Until recently, the rules on political labelling were clear. If you voted Labour, supported Remain and expressed how much you cared about refugees on Facebook, you were left wing and therefore a good person.
If you voted Tory, supported Leave or failed to signal your virtue on social media with the required frequency, you were right wing and therefore bad.
Today, however, this system for dividing society into good and evil is crumbling under the weight of its own oversimplifications.
It turns out that plenty of traditional Labour voters supported Leave, while many Tories went for Remain. The emergent Brexit Party has a broad range of candidates from both sides of the political spectrum. How complicating and how frustrating.
On social issues, the Left positions itself as a champion of the downtrodden, the victim groups at the foot of the oppression pyramid. How then to square the circle of feminists like Germaine Greer, who have fought for women’s equality their entire lives being at loggerheads with the trans-rights lobby, and gay rights advocates like Peter Tatchell defending free speech? The answer, it turns out, is simple: ban them from speaking and call them bigots.
We’ve seen the power and reach of this mentality expand in recent months. In January, police interrogated a middle-aged man from Humberside for retweeting a transphobic limerick and advised him to ‘check his thinking’. A month later, a mother was arrested in front of her autistic daughter and baby son, allegedly for misgendering a trans activist on social media.
The state, it seems, is becoming the enforcer of our new ‘liberal’ speech codes.
Inexplicably, even free speech has become a right-wing issue. When I refused to sign a ‘behavioural agreement’ form (a title invented by students who mistook George Orwell’s 1984 for an instruction manual) in order to perform comedy at the School of Oriental and African Studies just before Christmas, I was immediately called ‘alt-Right’ on national radio.