Voters seek return to common sense in revolt against political correctness The Times 24.05.20

The original story is here.  

A campaign is being launched to combat the rise in identity politics, backed by a poll suggesting that even young people are tired of the culture wars. Voters want an end to ideological drives and disruptive protests on “politically correct” subjects and would prefer politicians to focus on what brings people together in the wake of the coronavirus and Brexit.

The Campaign for Common Sense (CCS), which is to be launched this week, will champion free speech and oppose the intolerance of hardline activism that seeks to shut down legitimate debate. It aims to be “a rallying point for people who have had enough of walking on eggshells”.

Mark Lehain, its director, was one of the first free-school headteachers, at Bedford Free School, which opened in 2012. He later led the New Schools Network and the Parents and Teachers for Excellence campaign, which advocated a knowledge-rich curriculum and a traditional approach to behaviour. Sir Robbie Gibb, who was director of communications for Theresa May in Downing Street and is the brother of Nick Gibb, the schools minister, is also involved.

In a report published today the CCS states that 84% of the public agree with the statement: “We need to restore some common sense in this country.” Of those surveyed 77% believe that “the coronavirus means we should focus more on things like public services, instead of whether something is politically correct” and the same proportion want politicians to “focus on issues like public services rather than ‘politically correct’ concerns like transgender rights”.

Six in ten (61%) agree that political correctness gives “too much power to a small minority of people who like to take offence”. Crucially, the proportion of people who said political correctness had gone “too far” outweighed “about right” or “not gone far enough” in every demographic group, including remain voters, 18 to 24-year-olds and Green Party voters.

The polling was carried out by JL Partners, which was set up by May’s pollster, James Johnson

77% of people want politicians to focus on issues such as public services rather than ‘politically correct’ concerns like transgender rights
61% think rights for people who were born male but identify as female and vice-versa are about right or have gone too far
78% agree that ‘you have to walk on eggshells when speaking about certain issues these days’
65% agree that ‘too often, public protests are disruptive to ordinary working people’s lives’
59% agreed that ‘the police spend too much time investigating things that are not politically correct, when they should be focused on other priorities’

Source: 2,000 people were surveyed by JL Partners between August 30 and September 2, 2019 and between May 15 and 17, 2020

Lehain said the CCS would organise research on sensitive subjects and “host discussions that would be conducted in a tone of respect and moderation”. It aims to pose questions that are often shut down in the media, parliament and the workplace. They include: is there anything we shouldn’t joke about? Should people be able to speak their mind at work? Can children consent to changing their identity?

Many of the public are not aligned with campaigners who advance strong views in these areas. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) agree that “you have to walk on eggshells when speaking about certain issues these days” and 82% concur that “too many people are easily offended these days”.
Almost seven in 10 (68%) agree that “comedians should be free to tell jokes even if some people are offended”.

On the subject of transgenderism, 61% believe rights for people who were born male but identify as female and vice versa are about right or have gone too far. The same number think that changes in society to take account of those identifying as neither male nor female are about right or have gone too far.

Public speakers have been “no- platformed” by a vocal minority for failing to use its preferred gender terminology, or for defending women’s right to safe spaces. Similarly, in light of the row over whether Oxford University should take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes, 61% agree that “statues of historical figures in the UK, even if they are controversial, should be preserved rather than removed”.

Asked about Extinction Rebellion-style protests bringing transport to a halt, 65% agreed that “too often, public protests are disruptive to ordinary working people’s lives”, with 17% disagreeing.
On crime, 59% agree that “the police spend too much time investigating things that are not politically correct, when they should be focused on other priorities”.
More than six in 10 (64%) agree that there should be “harsher sentences for young people involved in crime”.

The launch of the CCS follows a Labour leadership debate that featured a row over transgender rights; the decision by an Oxford University society to no- platform Amber Rudd, a moderate former Conservative MP and home secretary; and Labour’s suspension of the lifelong anti-racism campaigner Trevor Phillips over accusations of Islamophobia.

Lehain said: “Freedom of speech is too often taken for granted. What good is it when attitudes from our managers, our politicians and our public institutions make too many of us feel that we simply can’t say certain things? In their drive to make society more ‘inclusive’, activists are actually forcing people apart and making divisions worse. A tolerance for different views and commonsense thinking is being pushed to the margins.”

He added that the coronavirus crisis had shown that “we have far more in common with each other than what divides us — just look at how the country has come together to support the NHS”.