Dr Liam Fox MP - Sunday Telegraph - "All lives matter: There is too much at risk for us to let the 'culture warriors' win"

Dr Liam Fox MP - Sunday Telegraph - "All lives matter: There is too much at risk for us to let the 'culture warriors' win"

Writing in today's Sunday Telegraph (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/06/14/lives-matter-much-risk-us-let-culture-warriors-win/?utm_content=telegraph&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1592164250) on 14th June 2020, Dr Fox wrote:

The so-called culture war would be damaging to social cohesion at the best of times. That it has come to the fore when there is underlying tension and undirected anger after almost three months of lockdown and anxiety about the pandemic makes it potentially all the more incendiary.

It makes it even more important that we deal with the different issues and a range of underlying agendas calmly and with reason rather than emotional reaction.  

Following the entirely justified abhorrence of the death of George Floyd, which any civilised person will share, there has been a quick move by a section of the left to accelerate their attempts to expunge public commemoration of individuals of whom they disapprove.

The Rhodes dispute at Oxford, for example, is long running and not a response to the terrible scenes in Minneapolis. Likewise, the debate over Colston in Bristol, and there is a legitimate debate about how we handle these elements of our history.

In the case of Bristol I would prefer to see the statue of Colston properly displayed as part of a slavery exhibition or museum in the city that tells the whole story of global slavery (including modern slavery which has a different racial profile). This should include Britain’s international lead, under Wilberforce, for the abolition of the slave trade. Perhaps a proliferation of Wilberforce statues would now be appropriate to explain to a new generation our country’s role in this.

We need to be clear, however, that you cannot teach the lessons of history by trying to erase it. Just like our personal mistakes, our national historical flaws are part of how we have become who we are today. Context, facts and an understanding of the different moral and political norms of the time might help us reduce the level of aggression in the current debate.

We also need to understand, however, that, for some, the current situation is simply being exploited to promote a wider and premeditated agenda. I felt very sorry for those who genuinely wanted to talk about racial discrimination but found their peaceful demonstrations hijacked by anarchists and the hard left with a very different plan.

These extremists have no time for anything other than their own rigidly held and applied views, rooted in a profoundly different concept of society than the one which has traditionally held sway in our country. They do not accept the idea of “the British people”.

They believe we are a coalition of minorities rather than a nation enriched by the variety of individual beliefs, backgrounds and experiences that we all have.

To most of us, the person that we are is a reflection of all of these influences, experiences and attitudes yet to the “culture warriors” it is they who should decide the hierarchy of labels and the ones that they put at the top of the list are the ones to which we must adhere and identify. They demand that we fit into their “identikit” politics rather than express our complex individualism.

Are we to be identified simply on the basis of our colour or is it to be our gender or our politics? The treatment of Priti Patel and others, including in the House of Commons, was a disgrace. It was almost as though because they were black or Asian they had no right to be Conservatives because that did not fit the divisive narrative of the new hard left. 

To allow ourselves to be labelled in this most crude manner by those who insist on everyone applying only their values, judgments or prejudices is to abandon our future to a most primitive form of social categorisation and engineering.  

When I said in the Commons last week that “all lives matter and all lives matter equally” I was criticised for undermining minority rights. When we have reached this point of absurdity it is time for us to develop a clear counter-narrative to the culture warriors based on a celebration of individual complexity and the value of a properly tolerant society. We need to develop it quickly, before it is too late.

Where do we start? I believe it is understanding that diversity is a good thing, including racial and cultural diversity. It has enriched our nation for centuries. Yet we must also celebrate commonality, the values and systems that hold us together including tolerance, the rule of law and democratic assent. To celebrate only what divides or differentiates us without equally stressing what unifies us will produce not diversity but fragmentation. 

The scenes in London yesterday should make it clear to everyone that the culture war that the Marxist left want will be met by an equally unacceptable, and potentially violent, response from the far-right, using it as an excuse to propagate their virulent racist and abhorent views.

here will be no winners but decency, harmony and tolerance can easily be the losers.  We must recognise that if we want a rich but varied society we need to build a genuine meritocracy where different is good but separate is destructive.

We have never been, and never should be, the brutish, rigid and narrowly defined nightmare society that the hard left would have us be. We are a rich spectrum of individuals with an enormous latent talent that still needs, in too many places, to be unlocked.

A counter-cultural war is no answer as it would reduce us to the agitators level (though I fear we may see some of that ugly face in the times ahead). Those of us who believe that all lives are genuinely equal must redouble our efforts to create the opportunity, merit-based and tolerant society that is the genuine antidote to it.