What exactly are culture wars and do they have anything to do with live yoghurt?
Of course not, you fool. They’re skirmishes on the political battlefield that are more important than they seem.
Who likes to have these culture wars, then?
Boris Johnson’s Tories. They love a culture war because it summons up an enemy and makes them seem under siege from lefties and…
But they’re in charge…
Exactly. You’re getting the hang of these culture wars now. The idea is for right-wing politicians who run the show to put on the cloak of victimhood and…
Or the brogues of victimhood…
Yes, that’s a good one…
So give me an example then.
Well, for starters anyone who uses ‘woke’ as an insult is up to their creaking knees in the culture war. But here is a recent example. According to the Financial Times at the weekend, the chair of Royal Museum Museums Greenwich has resigned in protest at ministers “purging his board as a part of a culture war being waged by the government”.
Who’s that then – some sort of leftie?
No, it’s Charles Dunstone, one of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs and the billionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse – and a man who has in the past donated to the Tories.
So what’s caused him to flounce out?
That’s unkind. He’s not flouncing out, but taking a principled stand because culture secretary Oliver Dowden apparently refused to reappoint a trustee who advocates ‘decolonising’ the curriculum. Aminul Hoque is an academic in education studies at Goldsmiths College – just round the corner from the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory run by the group.
Didn’t you go to Goldsmiths College?
Yes, but it was a long time ago and many more distinguished people have passed through since then.
Did he pull his weight then, this academic?
Colleagues at the Royal Museums Greenwich described him as a “devoted and conscientious” trustee, according to the FT. Hoque himself is said to be “shocked, disappointed and baffled” by the decision.
So Oliver Dowden – he’s really the Culture Wars Secretary then?
Yes, you’re getting the hang of this now. This has been called “culture cleansing” and the idea is to weed out people who don’t agree with the government line on things. Just remember those ridiculous Tories in the Common Sense Group complaining that the National Trust’s report into past slaving links was an “ideologically motivated endeavour” to rewrite history. Instead it was an honest attempt to write a fuller version of history, reflecting the bad as well as the good.
So they only like a Tory-approved version of history?
Exactly. According to a ‘leading Conservative’ quoted by the FT, there exists an “expectation that members of a board should have a similar attitude to that of the government”.
Do you have other examples?
How long have you got… Two female board directors of Channel 4 have been blocked. Dowden has just nominated Robbie Gibb, a former Downing Street director of communications and a well-known critic of the BBC, to the BBC board. Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, is being touted as front-runner to become chair of Ofcom – even though he has no background in broadcasting.
Well, while we’re at the Beeb, the new director general, Tim Davie, is a Tory and a believed supporter of Boris Johnson. Some suspicious sorts to be found lingering on this ledge suspect Davie is making BBC News reluctant to criticise the government at all.
How come Davie missed that bit in Line Of Duty where Hastings had a rant about truth – “God, give me strength, a barefaced liar promoted to our highest office! What has happened to us? When did we stop caring about honesty and integrity?”
Perhaps that one was pushed through by writer Jed Mercurio before Tim Davie got the job. And, technically, he wasn’t talking about Boris Johnson.
But he was really, wasn’t he?
Shush – or Line Of Duty might become another victim of those culture wars. You know, what we have here are the people in charge pretending everything is stacked against them and twisting everything to their agenda, and making sure public bodies are run by like-minded people.
So how come they always win if everything is stacked against them?
That’s just one of life’s mysteries.