TOBY YOUNG: How sad to see a former champion of British values succumb to anti-patriotic self-loathing
Few will be surprised to learn that an organisation funded by the British taxpayer once issued a ‘non-discriminatory’ language guide that urged its staff not to refer to ‘Brits’, or use the phrase ‘the Queen’s English’. The reason the latter was ‘problematic’, we were told, was that ‘it implies that these varieties of English are more correct or of greater importance than others’.
What may have come as a shock, though, is that the document – which could be called ‘How To Speak Woke-ish’ – was produced by the British Council, whose purpose is to promote Britain’s values and culture across the world.
Not only does it have a budget of £1.2 billion a year and employ 7,000 people, but it received a Royal Charter in 1940 – and its patron is Her Majesty the Queen.
It seems this public body, like so many others, has succumbed to the anti-patriotic self-loathing that is so prevalent among the Brexit-hating metropolitan elite.
Once a vehicle for the projection of soft power, celebrating the pinnacles of British culture like the plays of Shakespeare and the music of Elgar, it has become infected by what the late philosopher Roger Scruton called ‘oikophobia’ – the repudiation of one’s own culture and the glorification of others.
Now the British Council has published a ‘diversity and inclusion’ policy that says the UK’s record on ‘ethnic conflicts, civil disturbances and genocides’ puts it on the same footing as Syria, South Sudan and Darfur.
Taxpayer-funded quango The British Council has provoked outrage by including the UK on a list of countries blighted by ‘extreme and violent’ racial tension, civil disturbance and genocide. Pictured are demonstrators pulling down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol
Notably missing from its list of shameful countries is China, for that is one part of the world where the British Council does take its commitment to ‘decolonisation’ very seriously. It is extremely careful never to breathe a word of criticism about the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong – that well-known victim of British colonial oppression – lest it jeopardise the £219million a year it receives from the People’s Republic of China.
‘Imagine the BBC, but without the talent’ is how one disillusioned ex-staffer described the organisation.
What’s so depressing about the British Council’s fall from grace is that it was once a huge force for good in the world.
Other countries have similar bodies – France’s Alliance Francaise and Spain’s Instituto Cervantes – but few have the cultural reach and illustrious history of the British Council.
In its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, it was a beacon of light in a world dominated by murderous, totalitarian ideologies, whether Nazism in Germany or Communism in the Soviet Union. It sent poets such as T. S. Eliot on speaking tours and sponsored recordings of works by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Using its unrivalled resources and vast network of offices across the globe, it was able to bang the drum for values such as parliamentary democracy, limited government, free speech, religious tolerance and the rule of law at a time when they were in short supply. Even in the 1990s, it was promoting British fashion designers under the banner of Cool Britannia. I remember a party organised by the British Council in New York in 1997, which was the hottest ticket in town. But what has it done to promote the UK in 2022?
What the organisation disparagingly refers to as the ‘Queen’s English’ is the lingua franca of the world. The Platinum Jubilee was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remind our friends and neighbours of everything that is great about Britain. Instead, in the run-up to this historic event, it published Promoting Inclusion: A Guide On Sexual Orientation that informed its employees that using the word ‘straight’ to refer to heterosexual people is ‘offensive’ because it implies that ‘LGBTQIA+’ people are ‘bent’.
Among the thought crimes this guide instructed its employees to avoid were ‘homophobia’, ‘transphobia’ and ‘biphobia’. If you do a search for ‘ism’ in this document, ‘heterosexism’ comes up seven times, and ‘tourism’ only twice. That pretty much says it all.
But surely an organisation that exists to celebrate the best Britain has to offer, and with such a lavish budget, still occasionally hires our world-class novelists, poets and screenwriters to wrap themselves in the Union Flag and sing the praises of the home country? That’s the impression you get from the Council’s ‘Writers Directory’ – 38 pages listing our most celebrated wordsmiths of the past half century.
I reached out to all the people in the directory I vaguely know to ask what they’d done for the Council in the past few years. Without exception they said they hadn’t a clue why they’d been included.
‘I have no idea what you’re referring to,’ said broadcaster Jeremy Paxman. ‘I’m on their website? It’s news to me.’
‘I don’t know how I ended up on that website,’ said another. ‘I’ve yearned for gigs like that but have never been asked.’ ‘I cannot imagine why the British Council lists me thus,’ said a third. ‘I cannot remember ever doing anything for them.’
So much for enlisting ‘soft’ power to enhance our standing in the world. Last year, the Government announced it was cutting the British Council’s budget by £185million, a move that prompted howls of protest from all the usual suspects. A hundred MPs wrote a despairing letter to Boris Johnson telling him he was endangering ‘global Britain’.
Perhaps it’s time to put this propaganda arm of the diversity, equity and inclusion industry out of its misery. Either that, or stick the Minister for Brexit Opportunities, Jacob Rees-Mogg, in charge and tell it to start doing what it says on the tin.
British Council sparks outrage by listing UK as country marred by ‘extreme and violent’ racial tension, civil disturbance and genocide despite being funded by the taxpayer to promote Britain overseas
By Chris Hastings, Arts Correspondent for the Mail on Sunday
The British Council has provoked outrage by including the UK on a list of countries blighted by ‘extreme and violent’ racial tension, civil disturbance and genocide.
The taxpayer-funded quango, which was created to promote Britain overseas, has ranked the UK alongside countries with appalling human-rights records such as Afghanistan, Libya and Russia.
The list appears in an internal guide that also claims that racism ‘permeates’ British institutions such as the police and Civil Service. Critics last night said that the British Council had been ‘hijacked by woke Leftists’.
Using Freedom of Information laws, The Mail on Sunday obtained the organisation’s 44-page race equality guide, which is produced for staff internally.
It states: ‘Ethnic conflicts, civil disturbances and genocides have been witnessed in all continents. By some estimates, one or more of these are currently prevalent in around a quarter of countries worldwide.
‘They include but are not restricted to Afghanistan, Australia, Bosnia, Colombia, Darfur, France, Germany, Libya, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Spain and the UK. They have claimed billions of victims.’
Missing from the list is China, accused of genocide and crimes against the Uighur minority, as well as authoritarian Iran.
The British Council’s guide, which is available to staff via its intranet and website, also highlights what it claims is ‘unlawful unjustified discrimination’ in Britain. It adds: ‘With these come negative economic, social, cultural, and personal consequences, including racial traumas as a result of exposure to racism, racial discrimination and harassment, racial hostility intolerance, and xenophobia.’ It also claims that ‘racism permeates institutions, laws, policies, procedures and practices’ and that ‘deeply entrenched stereotypes’ have led to ‘harsher judgments and treatment.’
Distinguished historian Andrew Roberts said: ‘To liken the British experience to genuinely genocidal countries is probably politically motivated and certainly factually inaccurate.’
Author and commentator Douglas Murray said the list provided proof that the organisation had been hijacked by ‘woke Leftists’, adding: ‘The British Council has been led for a long time now by incredibly Left-wing people who don’t like Britain very much.’
The organisation, set up in 1934, last year received £189 million of taxpayers’ funding. The Mail on Sunday revealed in December how it had issued ‘a non-discriminatory’ guide to staff, advising against terms such as the ‘Queen’s English’.
Last night, a British Council spokesman said: ‘The document is a resource for staff that sets out our approach to race equality… explaining that no country in the world is immune to instances of racism, including the UK.’