It’s Not the Laws We’re Getting, It’s the Laws We Have | Adam Limb
There’s a distinct trend among those who identify with conservative politics, or at least those who are sympathetic to them, to identify some latest piece of legislation and attack it as the latest ‘step too far’ by supposed enemies of liberty. Once you’ve seen this trend, it’s quite hard to not see: some legislation is proposed that aims to further restrict free speech or allow access to previously private domains of life, headlines are made in the Telegraph specifying the most odious elements of these pieces of legislation, and the Spectator columns call upon Boris and his chums to spend less time cheating on their wives, and more time conserving the values they allegedly represent. Throughout these panics is the general sentiment that this latest step is the one too far, and that these pieces of legislation will bring an end to our long and proud liberal traditions.
This kind of shepherd’s tone journalism is a mainstay of a profit-driven media and rewards the creation of a fantasy world that is always on the verge of being destroyed. However, any careful analysis of these laws, their background, and where they draw their precedents from, reveals a singular truth: these fantastical liberal traditions are already dead, and were dead long before many of us were even born. The problem is not the laws we are getting, it’s the laws we have.
An elementary understanding of the common law system can help us trace a genealogy of this development. For example, the Equalities Act 2010 is responsible for a great deal of the so-called ‘woke’ infiltration of our institutions. Section 149 of the Act, states that public authorities have a public duty to do as follows:
- To eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the Act,
- To advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, and
- To foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
This may seem innocuous as a law, but in practice, someone has to be the authority who handles these laws and keeps organisations in compliance with them. Which lawyers and professionals will be hired to fulfil such a role and protect public authorities from being in breach of the Equalities Act? They most certainly won’t be cultural conservatives, what we have here is a law that necessitates almost every government body hires someone who is particularly invested in equality, the latest and most popular theory of which is Critical Race Theory. This de-facto commitment to ideological allegiance is clearer with the Equality Acts Specific Duties Regulations of 2011 which requires public authorities to “publish information to demonstrate their compliance with the public sector equality duty and to identify one or more objectives which they thought they should work to achieve”. But who exactly is a public authority? An exhaustive list can be found here, but a quick summary would be:
- The Armed Forces
- The BBC and Channel 4
- The NHS Trust
- The Bank of England
- Any local governmental organisation from the councils themselves to their waste disposal authorities (yes, seriously)
- A governing body of an institution within the higher education sector
- The British Transport Police Force
Every single one of these institutions has to actively demonstrate how they are complying with these regulations, and continue to advance them. One quick way to do this is to simply hire more people who aren’t white or straight, and present that as evidence of growing diversity. Alternatively, they can change their logo during pride month, but when this becomes the norm among government bodies (and inevitably, it’ll have to), this will escalate to higher and higher heights of performative leftism to ensure cooperation with the law.
We cannot be surprised that every governmental body in the country changes its logo to the latest version of the pride flag when we have laws demanding that they demonstrate their compliance with such values. Furthermore, we cannot be shocked that these organisations jump on the latest woke trend when they are continually asked to create new objectives to ensure their compliance with the law – because when it comes to questions of law, it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, why risk a lawsuit when it’s easier to fly the latest iteration of the LGBTQAPPI++(WIP)?
Yet, no Conservative or ‘free speech absolutist’ has anything to say about the Equalities Act, and often praise and appeal to the liberalism that underpins it. Boris will talk about ‘stopping all the wetness’, but even when delivered an overwhelming majority, refuses to turn off the hosepipe. In some sense, the Conservative party is living up to its name; by conserving the last ten years of disastrous cultural change and paving the way for the next ten years. We’ve already seen glimpses of this up north, where a young man, Mark Meecham, was sentenced and fined for making his pug give a Roman salute. Many derided the law that he was sentenced under, which was the Communications Act of 2003. Most of the critique attacked the part that states that one does not send messages that are “grossly offensive”. This language was highlighted as being particularly suspect for its subjectivity, and many focused on the fact that the Communications Act was passed by the Labour Party, taking it as another example of left-wing censorship. Yet, the Communications Act of 2003 draws from the Telecommunications Act of 1984, which was passed under Thatcher. Section 43 of this Act states that it is illegal to “[send], by means of a public telecommunication system, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive”. If we’re to believe the consensus on the right-wing about this law, we’d have to assume that Thatcher was some kind of proto-woke freedom hater.
A lesson to be learned here is the lesson of the value of culture. There is a temptation to view society as a trichotomy: the public (as in, the government), the private (as in, the economy), and the people (as in, civil society), and to believe never the three shall meet. Yet, the demand of ‘supply and demand’, and the ballot that makes up the ‘democratic mandate’, can only be shaped by public opinion. Here however, we see a distinct example of how the law and government can be used to influence culture and therefore public opinion, until what is ‘grossly offensive’ is a by-product of the influence of the state over society. The Specific Duties Regulation of the Equalities Act demonstrates that whilst the legislative may not yet be able to eat up the judicial, the legislative can most certainly influence how the judicial interprets the laws it judges people on and thereby bypass the separation of powers to rapidly advance politics.
