Was there ever a time of equality in human society?

Origin stories have always helped humans gain a moral compass. Locked in a tight embrace, the Maori deities Rangi and Papa are separated by their enveloped children, creating the distant father sky and nurturing Mother Earth, bringing light to the world. Mayan gods fashion man from maize after destroying earlier clay and wood versions, who are seen to have no soul. Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Life but illicitly also from the Tree of Knowledge. One of the more touted modern human origin stories, ostensibly based on evolutionary science, speaks of a natural inequality between violent and promiscuous men and caring and faithful women. Having evolved to

The ‘professional liar’ at the heart of Prince Harry’s hacking claim

In the summer of 2019, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were visiting their friends Elton John and David Furnish in the south of France when they were introduced to the barrister David Sherborne. This ‘chance’ meeting would be a massive coup for the man known as the ‘barrister to the stars’ (he represented Coleen Rooney in the Wagatha Christie trial and Johnny Depp against Amber Heard, among many others. Many years ago, he also acted for Harry’s mother, Princess Diana). The encounter led to Prince Harry becoming the star witness against three newspaper groups. ‘It was partially down to Elton and David,’ Harry later wrote in Spare. ‘At the end

Trump’s second act: he can still win, in spite of everything

Everyone knows F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous line from the end of his unfinished novel The Last Tycoon: ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ But Fitzgerald wasn’t talking about second chances. He meant that, unlike in a traditional play – where Act I presents a problem, Act II reveals the complications and Act III resolves it all – Americans want to skip Act II and go straight to the resolution. The more I think about it, the more I think the Joe Biden presidency is Act II – and Donald Trump is not the last tycoon. He’s Act III. He’s the next president. The campaign of lawfare against him

Rupa Huq and the politics of prejudice

The Labour party’s contribution to the national debate this week has included the idea that someone can be ‘superficially’ black. Rupa Huq, a Labour MP, used this phrase to describe Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. ‘If you hear him on the Today programme,’ she said, ‘you wouldn’t know he’s black.’ It was a daft yet revealing comment. In her moment of unintended (and perhaps career-destroying) candour, Huq exposed a prejudice that remains pervasive in British politics. Any such suggestion is, of course, racist, and Labour could not deny it. Huq has been suspended. But she was articulating an attitude that has become widespread. She probably thought that her comments were uncontroversial for

Douglas Murray

I’m in trouble with the police

There is almost nothing I like more than a running battle. As my friend Julie Burchill also says, when a really good row comes along it gives you this warm, cosy feeling inside. So it was not with disappointment that I received a noteworthy response to my column of last week. For those who were sleeping on the job (or only read Rod’s column), I made some pertinent comments about community relations in the Leicestershire area. Community relations, you may recall, have essentially broken down, with Hindu and Muslim gangs facing off in the city and some of the surrounding area. In passing I noted the number of female police

The rise of the pluto-meritocracy

Meritocracy, a word coined by my father, gets a bad press these days. Two recent books — The Meritocracy Trap (2019) by Daniel Markovits and The Tyranny of Merit (2020) by Michael Sandel — hold it responsible for many of America’s ills, and in some settings saying you believe the most qualified person should get the job is classified as a ‘micro-aggression’ because it ignores the role that race plays in determining a person’s life chances. It’s one of those progressive doctrines that’s fallen out of favour. So kudos to Adrian Wooldridge, the political editor of the Economist, for producing a full-throated defence of the principle. In The Aristocracy of

Culture wars, identity politics and free speech: Rod Liddle and Peter Tatchell in conversation

ROD LIDDLE: I am honoured to be speaking to you, Peter, on this anniversary of 50 years of causing havoc with the British establishment. You’re one of very few political heroes of mine. I know very few people in the country who are as committed to what they believe in as you. Now a film is being made about your life, isn’t it? It’s going to be on Netflix and it’s called Hating Peter Tatchell, which a lot of people have done over the years. How did that come about? PETER TATCHELL: The film maker, Chris Amos, approached me several years ago and said, ‘No one has ever made a

Selling the family home to pay for care is not an injustice

The sound of the well-off grumbling about their finances is always an unattractive one. But there is one gripe that has become particularly powerful, filling the airwaves and shaping public policy. This is the persistent, ever louder complaint from many households that they are required to sell the family home to pay the costs of care for a close relative. It is a practice widely seen as ‘a scandal’, where the state seizes private property because of its own failure to create a properly funded care system that meets the needs of the elderly. The flames of grievance are stoked by the press, pressure groups and politicians, who promote the

Letters: The veiled elitism of social mobility

Levelling up Sir: In making the case for social mobility, Lee Cain unwittingly endorses the classism he hopes to fight (‘Left behind’, 24 April). As the historian Christopher Lasch has argued, the canard of social mobility merely replaces ‘an aristocracy of wealth with an aristocracy of talent’. Far from being egalitarian, the concept is inherently elitist: it implies moving up, out or away from a class, town or profession condemned as undesirable. And by paying lip service to ‘meritocracy’ it becomes a self-serving justification for elites’ power and privilege — if they had the ‘ability and ambition’ to rise to the top, it must only be indolent dullards who are

The problem with ‘role models’

Watching the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh at the weekend — that Land Rover, that lack of eulogy — I felt an alien emotion steal over me. Shortly after the last blast of the bagpipes faded away, I realised what it was: I’d like to be like that. Amusingly, the only person this working-class radical feminist has ever felt this emotion towards was a reactionary prince. Somehow, the very incongruity made perfect sense; I can’t think of anything drearier than having a ‘role model’ who was in any way like me. There are quite a few modern phrases which annoy the heck out of me. ‘Reaching out’ should only

