We now know, beyond doubt, the extremes to which political correctness lead. The Guardian’s Afua Hirsch last week made the preposterous suggestion that Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square be demolished on the grounds that the views of the great man – a portrait of whom hangs in my office – cannot be squared with what is now taken as read.
It is possible that (previously barely-known) Mrs Hirsch is either unaware of Nelson’s heroism in defence of England, or heartlessly careless about it.
More likely, she is an instrument of the kind of political correctness which seeks to obscure truth by sanitising history – shoehorning what once happened into a space in which only the pedantry of the bourgeois Left establishment is now permitted to reside.
Though I have never been a great admirer of President Trump’s vulgar bombast, compared with Mrs Hirsch, the American leader appears the model of sagacity when he says that similar kinds of politically-correct zealots are “trying to take away our culture…trying to take away our history.”
Nearer home, we witnessed the (thankfully unsuccessful) campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford. Curious that the self-appointed PC censors raise no objections to the Highgate bust of Karl Marx – whose foul ideology, worsened by Lenin, was used to justify the murder of millions. Apparently, it is not all history which must be rewritten – only the bits they don’t like.
Emblems apart, attempting to disguise, distort or disown the truth is at the heart of the twisted ambitions of Mrs Hirsch and her like, with dire real-world consequences.
Sarah Champion – the campaigning MP for Rotherham who played a key role in the inquiry into the organised abuse of at least 1,400 children there – wrote a newspaper article recently drawing attention to a culture amongst a sub-set of British Muslim men which spawned appalling sexual crimes against children. Extraordinarily, as a consequence, she was forced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
Bizarrely, for some of the worst of the politically-correct brigade, the perceived problem of racial stereotyping has become more important than truth. What is true must, in their view, remain unspoken lest it causes offence.
Instead, Orwellian notions of group identity prevail in which it is not people’s opinions, values or principles that count, but their “identity”, based upon race, sex, or “gender”. This view is the antithesis of Martin Luther King’s famous “dream” – to live in a country whose citizens “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” – and gives rise to a sinister culture in which consensus becomes a kind of thought control, leading many to stop thinking altogether.
The tyranny of the mob prevails over reasoned, sober debate and any spark of dissent from the politically correct orthodoxy is extinguished under the banner of “hate speech”.
What have bourgeois Leftists come to if they prefer the comfort blanket of political correctness to the protection of our children and the Stalinist reinvention of history to the patriotic celebration of the past?
Symbols and totems matter in affirming and acclaiming time-honoured truths. As Churchill said: “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
We should be proud to celebrate the truth of our glorious history so, rather than destroying statues, let’s build more.
Horatio Nelson was born in Norfolk’s Burnham Thorpe and there is another Nelson’s Column in Great Yarmouth. Given that he is said to have visited friends in Long Sutton, perhaps it’s time we had our own Lincolnshire statue of a man who stands amongst England’s greatest heroes.