The issue with this country is just not a matter of the quality of the law with respect to interpretation, but the quantity of the law with respect to practicality. A common law system places so many laws on the books that no one person can know them all. This is why the aforementioned experts on the Equalities Acts have to exist, and why they have to be offered high-paying jobs, where they can influence the culture of the workplaces they’re in. Beyond those experts, there has to exist groups of people who choose which laws are pushed. After all, you could be an expert in the laws surrounding treason to the crown, but no-one would hire you, despite these laws being ostensibly just as valid (legally speaking) as any new law.
So why is there no demand for expertise in treason, but demand for expertise in wokery? This is where committees come into the fore. One of the Acts that made up the Equalities Act was the Race Relations Act of 1976 – which created the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) out of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. This was done partly on the advice of the Runnymede Trust. The role of the commission was as follows:
- To encourage greater integration and better relations between people from different ethnic groups.
- To use its legal powers to help eradicate racial discrimination and harassment.
- To work with government and public authorities to promote racial equality in all public services.
- To support local and regional organisations, and employers in all sectors, in their efforts to ensure equality of opportunity and good race relations.
- To raise public awareness of racial discrimination and injustice, and to win support for efforts to create a fairer and more equal society.
In 2006, the CRE would become the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC is a benefactor of many woke organisations, such as the Runnymede Trust, who, as I mentioned, helped create the predecessor to the EHRC to begin with. (See how that works?) In its white paper, section 30 gives the EHRC the power of judicial review, and even the power to intervene in court proceedings. Section 31-2 allows the EHRC to give compliance notices to compel organisations to follow the Equality and Human Rights Act. This relationship the EHRC has with the law is reciprocal, as section 31(3) of the prior Act, the Equalities Act of 2006, allows the EHRC to bring judicial review against public authorities even without a victim of a Human Rights violation being present or even willing, to testify to the supposed infringement.
Over its history, the EHRC has engaged in all manner of cultural influence, from making passing commentary on how the victims of the negative effects of ID cards are predominantly non-white, to organising events such as the Race in Media Awards – actively encouraging the inclusion of racialised politics in television which is loathed so much today. Considering the negative incentives from being in breach of the Equalities Act, and the positive incentives of winning awards – it’s actually a wonder the BBC didn’t go woke sooner, considering the awards date all the way back to 1992.
It’s the existence of these committees that make the law actual, and ensure that employers, police, and other organisations know how to enforce these laws and the myriad other laws. Consequently, any right-wing praxis must understand that it’s not enough to turn out and vote, but to assist in the taking control of, establishing, and disestablishing committees where necessary. We can get any majority we wish, and we can pass as many laws as we please, but without an engine to drive political change, sitting in the driver’s seat is just the appearance of being in charge.
But what conservative has ever called for the abolition or reduction of the influence of the Equality and Human Rights commission? None. Any careful consideration of how power works in this country points to this being where a great deal of the pressure on our culture is exerted from. The commission is open and honest about how it applies pressure to public authorities and even private employers to comply with the Equalities and Human Rights Act, and consequently enforce the wildly unpopular social change we see all around us.
And so, no matter how many new laws get passed which are allegedly a threat to free speech, nothing fundamentally changes. The truth is we’ve already crossed the threshold – the ideas and values of liberalism are dead. Like the Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender, public figures such as Lawrence Fox are yet to realise the war is over, and that the world they are fighting for no longer exists. In fact, the world they are fighting for is precisely what created the things they despise so much. In the aforementioned white paper, the EHRC was established with the following goals:
- people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination,
- there is respect for and protection of each individual’s human rights (including respect for the dignity and worth of each individual),
- each person has an equal opportunity to participate in society, and
- there is mutual respect between communities based on understanding and valuing of diversity and on shared respect for equality and human rights.
The commission was established with the express aim of bringing about the very liberal world these individuals desired. What the commission found however, was that freedom of speech, diversity and human rights are incompatible, and that the stability of society could only be ensured by the destruction of one of these liberal values. The country was in a state of exception – it could not fulfil both its commitment to diversity and to freedom of speech. In such a position, the committee acted as the sovereign and resolved the exception. It simply resolved it on a side unfavourable to many oldschool liberals, who are left wondering why their views have become unfashionable all of a sudden.
But it’s precisely this institutional power and the radical changes it has made to our society which should give these self-proclaimed fighters for liberty pause for thought. After all, if the ‘will of the people’ (if you believe in that sort of thing) is sovereign, how is it that institutional power managed to overcome them? If freedom is so powerful, and so important, why was it so easily overpowered and taken from a once free population? If you want to get truly misanthropic, you could even ask if such a population is worthy of said freedoms. But one thing is clear; liberalism failed to protect the sovereignty of the individual from the ideological encroachment of the state, and as a consequence, it must be critiqued, dissected, and replaced.