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How the Left has bullied Britain into going for woke

For more than three decades Frank Luntz, the world-renowned strategist and pollster, served at the heart of the American political establishment.

He advised George W. Bush and the Republican Party and was a consultant on hit drama The West Wing, which delivered an idealised view of a Left-wing presidency.

He saw both the good and the bad but, throughout those years, he had pride in the American way of doing politics.

Today, however, he feels ’embarrassment and shame’ for the land of his birth.

‘America used to be the ‘shining city on the hill’,’ he says ruefully. ‘I always contended that [America] was the answer. Now we are the problem.’

What worries him most is the impact of the ‘woke’ agenda and how it is promoting division, suppressing traditional liberties and undermining a shared sense of belonging which is vital for a multiracial society in the 21st century.

The resulting rise in identity politics — based on race, gender, religion or social background — makes it ‘impossible to govern and impossible to achieve a consensus’, he says.

In a landmark report for influential think- tank the Centre For Policy Studies (CPS), he has concluded that ‘wokeism’ and culture wars will, within 12 months, form the biggest dividing line in British politics and match the scale of the issue in the U.S

He describes woke dogma as a modern form of ‘McCarthyism’ in the way it has ‘destroyed livelihoods, families and communities’.

And Luntz, 59, a committed Anglophile and contemporary of Boris Johnson at Oxford, warns that what is unfolding in America now is set to threaten the UK imminently.

In a landmark report for influential think- tank the Centre For Policy Studies (CPS), he has concluded that ‘wokeism’ and culture wars will, within 12 months, form the biggest dividing line in British politics and match the scale of the issue in the U.S.

‘The problem with woke and with cancel culture is that it is never done,’ he says. ‘The conflict and division never end. This is not what the people of the UK want but it’s coming anyway.’

Luntz, whose advice is sought by politicians, media companies and institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, is in London as a visiting academic fellow at the CPS.

Part of his work has been to conduct a major survey of British attitudes, public values and language, based on intensive polling and focus groups — of which he is an acknowledged master — involving several thousand respondents.

He found that ‘wokeism’ is one of the top three concerns for people, and more of an issue than sexism or populism. Some 40 per cent said cancel culture engendered a ‘thought and speech police’ approach that could ruin lives.

In contrast, a quarter of respondents thought cancel culture was a force for good because those who express racist or sexist views must face the consequences.

What is so extraordinary, however, is that the domination of woke as an issue has been achieved with little deep support from the public. Just 5 per cent of UK voters identify as woke, while roughly a third of the public do not even know what the term means, according to the survey.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner ‘take the knee’. Voters do have genuine grievances about injustices and inequalities that exist in Britain. And in Luntz's view, these need to be met by Government action based on the principle of fairness

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner ‘take the knee’. Voters do have genuine grievances about injustices and inequalities that exist in Britain. And in Luntz’s view, these need to be met by Government action based on the principle of fairness

Britain is not yet as divided as the U.S. but it is heading in the wrong direction, with a large segment of our population gripped by severe disillusionment.

Only 34 per cent of people felt that ‘Britain is an exceptional country’, while more than a fifth of respondents believe Britain has ‘failed its people’. For Luntz, this rings alarm bells because ‘when people think they are ‘ignored’ or ‘irrelevant’, that’s a crisis’.

No fewer than 37 per cent said the UK is ‘institutionally racist and discriminatory’, a figure exceeded by the 41 per cent who accepted the concept of ‘white privilege’.

The political breakdown of those figures shows that support for the Conservative and Labour parties is increasingly split across cultural lines: for example, 81 per cent of Tory voters believed Britain was a nation of ‘equality and freedom’ and only 19 per cent believed it was ‘institutionally racist and discriminatory’. In contrast, 52 per cent of Labour voters hailed British ‘equality and freedom’ while 48 per cent saw this country as racist and discriminatory.

So how has the woke ascendancy been achieved, given the low levels of support for it?

Luntz believes it is a case of ‘the loudest voices in the room’ being able to impose themselves. But other factors have played their part, such as the failure of businesses and politicians to provide effective leadership, with the result that grievances are unaddressed and resentment is allowed to flourish.

‘There are two numbers [in the survey] that really interest me,’ Luntz says. Just 42 per cent of Britons feel they are invested in their country; and only 27 per cent feel their country is invested in them. 

Those numbers help to explain the high levels of antipathy towards MPs, Parliament and big companies, he adds.

Businesses have certainly played a negative part by cowering before the woke campaigners instead of concentrating on their commercial role. He has a message for companies faced with woke agitators: ‘Their job is destroy you. Your job is to do yours.’

Businesses can safeguard themselves by acting responsibly and looking after their employees and communities as well as their customers: ‘Woke only works if there is a real grievance, like a chief executive taking a bonus while laying off staff. It dies without that oxygen.’

