The Hannan of the North: Fetch Me The Joke Book of Bernard Manning

In which we discuss the Conservative Party’s exciting new plan to capture the Private School Bully demographic

So, Stephen Bush has written a great piece on the current antics of Jo Johnson, professional brother. I recommend you go read it instead of this.

What’s fascinating is the rebuttal of Mark Wallace, occasional object of fascination to this blog. It turns out that this is not just about allowing right-wing pundits to patronise students in places where they’re really not wanted (I mean, it is definitely about that). It’s about Defending Freedom of Speech. Because of course it is.

Let’s quickly note the fact that the right to “Free Speech” does not necessarily imply that you should be given a university lecture hall with a microphone to pontificate in. A random street corner is a perfectly good place to rant about how “The Islams are stealing our precious bodily fluids”, and then the university can use that hall for something worth anybody’s time.

Behind the door is a world of opportunity, but it may also be raining

What’s nice is that, guided by Stephen, Mark is actually making the case, not just for it being right, but for it being an attempt to appeal to an actual demographic.

If there’s a group to go for, it’s those who simply wish the weirdos at the union would stop banging on all the time about what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t say, and why they ought to fall in line and do what they’re told is progressive and revolutionary.

Now, I am an upper middle-class Internationalist Engineer raised by metro-liberal elite NHS doctors, so obviously I am about as far from the post-Brexit Conservative Party’s target demographic as I was close to their pre-Brexit one. But I am fascinated by Mark’s idea of who that demographic is.

Because let’s be clear. Universities generally do allow almost anyone to speak. Germaine Greer basically denies the existence of trans people and was allowed to speak. So the people universities currently turn down are going to be really bad people. In fact, as far as I can tell, there are two basic groups who will benefit from “the Johnson Decree”.

One group is, to be blunt, vicious Nazis. The Tory party is now going to be forever associated with White Supremacists, Hate Preachers and various other Charming Sociopaths. I believe they are hoping that the rules surrounding Prevent will help. Unfortunately, as Mark edited in after the fact, these ill-defined rules are probably going to allow Rich Spencer, manipulative racist, and forbid Linda Sarsour, community leader. What a good look.

More likely, we will see a few absolutely terrifying riots, where young members of minorities make it quite clear that a debate on “Are Black People really a Different Species” or “Holocaust, Yes or No” is not something they are prepared to tolerate their university doing, no matter how interested the wealthy white people are in debating the subject.

To be honest, I don’t think this is the market the Conservatives are going for, I think they’re hoping it won’t come up that much. GLWT.

I do have an image of the actual target demographic though. They are generally somewhere on the middle-class spectrum, generally but not limited to upper-middle. They are shielded by their own wealth and lack of responsibilities from the censure of their peers, but an actual censure from an institution like a university will potentially seriously damage them. They’re not particularly bigoted when dealing with specific people, but they resent being pressured, so they tend to say stuff just to be “not PC”. An entire right-wing comedy industry has been built based on parting these idiots from their cash to prove a point to “liberal snowflakes”.

I am of course describing the average bully at a private school.

Now, to be fair, that is not necessarily a niche market. There’s generally at least one in every class in every school, after all. There is only one teeny tiny problem for the Conservatives. Private school bullies tend to vote Conservative anyway. And they tend to be what might be called “negative headline generators”, as the Activate UK chav-gassing farrago demonstrates.

At the end of the day, this betrays all the problems of the Conservative Party. Rather than examining the serious issues of inequality in power that mean that besuited bullies feel comfortable demanding the right to pontificate at universities, while vulnerable students would just like to have their needs not dismissed by professors, they have decided to force universities to allow the former to abuse the latter from a publicly funded pulpit.

Frankly, I can think of nothing more likely to encourage many students to leave university thinking that this “free speech” thing is not all it is cracked up to be.

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