Condemnation of Kate Forbes demonstrates the Left’s profound illiberalism

Marc Glendening

March 2, 2023

The vilification of SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes for expressing her traditional Christian beliefs is highly revealing. Not because it demonstrates that her views against gay marriage and abortion are not shared by a clear majority – though her anti-trans self-ID position is – but rather because it offers an insight into the profoundly anti-liberal mentality of the contemporary left.


Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader, expressed a traditional, well-balanced perspective in relation to the campaign of Ms Forbes’s vilification. He argued on Newsnight (Feb 22) that though he did not share her views on the first two issues referred to above, these should be considered of no relevance in the forthcoming contest. They were personal beliefs that Forbes said she would not now try to impose through law. Of course the content of her positions can and should be debated but they are not in and of themselves a reason to drive her out of public life. 


The capacity to make a distinction between, on the one hand, a politically active view, and, on the other, a purely personal moral preference is one that the Culture Control Left (CCL) refuse to make, tolerate. Except, maybe, regarding the expression of orthodox religious views that emanate from Islam rather than Christianity. As many commentators have already observed, if Humza Yousaf, one of Forbes’s rivals for the SNP top job, as a practicing Muslim were to articulate the exact same religiously-driven views as herself, this would probably not be the basis upon which those on the left would argue he should be ruled out of the race on principle.


The identity politics prism is now so fanatically adhered to by the latter day left that it can, in particular instances, override another hugely important and totalitarian idea that helps to define them. This being the postmodernist assertion that language is, potentially, a form of actual, coercive power. It is the basis, according to those following in the footsteps of Michel Foucault and the other Gitane-puffing thinkers of the late ‘60s rive gauche, that those in authority maintain their power, or ‘privilege’ to employ the current lingo. It is the articulation of ideas, not physical control of the means of production, or empirically verifiable differences in economic outcome, that determine the supposed Will to Power that is taking place.


This is therefore a transposing of the marxist, anarchist and fascist assertions that all of life is essentially political; it is a quest for domination that takes place even outside of the formal parameters within which public policy is determined. Such a mindset is totally at variance with the classical liberal idea that our natural state as human beings is to be at peace with one another, to co-operate through the ‘spontaneous order’ of the free market economy and culturally/politically through the exchange and contestation of ideas. Where the CCL types differ from the totalitarians of an earlier vintage is that they see group-based conflict as taking a myriad number of forms, not something that can be reduced to just one ‘power relation’. Hence the anti-individualist concept of ‘intersectionality’. 1984 here we come!


For the CCL every utterance, even if, as with Kate Forbes’s stated Christian opinions, has significance for the struggle between the new left’s interpretation of ‘the good’ and their definition of ‘the bad’. Hence the old feminist slogan, ‘the personal is the political’. Thus, for them, censorship can be a technique of ‘liberation’. Take this chilling statement by Labour MP, Nadia Whittome in relation to the transgender issue: “We must not fetishise ’debate’ as though debate is itself an innocuous, neutral act. The very act of debate … is an effective rollback of assumed equality and a foot in the door for doubt and hatred.” Let us not forget in this context that Kier Starmer has intimated that he will make ‘misgendering’ a criminal offence. You could go to jail potentially just for accurately identifying the objective sex of another person.


The CCL do not possess a self-denying ordnance and this is why the logic of their position is one that is ultimately antipathetical to the very principle of liberal democracy: a celebration of open debate, let a thousand flowers bloom. They are pursuing their authoritarian campaign both through overtly political means, the seeking of ever more legal regulation over what we can express under the guise of eliminating ‘hate speech’, and also informally by the cancel culture strategy. This is what Kate Forbes is now experiencing. If the mainstream left continue on their journey, one day it may become illegal for her to state her theological ideas.   


Written by Marc Glendening

Marc Glendening is Head of Cultural Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs

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