You’d think that with all the lunacy that’s happened in the past year, writing a book about Woke Britain would be the easiest thing in the world. I thought so too, until I tried it.
So why has it been so difficult? It’s because by the spring, not even each day, but each hour brought some new snippet of Woke insanity. Every morning I would find that half a dozen acts of idiocy had taken place while I’d slept.
I’d go to bed reeling from the claim that country walks were racist and wake up to the glad tidings that cyclists wanted to be included in the ever-lengthening queue of those who may be eligible for hate crime status.
Between 2017 and 2019 I had a rather embarrassing crush on Meghan Markle
Say what you like about Prince Harry’s parentage, in this department he certainly seems to be a chip off the old blockhead
As the insanity picked up velocity, one cultural artefact after another went up in flames, lest it offend somebody.
First they came for our TV memories. Fawlty Towers (don’t mention the war), the Dukes Of Hazzard (a car decorated with a Confederate flag) and Songs Of Praise (whose producer likened people singing Rule Britannia to neo-Nazis celebrating gas chambers).
Then they came for cartoons. On Disney’s streaming service, classics such as Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp and The Jungle Book were preceded by the dire warning: ‘This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.’
They came for the museums. The Natural History Museum’s Charles Darwin collection was targeted because he had voyaged to the Galapagos Islands on ‘colonialist scientific expeditions’.
Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles (perhaps the grandaddy of Woke, with his mutterings on this and that), has long exemplified my observation: ‘It’s no wonder that the wealthy are friends of the Earth – it’s been a damn good friend to them’
And they came for the old houses. The National Trust published a list of nearly 100 of its properties which it claimed had links to slavery and colonialism.
They came for full stops, which apparently intimidate young people when used in social-media communication as they are interpreted as a sign of anger and insincerity.
They even came for rainbows, when a psychologist complained: ‘Not long after lockdown was imposed, I was pleasantly surprised to see a rainbow flag on my drive home from work.
‘However, as I saw more rainbow flags, I quickly realised these were not intended as support for the LGBTQ+ community, but rather as support for the NHS. I felt saddened, and disappointed.’
But it was racism – which is without doubt one of the greatest evils of the Earth – that became the big one in the past year or so, suddenly detected in all sorts of places you could never have imagined.
Master bedrooms were racist (master has slavery connotations). Chess was racist (because white always goes first). Brunch was racist, according to the actor Alan Cumming, because it reeks of ‘white privilege’.
Sherlock Holmes was racist, the countryside was racist, fried chicken was racist, the anti-racist film In The Heat Of The Night was racist.
Hawaiian shirts, camping, gardening, biking, hiking, jogging, mathematics, trees, botany, libraries, roads, lawns, soap, craft beers, peanut butter, dieting, wine, spelling, Thomas The Tank Engine, robots, interior design, surfing, hockey, the Smurfs – ALL RACIST!
So in the interests of harmony and time saving, shall we just cut to the chase and ban everything: every book, film and TV show, reinstating each one only when a global referendum has established that no one in the world is offended by them?
I started writing this book during lockdown, when we were all reassessing what was really important to us. At first I wondered if I should even write it at all, given that we were ‘all in it together’. Luckily, the ceaseless whining and ill-will from Wokers at a time when everyday people proved to be humdrum heroes and the Conservative government was acting like Robin Hood gave me renewed purpose.
For instance, I heard a right-on halfwit on the radio complaining that in dangerous days like these, we should have more diversity in the Cabinet if it was to be credible, ‘because when everyone looks the same, it doesn’t give people confidence in the Government’.
This would be the Cabinet in which the four main offices of state were occupied by a woman of Gujarati-East African extraction, a man of Punjabi-East African extraction, a man of Eastern European Jewish extraction and a bouncing bumptious blond man whose great-grandfather was the Turkish politician Ali Kemal who served under the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire.
Did the radio halfwit perhaps believe that diversity was being ill served by there being too few Anglo-Saxons in the Cabinet?
Of course not. She was merely appalled by the wrong type of diversity – one which had come about through effort and merit rather than quotas and patronage.
Why, even during the greatest threat to the human race in living memory, were the Woke still such nitpicking naysayers?
IT had all been going so well. Women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities – in the West – seemed to be moving towards parity with the people who had always presumed to know better, ie white men.
A female British Prime Minister in 1979, a black American President in 2008, more gays than you could shake a rainbow-striped stick at on primetime TV – all pulling down the barriers one block at a time.
And then Woke came along and it all went wrong.
Like Political Correctness before it, Wokeness started as an admirable aim and ended up as a despicable smugness, inhabited by people who need never tackle their own shortcomings while there are demonised others to unload upon.
You’ll have seen them everywhere: Wokers in fashion, publishing, universities, the BBC, the Labour Party, the Royal Family.
And though they think of themselves as the most enlightened group in any society, both their beliefs and the way they express them hark back to a darker time.
Wokeness is the roar of the entitled mediocre, desperate to hold centre stage and terrified by any challenge to their flimsy sense of self – a temper tantrum with a socially concerned alibi.
The word ‘Woke’ means anything other than the opposite of being asleep. But there is something creepy and smug about the word – indicating that one person is inherently better than others, without actually having to do anything to prove it.
