I see that Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and part-time deputy prime minister, is out to get ‘wokery’.
It’s all about free speech, he says. Which is funny as that man is never free to speak in my house. Soon as Raab is announced, the radio goes off quicker than Boris Johnson can find a sticky lie in his pocket or down a drink at a party that never happened.
It might help if anyone knew what wokery was. It’s all so handily vague in a sinister, lame conspiracy way, a making of something from nothing much. A good guess might be “liberal-minded stuff right-wing people sitting on barstools won’t let pass without a grumble”.
A while ago in this blog, I was trying to sort this out for my mother, who is 90 but still likes to know things.
“We have been wondering what woke means. Can you tell us!”
The answer I came up with was: “It started in the US as a way of describing liberal people who are sensitive about how others feel. Now it’s been turned around as an insult for liberals. It’s basically become a lazy shorthand used by right-wingers to be rude about anyone who disagrees with them.”
Raab wants to replace Labour’s Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights. He told the Daily Mail that free speech was being “whittled away” by “wokery and political correctness”.
Ah, it’s always a good rule of ink-stained thumb that whenever anyone uses the phrase “political correctness”, they have lost whatever argument they are trying to bundle out of their mouth.
It’s the old blues singers I feel sorry for. “I woke up this morning…” Raab will be on them in an intemperate flash, that vein in his forehead throbbing away – “You can’t say that – it’s political correctness gone mad.”
What Raab seemingly wants to do is encourage free speech by stopping people saying things he doesn’t like. It’s all very confusing. You might almost wonder if he doesn’t want free speech at all – just the freedom for people like him to say what they want, and for other people to just shut up.
On one level this is plain silly, yet on another it is sinister as it weaponises grumbling, turning a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life into a hard grudge.
This is what Donald Trump did with all that Make America Great Again nonsense, tapping into people’s fed-upness as a useful source of voting capital, without ever wishing to change anything.
Trump stirred the well of grumbling sourness, that sense that “something isn’t right” or that “they” (that usefully capacious general enemy) don’t want us to know or do certain things and stood back with a nasty smile on his face.
The tyrannical Vladimir Putin has weaponised wanting to Make Russia Great Again in a tragically literal way – by pursuing his needless colonial vendetta against Ukraine, while trying to hide the war he is waging from his own people.
And over here, Make Britain Great Again was the corrupt call behind Brexit, again tapping into dissatisfaction and making grand promises that could not and will not be fulfilled. All so that Boris Johnson could be prime minister.
It’s probably woke to point out that Johnson hiding behind someone else’s war as a way of deflecting his own inadequacies is hardly a fine look. His supporters say he has been leading the western world over Ukraine, which seems to be a stretch. Also, any notion that he is having a “good war” is just too morally shoddy for words.
Johnson wants us all to forget about ‘partygate’, to let slip from our minds the Covid-19 rules broken by those who set them. So, what did he do yesterday as police issued the first fines over partygate? He threw a big party in a hotel for Tory MPs, that’s what.
Oh, and that Human Rights Act Dominic Raab wants to remove. No need to worry about that. It’s only full of woke notions such as the right to life; freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; freedom from slavery and forced labour; the right to a fair trial; the freedom of thought, belief and religion, and of expression, too.
All that and lots more wokery. Look it up. It’s quite a list.
Wokey-wokey footnote: Interviewed on Sky News by Kay Burley, Raab said the Prime Minister had told the truth “to the best of his ability”. Is it just me or does that sound like a perfect euphemism for lying? Or was Raab admitting that Johnson just isn’t very good at telling the truth?