Mary Kelly: Never mind 'cancel culture', Gavin, why not condemn the multi-million pound Tory 'chumocracy' instead?

It's been called a 'chumocracy', though I prefer 'corruption' to describe the number of multi-million pound contracts on Covid- related issues that have been awarded, without public tender, to Tory friends, relations and donors

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has condemned the 'cancel culture' of some student unions
Mary Kelly

YOU would think that with a crisis looming in education over pupils losing almost a year of schooling and confusion about how exams will be carried out and when it will be safe to allow children back into the classroom, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would have enough on his plate.

But no. While students are paying £9k a year for tuition fees while learning from their bedrooms, they'll be cheered that he has time to launch a crusade for freedom of speech in English universities to combat the so-called 'cancel culture'.

There have been well publicised examples of a very few politically correct student unions trying to ban speakers, including Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell, because they don't approve of their views.

Totally wrong, of course. Even obnoxious views, like those of Holocaust denier David Irving, should be challenged, not censored. Remember the fuss about inviting Nick Griffin, then leader of the British National Party, on Question Time? Wasn't it better that he was allowed to condemn himself through his pathetic utterances rather than be seen as a champion of free speech.

But really Mr Williamson, leave the universities and students to their own devices. Get on with your day job. You talk about "unacceptable silencing". Here's something even more unacceptable – and the silence is deafening. It's been called a 'chumocracy', though I prefer another word to describe the number of multi-million pound contracts on Covid-related issues that have been awarded, without public tender, to Tory friends, relations and donors.

To date, government contracts worth £881 million have been awarded to individuals who have donated a total of £8.2 million to the Conservative Party. The latest to come under the spotlight is a contract for a piffling £500k, for research into the government's messaging around the pandemic, which went to Public First, run by two former colleagues of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove. That's a lot of money for the simple answer: the messaging was s***.


THERE'S a more worrying trend in modern life that bothers me a lot more than students' unions getting prissy over controversial speakers, and that is the assault on language and biology which seeks to erase women so as not to be accused of transphobia.

Witness the decision by an NHS Trust in Sussex suggesting midwives refer to breastfeeding as "chest feeding" and breast milk to be known as "human milk" or "milk from the feeding mother or parent".

The new guidelines suggest the word 'mother' be avoided in favour of 'birthing parent'. These changes will be implemented in leaflets, webpages, letters and emails, though the 'traditional' words can still be used.

No wonder JK Rowling railed at the use of the phrase "people who menstruate", as if the word 'women' was an offensive slur to an element of the trans community.

And I would suggest transgendered people have more to worry about than this linguistic posturing. Being treated equally, without discrimination and abuse is the goal we can all support. Live and let live, but leave mothers alone.


IT'S good news that the Covid vaccinations are going on at a cracking pace. But I'm wondering if the trend for topless politicians getting their jabs done is a ploy by some European leaders to deflect from their slower pace in getting their populations vaccinated. Hence the sight of hairy-chested Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis whipping off his shirt to get his injection.

He was swiftly followed by French health minister Olivier Veran disrobing, though discreetly covering his left nipple. Tory MP Johnny Mercer couldn't let Johnny Foreigner get one up on him, so posed with his shirt off after claiming he couldn't roll his sleeve up over his muscles. Gawd help us. The photos didn't exactly back up that claim.

Put it away lads, in case Boris and Michael Gove join in. The country has suffered enough.


SO, MEGHAN Markle, who has successfully sued for the invasion of her privacy, is going on Oprah for a 90 minute interview.

There have been worse lawsuits, according to Times columnist Carol Midgley. A London man sued his wife for opening his bank statements to check if he was having an affair. And there was the man in Algeria who sued his wife for psychological trauma after seeing her without make-up.

Worse again was the Chinese man who successfully sued his wife for producing an ugly child. Let's hope he won enough to pay for the child's therapy sessions.


IT MAY be Spring, or just optimism that the end of the Covid nightmare is in sight. But I noticed the crocuses springing up on my daily Ormeau Park walk. And I've stopped debating which bench to have a name-plaque on after I die.

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