Why I joined the SDP, or: Why challenging ‘woke’ political correctness & identity politics is the new frontline in the culture war.
In a previous article published last November, I explained the reasons why I cancelled my membership of the Labour Party and how, for the first time in twenty years, identity politics had left me questioning who to vote for at a general election.
There was no way I would vote for the Liberal Democrats, and I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the Conservatives. In the end, I opted to vote Labour. A decision I made based solely on the party’s proposals for renationalisation of our utilities and railways, and progressive taxation as a means for reducing income inequality.
It was with a peg clasped firmly over my nose that I lent Labour my vote. Due in part to the party’s ongoing anti-Semitism crisis, and, although not an ardent Brexiteer myself, their betrayal of the Brexit referendum result. However, more so than anything else because of the party’s embrace of radical liberalism on social and cultural questions; particularly around race, gender, and sexuality, at the detriment of class-focused politics.
During the early stages of the election, I also discovered the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had experienced somewhat of a resurgence and were standing the highest number of candidates at an election since 1987, although, sadly, not in my constituency.
I studied the party’s policies and the recently commissioned ‘New Declaration’, an update on their 1981 ‘Limehouse Declaration’ which led to the creation of the SDP. I learnt that party membership in recent years had risen from hundreds into the thousands and attracted the notable support and/or membership of Spiked Magazine editor, Brendan O’Neill; broadcaster, Dr Giles Fraser; and associate editor of The Spectator, Rod Liddle.
The SDP’s communitarian, pro-nation, ‘red and blue’ centre/centre-left approach to politics appealed greatly to my own economically progressive and small ‘c’ socially conservative beliefs. After a little deliberation, in late December 2019, I applied to join the party.
There are many notable ideas and proposals in the ‘New Declaration’, not least the ‘Social Market’ economic model that appealed to me. However, of particular interest, and a deciding factor in applying to join the SDP, was the party’s rejection of the political establishment’s current obsession with grievance and identity politics. Reading the ‘Community’ section of the declaration was a breath of fresh air.
The defining cultural battle of the 2010s was Brexit, the mandate for which the SDP unequivocally supported. The fact it has taken more than three years and three general elections to ‘Get Brexit Done’ is an insult to our democratic process. I hope this brings an end to the Brexit debate because in the 2020s another momentous battle awaits us.
In the coming period, a new frontline in the culture war will replace Brexit, but an equally important one. While we’ve been preoccupied with leaving the EU, the Western world in general, and Britain in particular, has been subject to the increasing insanity of hypersensitive political correctness that runs parallel with the rise of grievance and identity politics.
Few people would deny political correctness in its original sense, by which I mean taking care to not deliberatey demean someone who is at a disadvantage, is a value any modern society would fight for and defend. However, in the contemporary sense, as one might define as ‘wokeness’, where any criticism of any individual or group is by definition cruel or worthy of ‘cancelling’ the supposed transgressor is a dangerous place for a so-called progressive society to be. Here society regresses, most significantly with regards to rights pertaining to freedom of speech and expression.
Liberal-left activists and their woke agendas infiltrate society at practically all levels of influence. They now hold immense power in controlling the political and cultural direction of the country, particularly in terms of determining what is ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ for the public to think, say or believe. Take for example the case of Maya Forstater who lost her job for tweeting and writing about sex and gender identity, and sharing campaign material about the negative impacts of the proposed policy of ‘gender self-ID’ on women and girls.
It is not hard to find evidence of woke political correctness and identity politics in our educational institutions. For instance, schools handing out gender pronoun stickers or holding classroom discussions on gender fluidity, to the sheer volume of divisive gender-critical theories, multiculturalism and fourth-wave feminism studies units now taught in our universities.
In the judiciary, we’ve seen an increase in activist judges who entrench the dogmas of wokeness in common law. Case in point: the recognition of veganism as a religion and a protected belief, made possible by the Equality Act 2010, legislation passed by New Labour enforcing the liberal-left agenda of ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ in all areas of public life.
Not a day seems to pass without a news story hitting the headlines demonstrating an ever-greater extremity of this cultural derangement. The examples from 2019 are endless. Take for instance back in May, when a so-called ‘sexuality expert’ told us parents should ask their child’s permission before changing their nappies — so they can set up a ‘culture of consent.’ Or in October, during the build-up to the election, when woke commander-in-Chief, Jeremy Corbyn, publicly announced his pronouns at an LGBT event, a gesture that no doubt satisfied his audience but baffled the rest of us. Or perhaps during the election itself, when the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, spent the best part of ten minutes on a radio show trying to answer the seemingly straightforward question ‘what is a woman?’
As the year drew to a close, such instances neither ceased in volume nor in their ability to bemuse. In December, the Daily Mirror informed us a transgender man had given birth to his non-binary partner’s baby with the help of a ‘female sperm donor’. The very same day, the managers of the Lake District National Park were publicly self-flagellating for not attracting a diverse enough range of tourists, suggesting the destination is attracting too many ‘white’ and ‘able-bodied’ visitors. A couple of days later, white working-class boys, the lowest-achieving demographic in education, were denied a generous offer for a scholarship scheme by two private schools in ‘fear of breaching anti-discrimination laws’.
It is no more alarmist to call out instances of liberal-left cultural over-correction, authoritarianism and thought-policing than it is to confront the offences of the hard-right. The best way to challenge them, as it is for all extremism, is with unrelenting satirisation and solid counter-arguments.
The good news is the tide appears to be turning against identity politics and the woke brigade. In Britain, it is a charge led notably by author, journalist and political commentator, Andrew Murray, and playwright, journalist, and satirist, Andrew Doyle.
Murray’s book, The Madness Of Crowds, offers a rigorous intellectual dismantling of the hypocrisy and blatant contradictions inherent in the woke vogue. Doyle’s latest character, the satirical ‘Social Justice Warrior’, Titania McGrath, hilariously lambasts identity politics on ‘her’ Twitter account and in the book, Woke: A Guide To Social Justice.
Murray and Doyle have now teamed up for a live tour, Resisting Wokeness. Each show will feature a conversation, with extensive audience Q&A, in which the pair will discuss how best to resist the rise of the woke mindset and the challenges it presents to ‘individual liberty, intellectual diversity and free speech.’
In the political realm, it is currently only the communitarian SDP contesting these issues. The SDP offers a vehicle for those of us so inclined to champion left-of-centre economics while also challenging identity politics and divisive woke political correctness by reviving social democracy and common sense. It is a political project in which I intend to be fully involved, and strongly encourage others to join and do the same.