But it wasn’t till the smuggest, most inactive people on Earth – privately educated and over-protected students – got their hands on it that the true folly of Woke was revealed in all its gory glory.
Universities have now been refurbished as pity-party play-pens where feelings trump facts, as they do for infants.
The Woke would be less objectionable if they lived up to their own pristine standards, but they fall woefully short.
In an inversion of the psychiatrist Carl Jung’s great saying ‘You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do’, once you have identified as Woke you can get away with anything.
Thus the Sussexes feel free to lecture others on climate change while happily flying about in private jets.
But perhaps what I hate most about the Woke is the way they have done the dirty on feminism.
I found Margaret Thatcher fascinating, but I never voted for her. I’d been brought up in a Communist household with such a hardcore Labour father that for much of my infancy I believed ‘capitalist’ literally to be a swear word.
Mrs Thatcher was a rebel and just my kind – far more so than the stale, pale, male Labour leaders I mindlessly kept wasting my vote on because the patriarchy, in the shape of my own dear pa, had told me it was the proper thing to do.
There’s a lovely photograph of the punk singer Poly Styrene, the novelist Jackie Collins and the campaigner Mary Whitehouse attending the Women of the Year lunch shortly after Mrs Thatcher’s first Election victory in 1979, all smiling at each other. It says something good about the late 20th Century that such different women were happy to be seen together.
It’s a bit rich seeing Woke Blokes such as Jon Snow smirking while saying he’s ‘never seen so many white people in one place’ at a Brexit rally, when Extinction Rebellion are so white they make the Last Night Of The Proms look like Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival
I wonder whether this could happen now?
Regrettably, I rather think that, instead, we’d have some bloke referring to himself as ‘They’ centre stage and the women shooed off to the sidelines.
That’s certainly what’s happened in the Labour Party.
What were they doing while Mrs Thatcher was encouraging girls to believe they could lead the country?
They were electing a selection of dinosaur dudes as leader – duds as disparate as James Callaghan and Michael Foot – while ignoring the talent, such as that of Harriet Harman, in their ranks.
With almost three decades on the front bench, twice acting deputy leader and the first Labour woman to feature at Prime Minister’s Questions, Harman is the definitive Nearly Woman – as are all capable Labour women, trapped in a party which, having signed up to the brotherhood of man, seems quite happy to ride roughshod over their sisters.
That the Tories were not so inclined became obvious with their election of Theresa May as both party leader and PM in 2016 – just a year after Labour chose another man to lead them – a man who appeared as much a fan of misogyny as any other weirdy beardy, from friendly neighbourhood mosque to local real ale society.
Jeremy Corbyn may have named the women’s rights reformer Mary Wollstonecraft as his hero, but talk is cheap.
Not only have the Conservatives had two female leaders while Labour have achieved the grand total of zero, but as the Labour MP Jess Phillips told me: ‘People on the Left are champions of sex equality until they see that some of their power is being taken away from them – whereas the Tories willingly gave it over.’
Many Labour supporters breathed a sigh of relief when Corbyn was replaced by Sir Keir Starmer.
But I could hardly have been more underwhelmed. For me, my party jumped the shark when the female leadership candidates were asked their positions on the Gender Recognition Act and each one said that they were fine with male-bodied rapists being put into female prisons.
In this age of safe spaces for all, the spaces where women are most vulnerable – toilets, jails, women’s refuges – were suddenly flung open to any rapacious trucker who had decided that he felt like a woman.
When Woman’s Place UK – a long-standing feminist group – pointed out that sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, they were reviled as a ‘trans-exclusionist hate group’ and told that their supporters would be expelled from the Labour Party.
Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates as apparently disparate as Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long Bailey, Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner and Rosena Allin-Khan all queued up to witch-hunt their fellow women.
The party which, in its infancy, had rejected the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst as a member on the grounds of her sex, was right back where it started – only this time it was old enough to know better.
Between 2017 and 2019 I had a rather embarrassing crush on Meghan Markle.
‘Meghan has never waited soppily for some prince to rescue her,’ I wrote in one magazine. ‘In fact, it seems far likelier that it is she who will rescue the prince.’
CRINGE! as the youngsters say. Thankfully, I was swiftly thoroughly disillusioned.
‘Harry and Meghan took four private jets in 11 days after a summer of lecturing us about climate change; this followed shortly after the Prince’s jaunt to the Google climate change summit where he is also thought to have taken a helicopter, as he habitually uses them to fly short distances whereas the Queen makes do with a train,’ I scribbled in another article.
Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates as apparently disparate as Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long Bailey, Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner and Rosena Allin-Khan all queued up to witch-hunt their fellow women
‘Having Elton John rush in to defend them didn’t help, but only further established that the Sussexes saw themselves as international stars rather than one nation’s public servants.’
Shortly after hearing that Meghan planned to semi-retire from Royal duties in order to spend more time with her merchandising, I coined the phrase the ‘Grabdication’ (grabbing the limelight, grabbing the status, grabbing the cash) and my rehabilitation was complete.
