X Close

Two cheers for Liz Truss

Liz Truss argued that the agenda for equality is driven too much by identity politics

December 18, 2020 - 9:23am

I doubt that the Equalities minister, Liz Truss, and I would agree on much if we were ever to meet, but credit where it’s due: her speech yesterday challenging some of the sacred precepts of liberalism and taking a well-aimed swipe at its most militant proselytisers was, in this day and age, almost revolutionary.

Truss argued that, while there is a moral and practical case for equality, the agenda is driven too much by identity politics and not enough by factors such as socio-economic status or geographical disparities. The focus on identity, she argued, has meant that those with ‘protected characteristics’ are often looked upon as members of homogenous groups rather than as individuals, while the inattention to social, economic and geographical inequalities means that the challenges facing some of our most disadvantaged fellow citizens are ignored.

Truss was right. In dividing people into discrete groups on the basis of race, religion or sexuality, and emphasising their separateness from everyone else — almost as if their individual characteristics were virtuous in themselves and worthy of special treatment — the whole creed of identity politics is intensely divisive.

Where Truss was wrong was in claiming that all this stuff is exclusively the fault of the Left. It is certainly true that the Left has been the main driver of the descent into identity politics, but Truss would do well to accept that the Tories themselves have their own thriving liberal-progressive wing which has all too enthusiastically embraced it. And let’s not forget who has been running the country for the past decade, during which the whole phenomenon has become so pervasive.

Truss’s message will, though, resonate in the very communities she highlighted in her speech — the ones suffering from an acute lack of money and opportunity but whose tribulations seem to be secondary in the minds of those who are constantly looking for victims elsewhere. These are the type of places the Tories snatched from Labour in great number at the last election. The people who inhabit them have little time for identity politics, and are sick of woke culture in general and the moral hectoring that comes with it. They would prefer their political representatives to focus on the bread-and-butter issues that stress them in their everyday lives: jobs, wages, housing, crime, and so on.

That’s why a Labour party that was as determined as it claims to win back the hearts and minds of voters in these communities would avoid attacking Truss’s comments. It might even be really bold and openly welcome them. But mired as the party is in the very ideology that was Truss’s target, it’s impossible to imagine such a thing. And while that remains the case, these places will continue to see the equalities minister and her party as more cognisant of their grievances and thereby more worthy of their support.


Paul Embery is a firefighter, trade union activist, pro-Brexit campaigner and ‘Blue Labour’ thinker

PaulEmbery

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

41 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stephen Crossley
Stephen Crossley
3 years ago

Welcome though Liz Truss’s speech was it will take more than one minister’s words to reverse the cult of identity politics. The law commission is currently seeking (up to 24th December) online submissions on their proposals to extend the protected characteristics of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender status currently recognised in law to include the following:

s e x, age and potentially s e x workers, alternative sub-cultures, the homeless and people with differing philosophical beliefs.

Should such proposals be adopted in any form the democratic ideal of equality for every man or woman before the law would be dead forever.

I can only hope that our present government will stop this madness before it is enshrined forever in the laws of the land.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

If we follow this to its absurd conclusion, the list of protected characteristics will eventually include everyone, ironically resulting in no one being in a protected class.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Yeah but the point is they are protecting who they favour and by definition discriminating against who they don’t and so the absurd conclusion will never happen until they are forced.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

Yeah but the point is they are protecting who they favour

I don’t think that’s accurate: look at the list of potential “protected groups”: alternative sub-cultures?

Do you think “they” care much about alternative sub-cultures?

I don’t think they do. I just think they’ve fallen for the idea that people desperately need protection from hearing what they don’t want to hear.

No, not “fallen for”: a more apt phrase would be “fallen under the spell of”.

Some representatives of the establishment – and the vast majority of those who hate the establishment – seem to be increasingly convinced that the people are incapable of being reasonable, tolerant and civic-minded without authorities strictly regulating their speech, or that we are incapable of living successful, happy lives unless we are shielded from everything that could possibly be offensive.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Divide and conquer, if you are the establishment and you own most of the wealth and want to hang on to it but people see the unfairness of that then best thing to do is distract people away from wealth inequality and claim there are harder up people in the world. Meanwhile keeping your pile of cash growing whilst the majority fight among themselves.

David Bouvier
David Bouvier
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Unfortunately what that means in practice is unaccountable and arbitrary state power.

A parallel example: you may recall a women threatened by the police over sweat shirt with the slogan “Bollocks to Blair” because the policeofficers felt that it might be deemed offensive.

The REAL rules of who gets their collars felt become deeply political but without much accountability.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

… and finance a load of “snake oil” careers during the process.

