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Woke centrists: The worst of 2019

Who are the most cringey identity liberals of the year? REUBEN BARD-ROSENBERG sizes up the contenders

I GREW up in simpler political times. In the late 1990s, neoliberal politicians specialised in appealing to our worst instincts. 

When New Labour was in power, the party’s spokespeople could barely get through a sentence without talking about “aspiration.” 

The point was to tell us that we were life’s winners. And it was on this basis that we were encouraged to believe that Tony Blair was on our side.

Since the great crash of 2008 things have very much changed. People have been reminded how far the game is rigged. And many have begun to question whether it ought to be played at all. It is no longer a small radical minority that consciously opposes the power of wealth over our politics and our lives. 

And so, instead of appealing to our worst instincts, the proponents of the status quo increasingly appeal to our best instincts. 

Rather than appealing to our egoism and acquisitiveness, those who wish to sustain the present social order increasingly appeal to our sense of fairness. It is in this context that the political centre has recently learned to become very, very woke. 

Since we are nearing the end of the year, I have gathered together the cringiest examples of the powerful posing as the champions of the powerless, via the medium of social-justice speak. 

Each group or individual has been given a rating to account for the degree of bellenditude on display (which, for the uninitiated, refers to words or actions that are characteristic of an absolute bellend). Welcome to Woke Centrism: The Worst of 2019. 

1. You want a union? Check your damn privilege!

In March of this year, a group of senior employees at the fundraising site Kickstarter truly excelled in the field of liberal brain-fartery. 

Other employees at the firm had begun organising with the intention of forming a recognised union. At which point, a memo was emailed round, signed by many of the senior staff, opposing the initiative.

“Unions are historically intended to protect vulnerable members of society,” they explained, “and we feel the demographics of this union undermine this important function. We’re concerned with the misappropriation of unions for use by privileged workers.”

The worst thing about this is that the writers appear to have confused the concept of a trade union with the concept of a donkey sanctuary. 

From their memo, you would think that trade unions were created by some kind of Lady Bountiful to care for those who are less fortunate. The reality of course, is that unions have always been created by all sorts of workers, and have always been driven by a belief in collective power rather than simply a sense of victimhood. 

What adds an extra 150 points to the memo authors’ bellenditude factor is their use of the term “misappropriation.” In the world of wokery, everything is a form of property: from particular colloquialisms to, it seems, the idea of banding together to demand better pay and conditions. 

Bellenditude factor: 830/1000

2. John Mann is lonely and annoyed 

In September, the turncoat ex-Labour MP John Mann took up a full-time appointment as the Johnson government’s anti-semitism tsar. It goes without saying that anybody who takes an appointment from the Johnson government in order to further the cause of anti-racism is either a liar or a fool (although in the case of Mann it’s probably not a case of either/or). 

Yet what gave this episode an amusing edge was Mann’s whiney and slightly menacing response to the fact that people no longer wanted to be his friend. Not long after his appointment was announced, he took to Twitter to complain: “A tiny group of MPs have not spoken to me since my appointment. This is both peculiar, deliberate and noted.” 

Much boo-hoo.

Bellenditude factor: 735/1000

3. The white privilege of the yellow vests

In February this year, the French journalist Nabila Ramdani took to the pages of the Independent to complain about the “white riot privilege” of the yellow vests. 

“The yellow vests are pushing their alleged oppressors to the very limit,” she said, “because they know white rioters will get away with a lot more” than those “whose problems are far more pressing.” 

To make matters worse, the yellow vests were winning social and economic victories and this was proving expensive for the Macron government. 

“Macron has already given them some €10 billion (£8.9bn) worth of government concessions,” she noted, and had “repealed green taxes on fuel, so removing one of the most principled ecological aspects of his policy schedule.” 

As though small-town France had decent railways for fuel-taxed motorists to hop onto, and as though this measure had not primarily been a mechanism for shifting the tax burden back onto the poor.  

Ramdani is right that ethnic minorities continue to face the most vicious police repression in France. Yet, with 1,000 yellow vests having now been imprisoned, with 25 yellow vests having lost eyes to police violence, and with five having lost limbs, now would be a good time for mildly progressive commentators to have a long, hard think about whose side they are on. 

Bellenditude factor: 625/1000

4. “Won’t somebody think of the minority landlords?!?!”

Many people rightly feel that they are not rewarded well enough for a hard day’s work. There are also a great many landlords who feel deeply victimised and aggrieved when faced with any limitation upon their ability to make money while they sleep. 

And that latter group have a truly fantastic representative in the person Inez Dickens, Democratic state senator in New York. 

In a letter to her Harlem constituents she expressed her epic levels of unhappiness about a new package of pro-tenant rent laws. 

“Small minority property owners,” she complained, will be “forced to relinquish their buildings due to the overwhelming cost thrust upon them.” 

To add insult to injury, the social movements fighting to protect ordinary people’s living standards left them out in the cold: “Many of the residents screaming for justice in order to protect the cultural identity of their community did not give an audience to the small minority owner who also fought for the neighbourhood during its worst times as to how they can be protected as well.”

The reality is that landlords of all ethnicities make a killing when gentrification kicks in. And the threadbare US healthcare system is in no fit state to supply the whole fleet of waaaahmbulances that Senator Inez has been calling out to her constituency office. 

Bellenditude factor: 758/1000

Well, friends, it appears that we have a winner. The guilt-merchants at Kickstarter deserve a trophy for beating off some tough competition in this particular field of inclusive-sounding idiocy. 

I will try to convince the management at the Morning Star to hold an official awards ceremony. In the meantime, let’s fight hard over the next 24 hours for a Labour victory, and let’s join the posties on the picket line, whenever Her Majesty’s courts finally allow them to withdraw their labour, and we will show all these people what true solidarity really looks like. 

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