The left purges its heroes in the name of equality The Sunday Times

The original article is here.

In the prehistoric age before social media, the left-wing columnist Suzanne Moore received threats from the far-right group Combat 18. They rang her at home, told her she deserved to be raped and, because they knew she had children, were going to put her in a wheelchair rather than kill her. Police offered to install a panic button, and then, out of the blue, a letter arrived from Norman Tebbit, the former Tory party chairman.

“He wrote me the most gracious letter saying, ‘Now you’ve had a death threat, you know you’ve really arrived,’” she told me. “It was weird. Me and Norman Tebbit. How opposite can we be?” The satirical puppet show Spitting Image, which is about to be revived on television, used to portray Tebbit as a leather-clad far-right skinhead, but he proved to be a complete gent. “Sometimes people are just decent,” said Moore.

The violent threats have kept coming, this time on social media from supposed allies on the left. Most hurtfully, 338 of her own colleagues at The Guardian (and its sister publication The Observer) signed a letter protesting against the publication of “transphobic content” after Moore wrote in defence of a left-wing feminist Oxford historian, Selina Todd, who had been no-platformed by a conference on women’s liberation, also for alleged transphobia.

I had not thought it possible that journalists whose very existence depends on the freedom of the press would seek to silence and bully a fellow contributor in this way — least of all the trailblazing Moore, whom I have admired since my first reporting “job”. In my twenties, seeking experience, I volunteered a couple of days a week at the Women’s Review, where Moore was the sharpest, funniest TV critic I had ever read (sorry, Clive James, but it’s true). We’re still friends today.

Because Moore has proved so enduringly popular, she was recently accused by a snarky social media critic as having “seeming lifelong tenure” at The Guardian. Nothing could be further from the truth. She is one of the paper’s few working-class, non-Oxbridge contributors, who has survived by her wits as a freelance writer. With her bird’s-nest hair, bright red lipstick and “f***-me shoes” — in the words of the equally transgressive Germaine Greer — Moore has written that she identifies with drag. The idea that a columnist with her zest and free spirit could be chased off with a pitchfork by cowardly, anonymous staffers is sickening.

I refuse to believe that this row has anything to do with actual transphobia. Right now, an arcane dispute is spawning a frenzy of censorship instead of an open, honest discussion of why so many young people with gender dysphoria are being urged to embark on life-altering surgery. That can’t be right.

By the same token, I don’t believe that Trevor Phillips’s suspension from the Labour Party last week had anything to do with “Islamophobia”. I could spend all my time here arguing over the finer points of these twin “phobias”, but I’m not going to bother because they really don’t matter. At stake, purely and simply, is freedom of expression.

Phillips and I are also former colleagues (we were presenters on BBC2’s The Midnight Hour). He went on to head the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and now chairs the free-speech organisation Index on Censorship. Since news of his ludicrous suspension by cronies of Jeremy Corbyn broke only days after the Guardianistas’ attempt to silence Moore, I decided to ask him about her treatment.

As you would expect, he had lots to say: “I’ll bet every penny I have that those 300 people all regard themselves as caring, compassionate allies of transgender people. They want to make it a battle that shows how caring and compassionate they are.” Nobody “caring” is going to be in favour of Islamophobia either. “They think, ‘I’m a nice person, so I’m going to be against it.’ This is the result of liberal narcissism,” he continued. “Their campaigning is all about themselves. The last thing they are interested in is listening to a woman or anyone from a minority background.”

Phillips blames liberal institutions such as universities, some government departments, the BBC and The Guardian for bending the knee to minuscule pressure groups or factions. Moore thinks, likewise, that the idea that current and former Labour voters are crying out to expel Phillips is “just insane”. Labour’s motives are so transparent as to be laughable. It so happens that Phillips’s old organisation, the EHRC, is conducting an inquiry into Labour anti-semitism. The childish tit-for-tat is an obvious effort to delegitimise its findings.

Old friends on the left have seemingly deserted him. Sir Keir Starmer, the presumptive Labour leader, lives only a few streets away but has kept quiet. So have Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long Bailey, whose decision to sign a pledge card describing organisations such as a Woman’s Place UK as “trans-exclusionist hate groups” was criticised by Moore. If these heirs to Corbyn have nothing relevant to say to voters, soon the voters will have nothing to say to them.

Moore persuaded The Guardian to run her original article on the grounds that the debate would only take place elsewhere if the paper hadn’t the stomach for it. Prophetically, she ended up writing in the latest issue of The Spectator about the attempt to silence her. As with Tebbit, conservatives have behaved far more generously than the tricoteuses of the left. If the latter keep guillotining their own, don’t blame us when they shrivel into a sect.

@SarahBaxterSTM