Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter. This newsletter is a brief round-up of the free speech news of the week.

The publishing purges

Kate Clanchy has been forced to rewrite her Orwell Prize-winning book, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, on the grounds that it features “racial tropes”, e.g. describing a child of colour as having “almond eyes”. After a social media storm, she apologised and said she was “grateful” to those who’d attacked her for showing her the error of her ways. The publisher has also apologised for “the hurt we have caused” and thanked the book’s critics. The Orwell Foundation has said it acknowledges the “concerns and hurt expressed” about the book, which it lauded just a year ago. Anthony Brett tells the full story of the “ugliest cancellation in recent history” in the Telegraph – and it seems to be metastasizing. Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, has been condemned by the Society of Authors, of which he is President, after he came to Clanchy’s defence and compared her critics to members of the Taliban. The Society has issued a statement telling its members “to be mindful of their privilege”. Our General Secretary, Toby Young, was interviewed about the controversy for talkRADIO.

Sarah Ditum has written an article for the Times about the battle between ideological purity and literature and concluded that purity is winning. Tom Slater says in the Spectator that what has happened to Clanchy is “faintly Stalinist, with a grovelling apology following the howling denunciation”.

Meanwhile, Mills & Boon has asked its authors to write novels with more socially progressive heroes, says FSU Advisory Council member Allison Pearson in the Telegraph, while Ben Lawrence makes a plea in the Telegraph to keep the cancel culture mob away from musicals.

£1 million of taxpayers’ money for Stonewall

At least £1 million of taxpayers’ money has been given to Stonewall for its “advice” on diversity. Three hundred and twenty-seven public bodies from Homes England to the House of Commons have handed over cash to Stonewall, largely through its Diversity Champions scheme, despite its legal guidance on trans issues being “erroneous” and “incorrect”, according to equalities barrister Akua Reindorf. James Roberts of the TaxPayers’ Alliance describes “firms [falling] over themselves to display their virtue online while hiring expensive consultants to tell their own staff they are bad people” with needless woke training programmes. Why is taxpayers’ money being used in this way, asks trans journalist Debbie Hayton in UnHerd.

The University of Essex has apologised for the apology it issued after no-platforming two feminist academics, Jo Phoenix and Rosa Freedman. Having initially admitted to making a mistake, the Vice Chancellor has now apologised for a second time, saying that because the University apologised for the original incident during Pride month many of its students had been made to feel “unsafe”. Julie Bindel lambasts the flip-flopping Vice Chancellor in a piece for UnHerd, describing Essex University as an “example of what happens when institutions capitulate to extreme transgender ideology”.

Michael Biggs has written a piece for the Critic about the case of an LSE Gender Studies student who gave a presentation, apparently well received, in which they fantasised about holding a knife to the throat of women who oppose transgender ideology.

Culture war

Patrick West has written in the Spectator about how free speech is now the exclusive preserve of the rich and powerful, but he is not making the usual argument that disadvantaged groups don’t have the same access to the public square. Rather, his point is that the old and wealthy are essentially uncancellable, but ordinary people on low or middle incomes are terrified of being targeted by woke outrage mobs.

Peter Hitchens makes the same point in his Mail on Sunday column: “Huge areas of opinion are now closed off from discussion, for fear of cancellation, advertising boycotts, and generally being cast into the outer darkness. With gathering speed and completeness, a total revolution in thought and morals is taking hold of Western societies, just at the moment when they should be girding themselves against pressure to become more like China.” Jamie Bartlett has written about the spread of Chinese censorship in the West in UnHerd and the four distinct versions of the Internet that are starting to emerge: libertarian, corporatist, bureaucratic, and the Beijing authoritarian model. Also in UnHerd, Kat Rosenfield argues that the culture war isn’t a war between the Left and the Right, but, for the most part, a civil war on the Left which both sides will eventually lose – the Left will eat itself.

The Ivy has withdrawn an advert for its new Asian restaurant in London after the video promoting the new brasserie offended social media users. The advert was criticised for featuring stereotypes of Asian peoples and cultures, e.g. men in sumo costumes, not to mention “cultural appropriation”. The word curry is also on borrowed time. According to a Californian food blogger, the term is rooted in colonialism. Our Deputy Research Director Emma Webb said: “If Californian food bloggers want to take on Essex blokes over curry, good luck to them.”