The Grabdication was another Woke event, along with the Gender Recognition Act and the Remoaner refusal to accept Brexit, which while appearing to be liberal was actually the opposite.
The Grabdication told peasants that princes may do as they wish with no regard to public opinion; the Gender Recognition Act that men may do as they wish with no regard for the opinion of women; and a proposed second vote on Brexit that the ruling class may do as they wish and ignore the voice of the people.
We’d been on this ‘do-as-I-say- not-as-I-fly’ bumpy ride before, of course; Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles (perhaps the grandaddy of Woke, with his mutterings on this and that), has long exemplified my observation: ‘It’s no wonder that the wealthy are friends of the Earth – it’s been a damn good friend to them.’
The idea of a pre-industrial Eden – the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate – has fuelled the righteous fury of aristocrats against capitalism since the late 1960s.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Green Party was guided by the rather charming and telegenic Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt, 2nd Baronet and Old Etonian.
Another Old Etonian, Zac Goldsmith – or Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park, as his friends call him – proved with his extensive championing of ecology issues over the past two decades that super-rich and sexy Conservative MPs could be as rabidly pro-planet and anti-humanity as any smelly old unelectable loony.
The well-born travelling the world in order to gather evidence as to why the humbly born should stay at home and treat themselves to a lovely staycation in Slough has thus become something of a blueprint.
But none of these ‘Green’ hypocrites could hold a hand-poured soy wax vegan Highgrove candle to their kingpin, the Prince of Wales, who in 2007 flew first class to America – with an entourage of 20 people – to collect an environmental award.
And then, two years later, used a private jet on an ‘environmental’ tour of South America, costing approximately £300,000 for a 16,000-mile trip.
Say what you like about Prince Harry’s parentage, in this department he certainly seems to be a chip off the old blockhead.
Prince Charles has an actress chum, too. Emma Thompson (the grandmother of Woke) flew in first class from Los Angeles to London to join the Extinction Rebellion protests of spring 2019 – a 5,456-mile transatlantic flight that stomped out a three-ton carbon footprint.
Extinction Rebellion, which demands that flights be used only in emergencies, simpered that Dame Emma’s jaunt was ‘an unfortunate cost in our bigger battle to save the planet’.
In short, Green – like Wokeness itself – is the first socio-political movement in which every mover and shaker ranges from well-off to filthy rich.
Hearing the over-privileged halfwits of Extinction Rebellion talk about economic growth as if it were child abuse, you can sense real contempt towards people who believe that working at a job in order to make money and pay the taxes which keep society civil is a desirable thing to do.
Emma Thompson (the grandmother of Woke) flew in first class from Los Angeles to London to join the Extinction Rebellion protests of spring 2019 – a 5,456-mile transatlantic flight that stomped out a three-ton carbon footprint
It’s a bit rich seeing Woke Blokes such as Jon Snow smirking while saying he’s ‘never seen so many white people in one place’ at a Brexit rally, when Extinction Rebellion are so white they make the Last Night Of The Proms look like Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival.
Ecology is politics for people who don’t like people and are miffed that the masses are now free to travel cheaply, rather than being hooked up to a plough or doing laundry in a creek.
During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, it was a common Woke boast by celebs – from Snoop Dogg to Barbra Streisand – that they would leave the US in protest if he got into the White House.
But Trump or no Trump, Meghan couldn’t keep away from the US, and it soon became clear exactly why she had left her husband’s home country, dragging the poor sap behind her.
She didn’t want to be out of the limelight – she just wanted a different kind of limelight.
The American-born, London-based Royal commentator Ashley Pearson provided a piquant comment which certainly rang true, considering the peevishness which emanated from the couple as soon as the honeymoon was over: ‘She had no idea how unglamorous it really is to be a Royal and, when she found out she would be a civil servant in a tiara, she was, like, “No way.’’ ’
Which brings us right back to the Grabdication, when a heady blend of wealth, celebrity and Wokeness reached its shining peak, and it was briefly Camelot for Meghan and Harry, the fraudulent monarchs of a fraudulent movement: the First Couple of Woke.
From the September 2019 issue of Vogue, edited by none other than Me-Again herself, to the moment they were revealed as the only people apart from Greta Garbo ever to move to Hollywood because they wanted to be left alone, they could do no wrong.
And then the Grabdication went bust, and was revealed as being as morally bankrupt as the celebrity and the Wokeness which had spawned it, with a whole nasty level of its own because the three belief systems had never been seen in the same place before.
The Sussexes’ more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger faces stopped selling magazines as we shied away from yet another showboating photo-op of them handing out food to the poor.
Their popularity plummeted, with a YouGov poll showing that they were only marginally more popular than Princess Anne’s corgi-killing dog Dotty.
Never mind – they’ll have their multi-million-dollar Netflix deal to keep them warm until the Americans realise there’s nothing special about them without the musty tinge of monarchy – which will surely evaporate quickly when that blinding Pacific sunshine is let in upon the magic.
© Julie Burchill, 2021
Abridged extract from Welcome To The Woke Trials, by Julie Burchill, published by Academica Press on November 1 at £24.95.
To pre-order a copy for £22.46, with free UK delivery, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937 before November 14.