LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Minister without Portfolio, Esther McVey, arrives at Downing Street ahead of the Cabinet Meeting on November 14, 2023 in London, England

The U.K. Now Has a Minister for Common Sense and Anti-Wokeness and No, I’m Not Joking

The U.K. now has a government minister for common sense, a.k.a. “the tsar of anti-wokeness.” I wish I was kidding.

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This terrifyingly nonsensical appointment comes in the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle brought about by our Disney villain of a former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who, intentionally or not, incited a lot of far-right violence on Armistice Day. It’s like playing dystopia mad-libs trying to write the news over here.

The MP chosen to take up this post is Esther McVey, a minister who has previously been criticized for breaking lobbying rules by taking up a co-hosting job on GB News’ deeply right-wing morning show without clearing it with the corruption watchdog first. But she’s a “plain speaking Northerner,” and that’s apparently what matters most when appointing someone to deal with the scourge of wokeness that’s supposedly afflicting the country. I’m sure the police, armed with the increasingly stringent anti-protest laws this government keeps passing, will be happy to help.

Even Jacob Rees Mogg, a man frequently said to embody the spirit of a haunted Victorian orphanage and so right-wing he opposes The Human Rights Act, thinks this is a completely ridiculous appointment. That should tell you something, given he’s spoken at an annual dinner for The Traditional Britain Group before, an organization that’s dedicated to getting all non-white Britons deported.

This government’s entire schtick is “traditional values” and “anti-wokeness,” as if they can distract the public from the growing poverty rate, soaring food and energy prices, and the fact that they’re actively destroying the National Health Service for profit by pointing the other way and saying “a minority did it.” It’s not working, but their sinking popularity and the heaping mounds of evidence telling them exactly why the general public hates them—hint, it’s all the poverty and profiteering by government ministers and their mates—isn’t stopping them from relentlessly doubling down and launching more and more draconian assaults on the right to protest, the human rights of refugees, and social security measures designed to help the most vulnerable in society survive. Topped off, of course, by the launch of bizarre and embarrassing publicity stunts like creating a “tsar of anti-wokeness” in an attempt to court the voting base of even worse right-wing parties and to suck up to the worst sections of their own.

In fairness to this government, the Minister for Common Sense isn’t McVey’s official title. That’s because she doesn’t have one. While she is now a Cabinet Minister, the exact responsibilities of her post haven’t been defined yet. I think that might actually be worse. No, it’s definitely worse because it means the government has invented a Cabinet Position with no official role or purpose and given it to an MP who opposed sensible Covid measures and described lockdowns as “Communist-style control over the public.” There’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t look shady as hell.

Let’s be clear, too, that while McVey may not have an official title with the words common sense or anti-wokeness in it (because, again, she has no official title yet), the government has been upfront about the fact that that is her actual purpose as a Cabinet Minister, whatever they end up calling the position in the end. While we don’t know what she intends to do with her newfound power yet, apart from providing a hard right voice in Cabinet meetings, it’s been speculated she’ll focus on reducing diversity officers and training in the Civil Service, for starters.

As reported by The Independent, McVey has previously gone on record with the opinion that the government has been spending £7 billion a year on “anti-British campaigns” and “woke causes” (though it’s not clear what those “anti-British campaigns” are, or indeed, where the boundaries of what is and isn’t a woke cause actually lie). Presumably, we can expect more assaults on vital services and policies intended to ensure vulnerable minorities don’t fall through the gaps from her tenure in the role.

In a classic right-wing divide and conquer move, the Conservative party tweeted that in her new role, Esther McVey will “stand up for working people”—we all see the dog whistle in setting wokeness in opposition to “working people,” don’t we? Unfortunately for them, it’s a tactic that doesn’t work as well as it used to, so we’ll see how it plays out for the Tories come election day (which can’t come soon enough). We’ll just have to hope that she can’t do too much damage before then.

(featured image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

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Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.