Scottish police will undergo unconscious bias training, under new plans to improve relations between football fans and the police.

Vivek Ramaswamy has spoken to Janice Turner in the Times about woke corporations and their huge power to set the terms of debate and silence dissenters.

Dennis Relojo-Howell has written for the Critic about how being a snowflake is bad for your mental health.


FSU member Rebekah Wershbale has written in the Glinner Update, Graham Linehan’s blog, about being branded a “transphobe” in official training material used by the Labour Party because she wore a t-shirt which said “woman: adult human female”.

Mridul Wadhwa was born a man and now lives as a trans woman, and has since become the CEO of Edinburgh Rape Crisis. Wadhwa has said that some survivors of sexual violence are “fearful” about a trans-inclusive rape-crisis centre and may arrive with “misinformed” or “bigoted” views if they think transwomen pose a threat to their safety. Speaking on a podcast, Wadhwa argued that women seeking help after sexual assaults should “expect to be challenged on [their] prejudices”. Brendan O’Neill in Spiked is unimpressed: “It ought to go without saying that no woman who arrives at a rape-crisis centre should have her worldview interrogated. It shouldn’t matter if a woman holds cranky religious beliefs or weird conspiratorial political views. She should still absolutely have the right to access assistance following a sexual assault, without fearing that she will be challenged or reprimanded for what she thinks.”

FSU Advisory Council member Zoe Strimpel has written in the Telegraph about the case of a Californian professor reduced to begging for forgiveness from medical students after he used the term “pregnant women” and explores how medics are no longer being taught about the ways some illnesses affect men and women differently. She cites an example from 2019 of a “transgender man” (born a woman) whose baby died after doctors treated abdominal pain as a medical issue, rather than identifying that the patient was pregnant and in labour. Strimpel writes: “Unlike America, we can still pull back from the brink, but we don’t have long.”

Critical Race Theory

Given the spread of Critical Race Theory through the British education system, it is worth reading this article in UnHerd by Joel Kotkin and Edward Heyman on the ideology’s obsession with “whiteness” and rewriting history. The situation in America is so extreme that an Atlanta school has begun segregating pupils by race and is now being sued by angry parents. The US Senate has voted to stop funding the teaching of CRT in American schools.

Street preachers, Batley, and blasphemy

We have written to the newly-elected Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater about the Batley Grammar School case, urging her to support the teacher and his family, who are still in hiding. She replied saying the teacher and family were of “great importance to me both personally and as the MP for the area”. Both letters can be read on our blog.

Ben Sixsmith asks in the Critic why the knife attack on FSU member Hatun Tash at Speakers’ Corner was barely covered in the media. Hatun has given an interview to the Spectator about her ordeal and spoken to Spiked about the “warzone” that is Speakers’ Corner.

Street preacher Hazel Lewis has won a court case after she was accused of threatening and abusive behaviour. Following an 18-month legal battle, the judge concluded there was no case to answer. Lewis is now suing the Metropolitan Police.

An eight-year-old Hindu boy in Pakistan has been charged with blasphemy and is reportedly being held in protective custody. Kunwar Khuldune Shahid has written about the case in the Spectator, pointing out that blasphemy laws are being used to target minorities of all kinds in Pakistan, under all sorts of bizarre pretexts: “Sending texts, sharing poetry, giving homework, producing films, making footballs, removing stickers and drinking water are some of the acts that have been deemed blasphemous in Pakistan. Even reading the Quran, performing Islamic rituals or calling yourself Muslim is sacrilegious if you belong to the Ahmadiyya sect, making Pakistan the only country where one can be imprisoned – or even sentenced to death – for practising Islam.”

Legal updates

Firefighter Paul Embery has achieved a sensational victory for free speech. He was sacked by the firefighters’ trade union he worked for because he spoke in favour of Brexit and won his case for unfair dismissal at the Employment Tribunal. Read his account of the saga in UnHerd.

New disciplinary rules by the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service, banning racy jokes, among other things, have been criticised by barristers as virtue signalling.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones

Case Officer