The sorry state of the future of conservatism | Ben Weller
I’ve never really fancied myself as a lawyer. Yet, reading through the guidelines of a conservative group, trying to find “cannot express mainstream religious belief” among the abysmal list of sackable offences, made me feel like Camille Vazquez. In a Lee vs Ashers Baking Company-esk cull I’m out of the “inclusive, member-driven environment” and thrown to a small corner of Twitter, bolstered by brothers and sisters in faith (and even of no faith), who see how irrational my suspension from this young conservative organisation is.
A grifter you say? I’m not out here trying to win points so I’ll let you all judge my case as I lay it out. When asked, “What’s wrong with being gay?”, I replied “It’s sinful”. Many may see that as a regressive point, believing I deserve this (admittedly inconsequential) punishment, but others have rushed and seen this is not about the group, nor about me, but about a wider trend in society seen in this thrilling late-night microcosm.
My disciplinary notice read: “lately, you directly violated Annex A of the Code of Conduct”. The relevant parts of Annex A read: “discrimination includes victimising or harassing any other person because of [list of expected protected characteristics]”, “harassment is any unwanted [different methods of harassment]”, and “victimisation may therefore occur when a person subjects another person to detriment”.
This homemade Equality Act upon which I’ve been charged highlights the problem within the complicated laws of so-called “hate speech”. Protected characteristics don’t work. Postmodern values have eaten their way onto the bench meaning certain characteristics are “protected” more than others. Currently the sympathies of the masses lean further towards queer individuals than young ‘Jesus freaks’ meaning the rulings will not be with the Church but with secularism. It’s the same in the highest court of the land and smallest bedroom in Southwest London; sexuality is better protected than religious expression. After the massacre of 40 people in a Nigerian Church I will not label myself as a persecuted individual, yet I do believe it’s evident in my small woes and the international horrors – the world is against Christianity.
That on which this nation was built is treated as secondary by a new breed of “conservatives” who put modern liberal values over those of their own nation. God help the makeup of parliament in two decades!
Aside from this, using the definition of harassment in the Code of Conduct, I have harassed nobody. Harassment is “unwanted” according to the contract I signed. What I said was a reply to a question. It was not spiteful nor spontaneous but a response to an inquiry about my personal views (following the “integrity”, “honesty”, “accountability”, and “openness” encouraged in the same Code from which I’ve been sanctioned). That’s not harassment, it’s dialogue. For some dialogue can be equally as scary as harassment, I know, but however hurt one’s feelings may be, discussion is still legal (at the time of publishing).
So, whilst I’ve been branded by Annex A, insinuating that my actions have victimised another child of God, I could instead argue that the true victim here is myself. I despise saying that. It makes me sound like the sort of girl seen prancing around Camden with metal in her face, when in all honesty I’m loving the cancelling. Still, there’s a point to be made. With victimisation being “when a person subjects another person to detriment”, I can say that I’ve been victimised. The Disciplinary Liaison of the group has put me at a detriment by depriving me of access to a network because of my own religious conviction (that I was not forcing onto anybody else during my incensed criminal spree).
This would usually be the part where I thank everyone for coming to my TED talk and dismiss you row-by-row, but I still feel the need to reiterate. This is the first time I’ve broken ranks and written an article in first person, but it doesn’t make it about me. After being accused of trying to “score some points with people who don’t like us” by the Chairman of the group I decided it would be best to keep this piece anonymous of any mention of the organisation in question. Whilst I’m sure it will be simple for one to find them, this piece remains a comment on the sorry state of the future of conservatism and the holes in protected characteristics, not a “hit piece” on the group from which I’ve been suspended. We need to fight a culture war, not a personal one.
 My suspension from the group is for three weeks, not indefinitely. I have a right to appeal that I have chosen against as I respect the (admittedly incorrect) jurisdiction of a private organisation over its own regulations. I still maintain that no rules have been broken and am unsure whether I will continue to affiliate myself with the group when the suspension is up. I do thank, however, the (at least four) people who have distanced/removed themselves from the group in question in support of freedom of speech.
Addendum: Since first writing this my suspension has been raised to twelve months, with the Disciplinary Liaison recommending to the group’s board that I am expelled permanently. This was action taken against at least three other members (including one from the Mallard) for retweeting a tweet in which board members of the group were exposed after publicly harassing conservative commentator, Sophie Corcoran – an offence that would constitute a break of the Code of Conduct.