25 times cancel culture was real
Here are just some of the people who have been fired or have lost work for expressing their views.
Cancel culture is spiralling out of control. People who step outside of the woke orthodoxy – or even simply misspeak – are subjected to campaigns of shaming, their reputations are smeared and they can even lose their jobs. And yet, some are still arguing that cancel culture is a myth. They point to the many public figures who have yet to be cancelled. Or they argue that people who complain about cancel culture want the freedom to speak without being criticised. This is simply not the case. Cancel culture is undoubtedly real. Here are 25 people who have been fired or have lost work as a result of cancel culture in the UK.
Alastair Stewart, veteran broadcaster
Stewart was forced off ITV News, ending a 40-year career, after bosses identified ‘multiple errors of judgement’ on social media. The only incident which was reported in the press, however, was when he tweeted a Shakespeare passage that contains the phrase ‘an angry ape’ at a black Twitter user – a passage he had quoted on Twitter before at others.
Brian Leach, Asda tillworker
Leach, a disabled grandfather, was sacked last year for sharing a Billy Connolly video on his private Facebook page. In the skit, Connolly takes aim at religion. An offended colleague grassed him up to management and he was summarily dismissed as the video had the ‘potential to bring the company into disrepute’. Leach was later reinstated after a backlash.
Christian Webb, schoolteacher
Webb was sacked after his superiors became aware of his past involvement in comedy rap videos. He played a character called MC Devvo, a ‘dole-queue hero’. His videos featured foul language and references to sex and drugs. He had retired the character in 2016, three years before he was ousted.
Danny Baker, veteran radio host
Baker was dropped by BBC Radio for tweeting an old picture of two posh people holding the hands of a chimpanzee wearing clothes with the caption ‘Royal baby leaves hospital’. It was a reference to the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby, Archie. Baker said he was mocking the monarchy and did not intend the tweet to be racist.
David Starkey, Tudor historian
Starkey infamously said recently that black slavery was not a form of ‘genocide’, because otherwise there would not be ‘so many damn blacks’ in Africa and elsewhere. His racist comments cost him his academic positions at Lancaster University, the Royal Historical Society, Canterbury Christ Church University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. His publisher, HarperCollins, has vowed never to publish his work again and is even considering withdrawing his backlist from publication.
Emma Nicholson, Booker Prize vice-president
Baroness Nicholson, a Conservative peer, was removed from her post as the honorary vice-president of the Booker Prize Foundation following an online row with transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf. She referred to Bergdorf as a ‘weird creature’ and was accused of misgendering her. The foundation distanced itself from Nicholson’s views, saying it ‘deplore[s] racism, homophobia and transphobia’. The Booker Prize has since axed all of its honorary roles.
Felix Ngole, social-work student
Ngole was taken off his social-work course at Sheffield University in 2015. Ngole is a Christian. When he said that ‘the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin’, a fellow student reported him to the university, which removed him from the course. In doing so, it hampered his ability to qualify for work. Four years later, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, but it did not oblige the university to take Ngole back on to the course.
Gareth Roberts, Doctor Who writer
Roberts is an award-winning writer known for his work on Doctor Who. Having written six episodes of the TV show, he was commissioned to write a short story for a Doctor Who anthology. But after more militant Who fans and one of the other contributing authors to the anthology objected to some of his tweets his story was dropped by the publisher. Roberts has once used the word ‘trannies’ and has argued that the trans movement reinforces gender stereotypes.
Gillian Philip, bestselling children’s author
Philip was sacked this month by her publisher after changing her Twitter handle to include the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling. Cancel-happy culture warriors have smeared JK Rowling as a transphobe for her support for women’s rights and her criticism of gender-identity dogma. Philip was first bombarded with sexualised misogynistic abuse by trans-rights supporters, and then fired.
Jake Hepple, welder
Hepple was fired for flying a banner saying ‘White Lives Matter’ during a football game. Hepple owned up to the stunt on Facebook, saying: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely fucking nobody!’ Hepple had previously posted in support of the English Defence League and has been filmed with Tommy Robinson. His girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, also lost her job in a beauty salon over racist social-media posts.
Martin Shipton, journalist
Shipton was asked to step down as a judge from the Wales Book of the Year competition after a series of tweets questioning why Black Lives Matter protests were being allowed during the lockdown, and what protesting in Cardiff could actually do about police violence in the US. Literature Wales said Shipton’s ‘aggressive language’ was ‘detrimental’ to its values.
Maya Forstater, tax expert
Forstater’s contract was not renewed after she said people cannot change their biological sex. In a series of tweets, she rejected the assertion that ‘being a woman / female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings’ rather than one of biology. Her case was taken to an employment tribunal, which she lost. Judge James Tayler said that her widely held, scientifically accurate views were ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’.
