Brexit Minister Declares Independence From Taxpayer-Funded ‘Wokery’

Jacob Rees-Mogg characterized the official diversity training that is on the books for London’s civil servants as ‘absurd.’

AP/Alberto Pezzali
A British lawmaker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, at Westminster June 6, 2022. AP/Alberto Pezzali

A charismatic politician has declared open season on what he considers to be unchecked “wokery” in Britain’s civil service. The minister for Brexit and government efficiency, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is set to ban all wellness and diversity courses run by Whitehall, the Telegraph reported. Mr. Rees-Mogg characterized the official diversity training that is on the books for London’s civil servants as “absurd” and said only “intelligent, sensible” courses will henceforth be offered. 

While left-wing American politicians and pundits are arguably the global champions of the diversity and inclusion ethos, Britain has come in a close second. Mr. Rees-Mogg, a 53-year-old father of six, is a Conservative MP who led the House of Commons between 2019 and 2022. He has been a staunch ally of Prime Minister Johnson and is well known in Britain for his traditionalist views on political and social issues. That makes his fresh expression of anti-woke sentiment something many of his constituents see as overdue. 

One course that Mr. Rees-Mogg singled out for derision is run by his own cabinet: Called “Check Yo’ Privilege,” the class “teaches mandarins to be aware of their own privileged position whenever making pronouncements about wider society.” Another includes “a diversity training workshop run by the government legal department where mandarins were told to imagine a ‘Japanese gay grandfather’ in an exercise on empathy and understanding,” the Telegraph reported. 

“There will be a new [training] curriculum coming which will stop these absurd courses being available,” the minister told the newspaper, which is closely aligned with Britain’s ruling Tory party. “Work is a serious place of business to deliver things for taxpayers who are paying politicians and civil servants for their time. We’ve got to be very careful when this time is used to do fancy courses,” he elaborated, adding that what is needed are “courses to actually help people in their daily work. And this is professionalism, it is identifiable skills. It mustn’t be wokery.”

The Telegraph reported in May that Downing Street announced a pushback on what one government source called “militant wokery.” As part of that effort, the government was set to rewrite guidance on drafting legislation to ensure that gender-neutral language would not replace terms such as “woman” and “mother.” Mr. Rees-Mogg’s new ban, which does not apply to the private sector, can be seen as a concrete continuation of the backlash against wokeism in British politics, even though it was issued without a specific timeline. 

He also decried how bureaucrats are, in his estimation, spending their working hours on frivolous, agenda-driven diversity courses at a time when snags in the timely provision of essential public services such as passport and driver license processing are reportedly multiplying. British civil servants are mandated to sign up for courses through an official government learning and development platform, the central skills curriculum of which will now be reformulated. 

Mr. Rees-Mogg’s initiative appears to have touched a nerve with a large swath of Britons, including some who do not consider themselves supporters of the minister in general. Within hours of its publication, the Telegraph’s report unleashed a torrent of more than a thousand comments. One commenter wrote, “Not a fan of Jacob Rees-Mogg but have to agree with his approach to the Civil Service — they don’t seem to understand that the rest of the country is fighting for its economic life and people are seeing a real and frightening drop in living standards.”

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