A pair of new government initiatives will see universities in the UK fined if colleges or student bodies attempt to shut down free speech on campuses, and heritage bodies sanctioned if they use funds to advance partisan political movements.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the university measure is to be announced this week by the Education secretary Gavin Williamson, who has previously railed against the rise of ‘wokism’ and leftist cancel culture.
The report notes that “Colleges or student bodies that try to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views will be sanctioned in a major Government escalation on the ‘war on woke’.”
Williamson’s effort will make it the duty of universities to promote free speech on campuses by allowing a broad spectrum of events and speakers, without hindrance.
The move will also see a ‘Free Speech Champion’ established on campuses as part of government’s regulatory Office for Students.
The role will be to ensure free speech isn’t impeded and that academic freedom is maintained, and to impose fines on establishments or student unions that restrict speech.
A government source told the Telegraph that “Unacceptable silencing and censoring on campuses is having a chilling effect and that is why we must strengthen free speech in higher education, by bolstering the existing legal duties and ensuring strong, robust action is taken if these are breached.”
In addition, the government will instruct heritage charities, museums and art galleries to stop ‘airbrushing’ history at the behest of the woke mob.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to issue instructions to the National Trust, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, the National History Museum, the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum at a summit next week “to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down”.
The move comes after revelations that public funds are being used to pay for reviews that seek to link British heritage to ‘colonialism’ and ‘white supremacy’.\
This is particularly the case in London, where the mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed a rogues gallery of woke partisans as a ‘task force’ to review whether statues and other landmarks in the city are ‘diverse enough’.
In a letter, Dowden stated “History is ridden with moral complexity and interpreting Britain’s past should not be an excuse to tell an overly-simplistic version of our national story, in which we damn the faults of previous generations whilst forgetting their many great achievements.”
“Purging uncomfortable elements of our past does nothing but damage our understanding of it,” Dowden also urged.
Responding to the government initiatives, Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs said “It is absolutely right that the Government steps in to defend free speech. Without the ability to speak freely soon we will not have the ability to think freely.”
Hayes added that “universities ought to be places where ideas are to be a fulcrum for devising and testing ideas to be places of imaginings”, but noted that debate is being stifled by self appointed “thought police”.
The study found that within the past three years, more than 68 per cent of universities in the UK have seen free speech severely restricted, with academics unable to meaningfully discuss the nuances of issues such as race and gender.
It is now an everyday occurrence, even at distinguished universities such as Cambridge, to see ridiculous one sided ‘discussions’ led by panels of activists who all agree on one subject, such as Winston Churchill being worse than Hitler, while speakers who disagree, or just have an opinion that isn’t robustly ‘woke’ are prevented from appearing.
A recent national poll found that half of Britons agree that freedom of speech is under direct threat from cancel culture, with only 12% feeling that they can speak more freely than five years ago.