Controversial bodies like Stonewall are changing the culture of Britain from within our institutions
The Stonewall scandal shows us who really runs this country: human resources. Many years ago, Stonewall, the LGBTQ charity, won all its battles and helped transform British society – such that when companies and bureaucracies wanted to guarantee their workplaces were “inclusive”, they hired Stonewall to show them how. Stonewall marked their homework via a league table of the most welcoming places to work.
But some of the things this organisation believes in are more controversial than employers might realise or Stonewall is willing to admit (in particular that people can change their sex/gender and society needs to respect this), and Stonewall seeks to shape the law in ways that many voters reject. This means that government departments employing the group could be accused of paying it to lobby them, which is downright surreal.
Moreover, when an organisation commits itself to a bold internal policy then it’s logical to assume that this will have an effect upon its outward mission, too. Pronouns, flags and a fervour for diversity all have an effect.
The NHS has spent almost £500,000 seeking Stonewall’s advice in the past three years. We essentially banned mixed wards in hospitals in 2010; Stonewall thinks people should be able to recuperate on wards that reflect their self-defined gender. An investigation by the Telegraph discovered that many NHS trusts across the country agree, meaning that patients can choose which ward, lavatory or shower facilities they use. Patients who dislike this have been labelled transphobic; guidelines have compared them to racists, even suggesting they be reported to the police.
I’m not claiming a direct link between what Stonewall favours and what organisations that have hired it end up doing, because the process is far subtler. If you change the culture of an institution then policy will logically track that development, which is what I mean when I joke that the staff in HR now run Britain. The BBC, for instance, is officially committed to editorial impartiality, but were it committed internally to the view that every trans campaign is an uncontroversial human rights cause, this would render such an editorial policy contradictory and immoral: you cannot be impartial about human rights. Power thus shifts from the traditional “face” of an institution – the editors and senior journalists – and towards those members of staff who inform and, inevitably, police internal policy. Last year, an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer stepped down after a headline bemoaning riot damage prompted a walkout. Around 30 members of staff claimed they were too “sick and tired” to work.
It is not inconceivable that a university lecturer could find themselves drummed out of their job for saying something “offensive” on campus that they simultaneously published in a book; the fact that the university exists to air ideas is irrelevant. Kathleen Stock, the well-published professor at Sussex, whom trans activists tried to get sacked, enjoyed oodles of media; political endorsement; even the backing of her employer. Yet she still felt compelled to quit because her life became so unpleasant. To nine-tenths of us, nothing she said was controversial and it certainly wasn’t illegal, making this episode all the more frightening. Authoritarianism is perfectly possible in a free society. It can flourish independently of the law or organs of the state, even in direct contradiction to the stated philosophy of the government in power, which brings us to the court of King Boris.
Many institutions, including the department of health and the BBC, have now walked away from Stonewall’s diversity scheme, but the vibe around the PM is reportedly rather different. No 10 is sticking with a partnership with Stonewall to run a conference, and critics allege that advisers are presenting Boris with “skewed” advice on trans rights that might persuade him that the argument has been won in Stonewall’s favour. Democracy itself is being bypassed by the staff.
Yet the BBC has let the cat out of the bag. Denying that its journalism has been influenced by Stonewall, the BBC has helpfully defined the trans issue not as holy writ but, in its Solomonic judgment, a “matter of public policy” – ie, an ongoing, contentious discussion that justifies balance. If this is true then we should all feel free to debate this stuff in a civilised manner – eschewing moral panic and with respect to all sides.
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