Max Beran
Max Beran
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”

“‱ W.S. Gilbert, The Gondoliers

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago

Yes, this is the test. If the Tories don’t scupper this then Truss is spouting mere rhetoric.
I’ve responded to the Consultation myself as I have science review papers out showing that misogyny does not exist (the reality is philogyny and misandry), that most ‘hate crime’ victims across all HC domains are male, and that ‘identity politics’ is wholly false — negative attitudes are towards males who ate ‘different’.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Well said Paul. However, I’m not sure that her speech will ‘resonate’ in the areas area you mention because the people who live there are probably totally unaware of it. To the extent that they might be aware, it will be through the lens of an BBC/MSM that will have distorted her message.

Stephen Crossley
Stephen Crossley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed Fraser. Reporting of her speech on the Beeb and Sky websites was hidden away in their politics sections (unread by the man in the street) while the Grauniad ran with an article entitled

“Liz Truss’s record of picking white, male trade advisers criticised.”

I am, however, hopeful that her speech at last signals the recognition within the conservative party that the loud and total rejection of identity politics will be a feature of their message to the red wall voter as we approach the next election.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

My previous incarnation job wise was spent surrounded by ‘Equality impact assessment officers’ All of them on top NHS dollar; all running around like headless chickens clutching their pearls at the slightest – 99% of the time perceived – mishap of equalities. Some of the too regular EQIA meetings I had to attend were utterly mind blowing to say the least. Once again Paul a top article.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

There is no reason for one to expect those at whom the message is aimed to hear it, let alone act on it. The fact that this lady has to say something that is stunningly obvious is an issue in itself.

Of course, the whole creed of identity politics is intensely divisive. That’s the point of it. Victimhood is an industry. It can mean fame, livelihoods, policy influence, and so forth. Who cares that it’s often condescending and patronizing when the principles stand to personally gain and profit from it.

steve eaton
steve eaton
3 years ago

Identity politics protects the money and power of the wealthy and for this reason any attempts to move away from it will be resisted in all quarters where the wealthy and powerful have influence enough to do so.

This is why the big corporations are so enthusiastically giving money to groups like BLM. As long as the blame for inequality can shifted to the average person, the history and culture, and the institutions of nations, no one is talking about class.

So the perceived problem shifts from the fact that all the wealth is funneling into a very few pockets at the expense of everyone else to one where the huge wealth disparity is the fault of some larger group and therefore the ultra-wealthy, big corporations, and their system rigging political hacks are off the hook.

The real victims are all the rest of us trying to make a go of it in a 100% rigged game.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Good article. And fair play to Liz Truss

Sadly those in the opposing trenches to her will not pay the blindest bit of attention because she is obviously Evil Tory Scum and probably reads Mein Kampf at bedtime.

As always helped by the partisan sections of the media – most recent Guardian article on her is: ‘Liz Truss’s record of picking white, male trade advisers criticised’

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

On the plus side, every Guardian article like that costs the current “Hampstead” version of the Labour Party more votes – minutely accelerating the timeline to their demise.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

Yes at best two cheers. One its just words. Two as you say this government has been in charge throughout the whole period of the discriminatory equality act. Its their fault that Siddiq Khan can demand only minority candidates for the police rather than competent candidates from any community. Start by repealing that act and I might take them seriously, until then peoples opportunities continue to be limited and words are just words.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

Yes. Two cheers is about right ” for now at least. For the third, progress would have to be made in identifying those areas of policy and practice that encourage the proliferation of identity politics. That will require intelligent scrutiny of ideas. Desirable action that might flow from such scrutiny would include the repeal of a large proportion of those legal shibboleths that lend identity politics its spurious authority; and those shibboleths include the very concept of protected characteristics, much of the legislation that attempts to define hate speech, and some portions of those legislative acts that spuriously purport to encourage equality. Liz Truss should work with Kemi Badenoch, who is one of the few MPs with the brains and moral fortitude to stand up for healthy ideas and practices.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

Magnanimous of Mr Embery to write this article. A quality which sadly our politicians very rarely exhibit if at all. However, not surprisingly these days, he still could not resist the urge to criticise the conservatives by inferring that they are responsible for allowing identity politics to flourish on their watch. Perhaps he should look closer to his political home for those that are really guilty of promoting this pervasive phenomenon.

ruari53
ruari53
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

As the Tories have been in power for the past 10 years, it is perfectly fair to criticise them. It was in their power to stop the nonsense before now, had they so wished.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago
Reply to  ruari53

How?

Mark Bretherto
Mark Bretherto
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

For a start by having someone make this speech 9 years ago?
The problem, of course, has been that prior to Boris’ victory in the GE, the Tories didn’t have the numbers or the political will to do so, being in coalition with the Liberal Democrats (the partymost likely to approve of the nonsense) and being led by the liberal-left of the conservative party, who also would approve of it.

