virtue which are a cheap alternatives to doing the right, often more expensive, thing’; that ‘this is doubly dispiriting because in fact it is often these organisations which have the power to make a real difference, but instead (merely) pontificate’. He then records that ‘sometimes the problem is that virtue-seeking cloaks not unethical behaviour but inaction and failure’; that ‘in Birmingham (the previous weekend) the Chief constable of West Midlands police was garlanded at a Pride march alongside officers wearing rainbow face-paint’; that ‘after a spate of violent homophobic attacks, the chief constable said he wanted to stand with the gay community’; that ‘this is understandable enough’; but that ‘the mission of the police is to apprehend criminals and prevent crime’; that ‘this is something West Midlands police had failed to do’; but that ‘few are brave enough to address the prevalent homophobia among the hardliners in the local Muslim community which is where several of the alleged perpetrators come from’. at this point, he records that ‘efforts to educate local school children about different kinds of relationships were opposed by parents who were backed by some local Labour MPs’; and that ‘consequently the symbolism of “standing with the community” is all that is left’.

Timothy goes on to record that ‘the pursuit of virtue is a particular problem with the police, who make it very clear that the next problem which it causes is that it gets in the way of delivery’; that ‘in recent weeks, we have seen officers dancing with Extinction Rebellion protesters instead of arresting them, and pleading pathetically with Insulate Britain activists, hypocritical middle-class virtue-seekers themselves, instead of getting tough with them’; that ‘elsewhere we have the prison service which allows men identifying as women (without official gender registration certificates, though the rationale for such issuance presents yet another problem) into women’s prisons to distribute pronoun badges for staff’; that ‘we have the NHS confusing patients and referring to women as “people with a cervix in information campaigns about cancer’; that ‘we have universities abandoning free speech and dictating the parameters of “acceptable thought”‘.

He then identifies the government itself ‘as the biggest culprit of virtue-seeking by recording that ‘for the past two decades it has been beyond obvious that Britain lacks a credible energy strategy’; that ‘we have too little nuclear power, too few gas-fired power-stations, too little gas storage capacity’; that ‘instead of getting serious about energy infrastructure, ministers in successive governments have focussed almost entirely on making promises to reduce emissions without a plan to keep homes warm, lights on, and bills down’; that ‘concerns about the intermittency of wind power and its effects on price and supply were dismissed as “climate change denialism”; that ‘in the battle between the pursuit of virtue and in getting the job done, virtue-seeking won out, and the unintended consequences of immature policy-making are now with us’; that ‘this promotion of virtue has cloaked unethical behaviour, has hidden inaction and failure. has got in the way of delivery and leaves us with the unintended consequences’; but that ‘there is a further problem: the politicisation of the public space’. Thus, ‘from going to the theatre to watching a football match, from politicians to businesses telling us what to think and what to do, from police to the NHS inserting themselves into contested social and political debates, it is almost impossible to avoid politics which inevitably divides’; that ‘chief constables might not recognise how infuriating it is to the public when the police have time to banter with law-breaking protesters, yet fail to respond to burglaries, and show more enthusiasm for tweeting and attending rallies than fighting crime’; that ‘they, politicians, and businesses need to recognise the damage their pursuit of virtue is doing’; and that ‘in the end real virtue comes from serving the public and getting the job done’.

I very much welcome the concept of virtue-seeking as introduced by Nick Timothy in the above citation. I would add only that getting the job done requires the knowledge that it needs to be done, the knowledge that it can be done, and the knowledge that enables it to be done; and that these requirements can be met only by recognition of the need for definitive belief to be replaced with definitive knowledge as advocated in this website. 14/10/21.

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