Nick Buckley, charity director
Buckley was dismissed as director of Mancunian Way, a charity he founded. Buckley’s charity has helped thousands of BAME youngsters find employment, but when he wrote a blog post criticising some of the more radical aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, a petition was started to have him removed. Days later, the charity’s trustees informed him their relationship had been ‘terminated’.
Nigel Farage, radio host
Farage lost his LBC radio show after referring to Black Lives Matter as ‘a new form of the Taliban’, criticising the toppling of statues. Staff members at Global (which owns LBC and other stations like Capital) demanded his removal. His contract was nearing its end and he stepped down ‘with immediate effect’.
Noah Carl, academic
Carl was dismissed as a research fellow at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge following a sustained campaign to have him sacked. Carl had written a number of articles expressing right-wing views on race and immigration. He also attended the London Conference on Intelligence, where it is claimed eugenicist ideas were discussed (though not by Carl).
Paul Embery, trade unionist
Embery was removed from the Fire Brigades Union’s national executive and banned from holding office for two years after he spoke at a pro-Brexit rally which featured Nigel Farage. Twenty years’ service as a union official was not enough to protect him from Remoaner intolerance.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow minister
Long-Bailey was sacked by party leader Keir Starmer after she shared an interview with actor Maxine Peake on social media and referred to Peake as an ‘absolute diamond’. In the interview, Peake suggested the American police were taught the kneeling technique – used during the death of George Floyd – by Israeli forces. This single line in a wide-ranging interview was enough to cost Long-Bailey her job.
Richard Page, magistrate and NHS trust director
Page was a non-executive director of the Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust, and a magistrate. He lost both positions after saying in private to colleagues at an adoption hearing that he doubted adoption by same-sex couples could be in children’s best interests, based on his Christian beliefs. His removal as a magistrate is understandable as his views could conceivably colour his judgment on certain cases. But as someone who did not come into contact with patients in his NHS trust, his sacking from that job was totally groundless.
Roger Scruton, philosopher
Scruton was removed from his unpaid role at the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which sought to improve home design. He was sacked after a New Statesman journalist carried out a hit-job interview, which framed Scruton as a racist. When the full transcript revealed how Scruton’s quotes had been distorted, he was restored to his position.
Sarah Champion, shadow minister
The MP for Rotherham was forced out of the shadow cabinet after writing an article for the Sun about Pakistani grooming gangs in her constituency. The then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Champion of vilifying ‘an entire community’, which her piece had not done. A year later, she was advised by Scotland Yard to accept added police protection when attending the Labour Party conference in light of death threats made against her for speaking out.
Stella Perrett, cartoonist
A cartoon Perret produced for the Morning Star was branded ‘transphobic’ and was later unpublished. It also ended her relationship with the paper. It featured a crocodile entering a pool of newts with the caption ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads. I’m transitioning as a newt!’ Perret also lost her position at the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Stuart Peters, Manx radio presenter
Peters was suspended for questioning the idea of ‘white privilege’ during an on-air debate about Black Lives Matter. The Isle of Man Communications Commission, which serves the same role as Ofcom, said Peters had not breached its programme code, and he was subsequently reinstated.
Tim Hunt, Nobel-prize winning biochemist
Hunt told a joke that would end his career: ‘Let me tell you about my trouble with girls… three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.’ He was forced to resign from UCL – who Hunt insists never even asked for his side of the affair – and the European Research Council.
Toby Young, journalist and educator
Young’s appointment to the Office for Students (OfS) – a government universities regulator – provoked one of the most intense and long-running Twitterstorms in the site’s history. Young’s old, offensive tweets and provocative columns not only cost him his job at the OfS, but he also had to resign from his other education roles as head of the New Schools Network and as a Fullbright Commissioner. Young still has his Spectator column and now leads the Free Speech Union.
Vanity Von Glow, drag queen
Von Glow’s gigs were cancelled at a number of London venues after she performed at the ‘Day for Freedom’ – an event organised by Tommy Robinson. Due to Robinson’s association with the event, Von Glow was dishonestly smeared as far right for defending free speech.
Pictures by: Getty, YouTube, Masur, Chris McAndrew.
Let’s cancel cancel culture
Free speech is under attack from all sides – from illiberal laws, from a stifling climate of conformity, and from a powerful, prevailing fear of being outed as a heretic online, in the workplace, or even among friends, for uttering a dissenting thought. This is why we at spiked are stepping up our fight for speech, expanding our output and remaking the case for this most foundational liberty. But to do that we need your help. spiked – unlike so many things these days – is free. We rely on our loyal readers to fund our journalism. So if you want to support us, please do consider becoming a regular donor. Even £5 per month can be a huge help. You can find out more and sign up here. Thank you! And keep speaking freely.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.