Ann Widdecombe calls on government to stand up to 'wokerati'
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Ministers will attempt to crack down on efforts to rewrite Britain’s history, by preventing cancel culture at universities and ordering heritage groups to stop trying to “airbrush” history. Education Minister Gavin Williamson is set to unveil the plans this week, which will see the Government appoint a “free speech champion” who will have powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses.
Universities and colleges that fail to comply will be fined for suffocating free speech.
The plans, unveiled by The Sunday Telegraph, forms part of a major Government escalation of the “war on woke”.
In recent months, the movement has seen numerous historical statues toppled, political speakers prevented from hosting talks, and seen the National Trust investigate its historic links to the slave trade.
But the Government hopes to put a stop to this and aims at preventing universities from trying to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views.
Mr Williamson will unveil the new measures in the Commons on Tuesday, in a bid to strengthen the existing legal protections for free speech in higher education, the newspaper reports.
It means student unions and higher-education facilities will have to promote free speech on campuses.
The “free speech champion” will be a part of the Office for Students regulator.
A departmental source told the Sunday Telegraph: “Free speech underpins our democratic society and our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open, inquiring mind.
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“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.”
But the move to appoint a so-called “woke warden” has been heavily criticised on Twitter.
One person wrote: “A ‘free speech champion’. That sounds pathetic.
“Conservatives at risk of overplaying their hand on this culture war stuff with garbage like that.”
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Another user said: “Haha. Government introducing free speech champion and sanctioning universities and colleges for not teaching what the government wants at the same time.”
A third wrote: “Free speech champion being appointed to curtail free academic speech.
“Charities and heritage organisations told to promote a government agenda of national pride rather than researched history.
“The Government’s culture wars are taking a very scary turn.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is also set to meet with the top 25 heritage bodies in the country next week to address their recent stances.
Those at the meeting include 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.
He is expected to tell them “to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down”.
It comes after the National Trust was found to be using £150,000 of public and lottery money to pay for a “Colonial Countryside” review of the links between the body and historic slavery.
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