Westminster and the truth about the class ceiling

I come from the Lancastrian town of Ormskirk, which, though pretty, provided little in the way of opportunity or aspiration. No one in our family had been to university. I qualified for free school meals. Expectations for my future were low. But I was lucky. I had great mentors and ended up in Downing Street. I also worked for a Prime Minister who believes in social mobility and put ‘levelling up’ at the very centre of his premiership. This was the reason I came into politics too. Boris Johnson understands that the need for social mobility is now more urgent than ever, as we emerge from lockdown. While the food

The race report critics are guilty of gaslighting

The Sewell Report on race and ethnic disparities is courageous, thoughtful and measured. Its relative optimism has triggered a torrent of bile from those personally or professionally wedded to the idea that Britain is a systemically racist society. They accuse the report of disregarding what is fashionably called ‘lived experience’ — in other words, anecdotal evidence and subjective impression. Its use of carefully considered objective data, the critics allege, devalues the lived experience of ethnic minorities. Lived experience has validity, but — by definition — only for those who have lived it. It proves nothing beyond itself, and certainly nothing systemic. If we wish to be rational creatures, we check

An open letter to my golf club

Dear Mike, Thank you for asking me, along with all the other members, whether I would like to become part of the golf club’s new ‘Equality — Diversity — Inclusion (EDI) Working Group’. The short answer is I would rather spend a couple of hours in the mud, picking up old beer bottles and condoms out of the river which winds though the course, than sit on such a ‘working group’. It is difficult to describe -exactly why I think this venture is a bad idea but I will have a go. Let’s take the words of the title of the new committee. What kind of ‘equality’ is it going

Confessions of a lifelong bitch

As I watched the Duchess of Sussex give her extended acceptance speech for Best Performance As A Victim — played as a cross between Bambi and Beth from Little Women — my overwhelming feeling was of disappointment. Readers may recall that I once wrote long and loopy love letters to her in this very magazine, embarrassing in their unctuousness — ‘Meghan Markle has rescued her prince!’ — but I went off her when her bid for secular sainthood started. The allegations of tiara tantrums brought me fresh hope. Could it be that behind that innocent face, all damp eyes and trembling lips, lurked a superannuated Mean Girl? She’d have made

Beware the linguistic Trojan horse

It’s the bane of many an author these days: those newspaper-filler Q&As. One I recently filled out included the question: ‘What’s the book you’re never without?’ Of course, there’s no book I lug about with me everywhere, but inanity comes with this territory. I responded: ‘A tattered, duct-taped blue hardcover of my Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (based on Webster’s Third) published in 1969.’ Lame? Actually, no. Access to older analogue dictionaries has become politically invaluable. Pre-internet, august dictionaries such as Webster’s and the OED functioned as linguistic anchors. Beneficially slow to adapt and resistant to vernacular fashion, print editions that were expensive to reissue acted as drags on popular

Toby Young

The secret code of the ruling class

I naively hoped that last year’s statement by the Equalities Minister explaining why unconscious bias training was being phased out across the civil service might slow its spread. After all, the minister’s scepticism wasn’t based on political disagreement but on research commissioned from the Behavioural Insights Team that concluded: ‘There is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour in the long term or improves… equality in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups.’ Reading between the lines, the BIT evidently thinks that UBT is little more than snake oil — and there’s a vast amount of literature in the social sciences to back that up.

Liz Truss’s war on identity politics doesn’t go far enough

The concept of equality has been redefined, at least according to the minister responsible in a speech last week. But on closer inspection, the government has still not unshackled itself from all the entrenched assumptions of the more collectivist understanding of fairness. Liz Truss’s speech marked a break from identity politics, with its pernicious division of society into victims and their oppressors, but it left untouched two other linked ideas. The first is social determinism: the idea that outcomes such as poverty are the result of social and economic forces beyond individual control. The second is faith in the ability of government to transform these external forces. Both ideas leave

No one wins in the race race

After the explosion of international self-abasement over George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, much theatrical soul-searching ensued. So your basic man or woman on the street might have reason to puzzle why it is that in the wake of all this hyper-awareness about race (which the left simultaneously instructs us both does not exist and explains everything), relations between the hues seem only to decay. In order to redress ‘structural racism’, the state of Oregon (impressively still extant, given the determination of both nature and Portland’s Antifa activists to burn it down) has reserved $62 million, out of a total Covid relief fund of $200 million, for black people. Black individuals

The battle for Eton’s soul

When trying to get my head around the row that has engulfed Eton College in the past two weeks I keep getting sidetracked by the comic details. Like the fact that the headmaster, Simon Henderson, is nicknamed ‘trendy Hendy’ on account of his mission to transform Eton into a modern, progressive institution. By all accounts, he has set about trying to cleanse the school of its ‘toxic’ traditions with the zeal of a captain in the Red Guards, promising to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum, recruiting the creator of the Everyday Sexism blog to lecture the staff on the gender pay gap and, at one point, proposing to scrap Eton’s famous uniform.

The ‘anti-racism’ movement is sowing deeper divisions

Have you ever claimed to be ‘not racist’? If so, sorry, but you’re a bigot. Should this seem incoherent, then you’re clearly not well versed in critical race theory: a once niche academic field that has gone mainstream and popularised concepts such as ‘white privilege’, ‘white fragility’ and ‘systemic racism’. According to Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Anti-Racist, ‘the claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism’. Alana Lentin, author of Why Race Still Matters, takes it a step further, arguing that to be ‘not racist’ is ‘a form of discursive racist violence’. If you declare yourself not racist, it’s an unequivocal sign you’re