Only 34 per cent of people felt that 'Britain is an exceptional country', while more than a fifth of respondents believe Britain has 'failed its people'. For Luntz, this rings alarm bells because 'when people think they are 'ignored' or 'irrelevant', that's a crisis'. A skateboarding policeman is seen above at an Extinction Rebellion rally

Only 34 per cent of people felt that ‘Britain is an exceptional country’, while more than a fifth of respondents believe Britain has ‘failed its people’. For Luntz, this rings alarm bells because ‘when people think they are ‘ignored’ or ‘irrelevant’, that’s a crisis’. A skateboarding policeman is seen above at an Extinction Rebellion rally

As for the political polarisation of Britain revealed by his survey, he points out that it is occurring in the opposite way to that in the U.S.

‘While the UK Right is not as Right [wing] as in America, the UK Left is much farther Left’ — hence 48 per cent of Labour voters think the UK is ‘an institutionally racist and discriminatory nation’.

But he thinks the move away from New Labour’s stance will do the party no good electorally: ‘You have to govern from the centre, as Tony Blair showed. Labour’s recent history goes: loss, loss, loss, loss, Blair, Blair, Blair, loss, loss, loss, loss.’

Frank Luntz has himself played a pivotal part in British politics — and never more so than during the Tory leadership contest of 2005.

The veteran ex-Minister David Davis was the overwhelming favourite, but the race was transformed when Luntz hosted a focus group for BBC Newsnight, which revealed that the youthful outsider David Cameron had much greater appeal. From that moment, Davis was doomed.

Luntz’s connections with Britain run deep. He believes firmly in the special relationship, based on ‘shared politics and shared ideologies: Margaret Thatcher was the precursor to Ronald Reagan; Bill Clinton was the precursor to Tony Blair’.

While at Oxford in the 1980s, he became friends with Boris Johnson. ‘I always knew he was going to be someone. Nobody else spoke like him. Nobody else thought like him. Nobody else made friends like him,’ he recalls.

BLM protesters topple slave trader Edward Colston’s statue into Bristol harbour. Almost two-thirds of respondents in his survey felt that 'cancel culture has gone too far'

BLM protesters topple slave trader Edward Colston’s statue into Bristol harbour. Almost two-thirds of respondents in his survey felt that ‘cancel culture has gone too far’

Luntz speaks with some pride of his involvement with the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, part of the institution’s social sciences division that puts freedom of speech at the core of its work.

‘Oxford has a bad name because of the campaign to pull down the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, but the Blavatnik School is the best of what British education has to offer. I loved it. That is what universities should be about: teaching multiple ideas from multiple experts. No diversity is more important than diversity of thought.’

It is his affection for Britain that makes him so apprehensive for our future — although there were some positives to emerge from his survey.

He found that the roots of British identity are still strong. The Queen continues to be revered ‘because of what she represents’, with the NHS in second place as Britain’s most cherished institution.

Most British people still share the same values — tolerance, mutual respect, concern for the vulnerable, and the right to express opinions. Almost two-thirds of respondents in his survey felt that ‘cancel culture has gone too far’.

Luntz's connections with Britain run deep. He believes firmly in the special relationship, based on 'shared politics and shared ideologies: Margaret Thatcher was the precursor to Ronald Reagan; Bill Clinton was the precursor to Tony Blair'. Trump takes a question from Frank Luntz, left

Luntz’s connections with Britain run deep. He believes firmly in the special relationship, based on ‘shared politics and shared ideologies: Margaret Thatcher was the precursor to Ronald Reagan; Bill Clinton was the precursor to Tony Blair’. Trump takes a question from Frank Luntz, left

Luntz has been profoundly impressed by the outbreak of patriotic fervour behind the England football team too, and amused to see how the passion of England supporters contradicts the British image of reserve.

‘Americans tend to be louder, more boisterous. You are usually so much quieter, more stoical — except when it comes to football! I love it; I hope it continues. I know what it brings to your country.’

Yet Luntz was also impressed with the continuing civility of the British. ‘With focus groups in the U.S., they are at each other in a couple of minutes. But here in Britain there is no yelling, no insults, just a curiosity about other people’s views.’

Voter do have genuine grievances about injustices and inequalities that exist in Britain. And in Luntz’s view, these need to be met by Government action based on the principle of fairness.

‘There is real discrimination and Britons want it fixed. But the woke answer of awarding privileges to certain groups on the basis of what happened in the past is just a recipe for more hostility.’

If Britain can find a way through the culture war, he argues, it may become the beacon of hope for democracy America once was.

His survey provides a roadmap to how our society might be saved.

‘It is up to the UK to provide the solution now,’ he says.


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