Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
The English government have recently announced tougher measures to “strengthen free speech and academic freedom” at universities to “stamp out unlawful silencing” on campus. However, in doing so they are silencing those who they do not agree with on the opposite side of the political spectrum. The move to ‘champion free speech’ comes as a response to universities’ supposedly leftist majorities and is a part of the governments ‘war on woke’. This war extends from campus to news outlets and the heritage sector. MPs have accused broadcasters of appealing “to a narrow band of North London metropolitan virtue signalling politically correct lefties”. The government is not campaigning for free speech for all but rather is allowing for the existence of racist and right-wing ideas both on campus and elsewhere. Ideas that are harmful in society and have led to incidents such as, the murder of Jo Cox in 2016, are the ones being championed by the government.
The heritage sector is also facing a silencing of left-wing movements. They are being told to stop ‘airbrushing’ Britain’s past to portray only the negative elements. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stated that “history is ridden with moral complexity and interpreting Britain’s past should not be an excuse to tell an overly-simplistic version of our national story, in which we damn the faults of previous generations whilst forgetting their many great achievement”. This came as a response to the National Trust’s Colonial Countryside project where the connections between Britain’s country houses, slavery and empire were explored. The movement to talk about the past achievements of Britain and ignore the crimes committed is erasing the colonial history of Britain and so the suffering that came with it.
These policies come straight after the government’s banning of anti-capitalist resources in schools – the opposite of free speech championing. The government is not defending free speech but merely pushing the allowance of right-wing ideology in England and simultaneously silencing left ideas. This attack by the ‘thought police’ is just a way to maintain the British narrative of the UK as best nation in the world. The Conservative party are moving towards authoritarian methods of censorship and labelling it ‘free-speech championing’. A similar situation was seen in Hungary where the government was challenging academic freedom and dissent in universities.
The Tories are taking the same route as a right-wing authoritarian government and challenging leftist dissent in a range of ways. Free speech should be championed for all – not solely for a right-wing portion of society.