‘Cancellers are cowards – their beliefs are built on sand’

Nick Buckley was sacked for criticising Black Lives Matter. He tells spiked how he got his job back.

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The resurgence of Black Lives Matter over the summer has been accompanied by an intensification in cancel culture. Accusations of racism are being used to justify the silencing of BLM’s critics. It is often cancelled celebrities whose stories get coverage in the media, but cancel culture is particularly dangerous for ordinary people.

One of its victims was Nick Buckley, who has worked as a social campaigner in Manchester for nearly 20 years. Earlier this year, Nick was sacked from the charity he founded. A petition called for his removal in response to a blog post he had written criticising BLM. But he fought back, and has now been reinstated. spiked caught up with him to discuss his story and what it tells us about cancel culture and identity politics today.

spiked: Tell us about your work and the events that led to your sacking.

Nick Buckley: I have been working across Greater Manchester for nearly two decades, mainly trying to stop young people getting involved in crime and anti-social behaviour. In 2011, I set up a charity. We have gone from just me in my one-bedroom flat to employing over 20 people, running community centres and projects on the streets.

This summer was the first time I had heard of Black Lives Matter. I looked into it and found its website. I was completely shocked by what I found there. I felt BLM’s objectives would damage the very people it said it was trying to help. I’m a big believer in personal responsibility – we don’t need to be treating people like victims and telling them society is set up to make them fail. That is simply the wrong message to send.

I felt obliged to let people know what BLM is really about. I wrote a 600-word blog about it and posted it on LinkedIn. Some people disagreed with me but did so politely. A week later, somebody put a link to the blog on Twitter. That’s when things hit the fan. Almost straight away, somebody set up a petition to have me sacked from the charity. There were some direct complaints to the charity’s board inferring that I was a racist and a Nazi, and then the board panicked and terminated my position – via email.

spiked: What provoked you to speak out about Black Lives Matter?

Buckley: The first thing was the call to defund the police. I have never heard such a crazy idea. When I worked for the council, I spoke to countless people about their priorities. At the top of everyone’s list was wanting more police in their areas. The people who want the most police are always the people who live in the poorest areas, because they are the ones who are more likely to be victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. The very people BLM says it wants to help are those who would suffer most from this proposal.

I also noticed BLM wants to disrupt the Western nuclear family. But if there’s something we need to improve in our country, in the areas where I work, it’s families. We need fathers to stay in households. Having fathers involved in families is what’s going to improve the lives of young people.

If this is really all about black lives, why are we talking so much about an American cop thousands of miles away operating under a different system? He did something horrendous – nobody’s defending what happened. But we don’t need to import problems from other countries. We need to deal with our own.

spiked: What did it take for you to be reinstated to your role at the charity?

Buckley: For the first week, I was a beaten man. I talked to a friend who asked why I wasn’t answering anybody who was attacking me on social media. The next day, I decided to fight back. I have spoken to thousands of people, and I always tell them that life’s not fair, but you don’t need to make yourself a victim. It was time to take my own advice.

A journalist from the Mail on Sunday knocked on my door. It was perfect timing. I did a great interview and everything changed on the day it hit the shelves. I received hundreds of personal messages on social media from people telling me not to let the critics get to me. That really helped me psychologically.

A former trustee of the charity set up a petition to have me reinstated, which got 18,000 signatures. Around then, I joined the Free Speech Union. It was fantastic. It got me a pro-bono solicitor, who said it was an open-and-shut case. The charity thought it could just sack me, but there are laws about these things. Trade unions pushed for those laws to protect workers from unfair dismissal. It’s a shame that some unions are not sticking by that principle and fighting for people in the face of this new persecution.

The solicitor wrote to the board. He explained all their mistakes and said I was going to sue them unless they resigned. They did. A new board was appointed, and reinstated me.

spiked: How much of a threat is cancel culture to ordinary people?

Buckley: If you are just an average Joe, you have no resources. You have no voice. At least if you are a rich, famous person, you can get your version of events out there because you have a social-media following, or the press will pick up your story. But when you are an average Joe, and the mob comes for you, you are on your own. You don’t have the financial resources or the know-how to run a campaign. At least I had some experience with the press. But a lot of the success in my story was pure luck. If it had not have been for the Mail on Sunday, I don’t think this would have been a successful story.

When we talk about cancel culture, we are not talking about blocking somebody on Twitter. That’s me asserting the freedom not to listen to them. Cancel culture is when you actively try to destroy someone’s life because you don’t like what they say. It’s trying to get someone sacked, or making employers avoid them, or going after their family, trying to destroy the individual by proxy.

spiked: What does your cancelling say about Black Lives Matter and identity politics more broadly?

Buckley: This isn’t a new issue. We have had religious zealots and dictators throughout history who have ‘cancelled’ people. When they did it, they killed people. If the people who used to do it were dictators and fascists, it’s a sensible argument to say the people who do it today are just new versions of them.

When I speak or write an article or a blog, I think I’m right, but I am always open for someone to educate me or to say I have misunderstood a point. But when you speak to these individuals, they don’t think they are right – they know they are right. They are so adamant about it that they believe Gandhi and Mandela and Martin Luther King would be marching with them if they were alive today. They equate being wrong with being evil. If you think someone is evil, why would you debate them?

spiked: What would your advice be for people who find themselves in a similar position to the one you were in?

Buckley: Unless you think you crossed the line, don’t apologise. An apology will not make it go away. It will just make people come after you harder.

Fight back. If everything is taken from you, you are a dangerous individual. You have nothing to lose, so don’t take it lying down. Find people like me and reach out to us. Get your voice heard, and try to speak to the press. It’s hard, but what I proved is if you can manage a reasonable attack and defence, people like those who went after me will crumble. They are easy to beat if you mount a campaign because they are all cowards, and what they believe is built on sand.

Nick Buckley was speaking to Paddy Hannam.

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