Overview:

The culture wars have hit the UK, and the two remaining candidates for PM are battling it out to show who hates "woke" the most.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Two candidates for UK Prime Minister remain and, with Liz Truss representing the more extreme right of the party, Rishi Sunak (the former Chancellor of the Exchequer) was always going to shift to the right to combat here. This is now happening and is exactly what I predicted.

This clockwork move comes in light of Sunak clearly being the outsider in terms of polling. Remember, this vote is not a public vote but one conducted by 0.7% of the electorate: paid-up Conservative Party members. These people skew heavily to the right and Sunak knows that his popularity among Parliamentary Conservative MPs does not equate to rank-and-file party member support.

Sunak will apparently tell supporters in Sussex today:

“What’s the point in stopping the bulldozers in the green belt if we allow leftwing agitators to take a bulldozer to our history, our traditions and our fundamental values?

“Whether it’s pulling down statues of historic figures, replacing the school curriculum with anti-British propaganda or rewriting the English language so we can’t even use words like ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ without being told we’re offending someone?”

And it’s straight out of the American playbook. With a husting in Leeds fielding questions about single-sex toilets, the culture wars checklist is being unfurled in the UK.

“Woke,” whether it be in scare quotes or not, is the UK’s political right’s bogeyman. I still watch an awful lot of content on the war in Ukraine, the strategy, the hardware, and suchlike. On one thread on YouTube, utterly unconnected to any culture wars political narrative, was this quote from a British commenter that I just had to react to:

Beyond the initial Polish order of 180 tanks there is a follow up agreement for 820 K2PL tanks with production split between South Korea and a new factory built in Poland with deliveries starting in 2026. Germany just lost a lot business, but then being so woke they probably didn’t want it.

Just dwell on this for a second. It barely makes sense. The commenter went from talking about tanks to attacking Germany’s tank provision because they are too woke.

What is going on in society now? The word “woke” is ubiquitous and has essentially become meaningless. Or just shorthand for “libtard.”

It’s like the now passé term of “social justice” that the right love to rail against, as if they don’t want social justice! What does that even look like? In the culture-wars battlefield, the right are fighting for an unfair society? It’s overtly and explicitly cool to oppress minority groups?

In the race to the right, Sunak feels he is forced to embrace this nonsense. As the Guardian reports, and in response to the recent hustings in Leeds where both candidates were on show:

Rishi Sunak will seek to revive his flagging bid for the premiership on Saturday by wading in to a series of so-called culture war issues, vowing to stop “leftwing agitators” from “bulldozing” British values….

While Sunak will insist “we have zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war”, his announcement appears to be a fresh bid to enthuse Tory grassroots by talking tough on controversial issues as he fights to remain in the leadership race.

Already in recent days, Sunak has promised to ban building on the green beltcap the number of refugees the UK will accept and double deportations of foreign criminals. He also said he would slash VAT on domestic fuel to help tackle the cost of living crisis, in a reversal of his previous position.

There is an element that rival Liz Truss can say what she wants and not really be held to account for it since this is about preaching to a very particular crowd. It’s not a manifesto like in a general election (and parties never even stick to them!).

As the previous Chancellor, Sunak is in the unenviable position of claiming more of the same, economically speaking. Truss can promise all sorts of change, much like the scenario we saw in Brexit. And look how that turned out.

With Sunak struggling in the polls and in public appearances to gain ground on Truss and appeal to these party members, some high-ranking members of his own team and donors are beginning to become agitated.

As the party and the pair move inexorably to the right, society loses. Oh, and Truss wins. She’ll be the next PM, unless some disaster gets in her way.

What a sorry, sorry state of affairs when Liz Truss of all people becomes the Prime Minister of the UK.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...