Paul’s point that the Tories also have ‘Liberal-progressive wing’ cheekily avoids the fact that it is on the left of the Tory party, so Liz’s position still stacks up.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

In the way President Trump has done in the United States. Cut government funding to organizations that promote this agenda.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

You mean the Department of Education and the BBC? Apart from paying Labour MP’s wages and expenses I don’t think they fund the Labour Party.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

You can certainly take a “carrot and stick” approach to both of these organisations should you wish to.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Doesn’t seem to have worked there, though. Has it?
BLM is BIG business in the USA

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

He’s clearly against identity politics, even when practised or promoted by the left, Labour or however Mr Embery wants to categorise himself.

The Tories could have done more to push back against identity politics.

While you would expect Labour to push for more authoritarian control over what people say and think under the wise guidance of the state, it should be anathema to the present-day Conservatives.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

Well done to Truss for having the courage to stand up to the thugs of the woke anarchist.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

Cameroon Tories did embrace Identity politics, but it certainly wasn’t their idea. This stuff came primarily out of US academia & was embraced first by the Livingstone/Corbyn Neo-Marxist wing of Labour in the 1980s, then by Blair & co’s New Labour in the 1990s. It only fully took over the Tories in 2006 after 3 election defeats as a supposed path to victory.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago

By far the most lucid critique of identity politics is to be found here:
https://harpers.org/archive

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Excellent Margaret! Thank you.

jim payne
jim payne
3 years ago

In my circle of friends/acquaintances, that I meet generally, I have not yet to meet any that actually give a damn about woke culture. We are all just ordinary folk going about their daily lives. No Twitter accounts or internet media. Do the so called ‘clever people’ actually know what we think, or do they need us to bend to their wishes?

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago

“discrete groups on the basis of race, religion or sexuality”
Okay, but what about gender, or more to the point, s e x, that is, what about the getting at the root of identity politics, which comes out of 2nd wave feminism’s ‘intersectionality’ as a new and improved way to advance the cause against the male s e x, to take the simple binary out it and make it a war of a multiple of oppressed against one oppressor?

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

Truss knows foucault – as my geordie mates would say. No news there.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

If all this means we’re going to return to a proper analysis of the role of class in perpetuating inequality and how socialist redistributive policies can help change that then I’m all for it. But somehow, I don’t think that is Truss’s intention.
The portrayal of the left as being obsessed by identity politics isn’t one I recognise from any the left wing people I know and talk to. It’s an obsession of right wing media outlets (such as this one) which, ironically, is also where I come across most of the examples of racism and misogyny that I ever come into contact with.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I don’t know where you’ve been looking but what I would class as the ‘Wet Left’ (mostly middle class radical liberals, identitarian intersectionalists and progressive neoliberals) is now Labour’s support base. They are obsessed with the divisive and racist ideology of identity politics while ignoring actual Socialist bedrock ideas such as redistribution of wealth and working class solidarity. Mainly because it means they have to change sweet FA about their own economic privilege, get to pat minorities on the head, and most importantly, get to showcase their quasi-religious moral superiority over others. It’s like they took Mary Whitehouse’s ideas and ran with them.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Maybe you need to talk to your party leaders down the smoke sir.

Howard Medwell
Howard Medwell
3 years ago

as Paul of all people should understand, those who are doing their damnedest to stir up this “culture war” – woke centrists on the one side, Tory Brexiteers on the other – have the same end in view: to distract us from the far more important bread and butter issues, which Paul mentions, but would rather not dwell on. For the great majority of people, woke versus unwoke is not the problem, whether they would describe themselves personally as woke or unwoke (and it’s a grotesque oversimplification to say that all working-class voters, or all Northerners, or all old people are necessarily unwoke – we are people, not insects). Of course people have differing opinions on sexism, etc., but my guess is that most of us have very much the same opinions on inequality, on the housing crisis, or on privatisation in the NHS. Both Liz Truss and the Guardian want to stop us uniting on these issues. Incidentally a glance at historical election figures makes it clear that the so-called “Red Wall” seats were growing bluer and bluer in every election since 2001 (apart from 2017) – in other words, the process started long before wokeness existed.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

Of course people have differing opinions on sexism

In what sense? Wouldn’t 99% of people say that sexism is wrong?
The difference would be over the definition of sexism.

on privatisation in the NHS. Both Liz Truss and the Guardian want to stop us uniting on these issues

The Guardian would at least swoon and probably die of shock if the NHS were privatised. For the Guardian, the NHS is the perhaps the only bastion of socialism in Britain; it is untouchable.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

The Oxbridge Guardian is not a Socialist media outlet. It supported Clinton over Sanders in the Democrat primaries, it supported Macron over Melenchon in the French elections, as well as Cooper and Smith over Corbyn in two Labour Party leadership elections. The only thing all of these people that the Oxbridge Guardian supported have in common is their neoliberalism. Its obsessive support for the EU shows its editorial board is very much neoliberal.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

I agree with much of what you say, but I think implying “intent to distract” is very hard to justify.

I’m not sure the people involved in identity politics are bright enough to mastermind such activity .. they just don’t care.