Woke capitalism and its useful idiots

Yes, Coutts and other capitalist monoliths really are punishing people for being ‘unwoke’.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK

So there you have it. Nigel Farage really was given the boot from the prestigious private bank Coutts because of his political views. Because he is very pro-Brexit, is fond of Donald Trump and has been critical of Black Lives Matter. Because, in the words of an extraordinary internal dossier compiled by Coutts, his views ‘do not align’ with the bank’s values. For the past fortnight the chattering classes have been chortling over Farage’s claim that Coutts was persecuting him for his political beliefs. How dumb – worse, how complacent in the face of corporate tyranny – those people look now.

Last month, Farage went public about the closure of his Coutts account. I’ve been given the heave-ho for political reasons, he said. He also said that nine other banks have since rejected his custom. Now he has published a dossier that was distributed at a meeting of Coutts’ ‘reputational risk committee’ on 17 November 2022. It is a truly chilling read. It runs to 36 pages. There is a strong case for ‘exiting’ Farage from the bank, it says, because his publicly stated views are ‘at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation’. The Stasi once compiled dossiers on dissident activists and artists whose views ran counter to those of the GDR regime. Now Coutts seems to be doing similar on customers who dare to bristle against the regime of woke.

The dossier basically finds Farage guilty of wrongthink. It highlights his renegade views not only on Brexit and Trump but also on Net Zero and even on King Charles – he has had the audacity to criticise His Majesty. Like dissidents in East Germany, his friendships are held against him, too. His links with Trump and tennis champ Novak Djokovic make him suspect, apparently. The dossier quotes the Independent’s description of Farage’s visit to Djokovic’s trophy room in Belgrade, during which he criticised Australia’s expulsion of Djokovic for failing to get vaccinated against Covid, as ‘the spineless, chaotic behaviour of a chancer’.

Much of it reads like it was written by a purple-haired 25-year-old graduate of Queer Studies rather than the employees of a 330-year-old bank for the posh. Maybe there isn’t much difference between those two groups these days. It damns him for mocking Black Lives Matter, reminding the committee that he compared BLM to the Taliban following the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol in 2020. It wrings its hands over tweets in which he advocated for ‘leaving the ECHR [the European Convention on Human Rights]’. It describes him as ‘climate denying / anti-Net Zero’. It even calls him a ‘grifter’. These are the juvenile slurs of the Twitter playground – what are they doing in a dossier drawn up for the risk committee of a bank?

One of the most telling features of the dossier is its tut-tutting over Farage’s links with Trump. He even defended Trump’s ‘grab them by the pussy’ comment, it squeals, by pointing out that Trump is ‘not running to be pope’ (that was a good line, Nigel). But we have to be careful, says the dossier, because lots of people support Trump, even sections of ‘the general public’. Yes, including the 74million American citizens who voted for him in 2020. And it might look like we are ‘taking political sides’ if we hang Farage out to dry over his Trump links, it says. Then comes the most disingenuous comment in the entire dossier, a line that gives new meaning to the term doublespeak. Getting rid of Farage is ‘not a political decision’, it says, ‘but one centred around inclusivity and purpose’.

Let’s leave to one side the Orwellian contortionism it requires to justify the exclusion of a customer by using the language of ‘inclusivity’. The even more striking thing is the industrial levels of gall it takes to myopically pick over a customer’s political views and then say his banishment from the bank is not a ‘political decision’. Yes it was. The dossier makes clear that Farage is a good customer. He is ‘professional, polite and respectful’ and his financial standing meets the ‘criteria for commercial retention’ – that is, he’s not short of a few bob. But still he might have to go because… well, because of the Net Zero stuff, the BLM criticism, the Trump love-ins, the media’s feeling that he is ‘xenophobic’. Not a political decision? Stop gaslighting us.

This dossier is not only an indictment of Coutts and its utterly inappropriate policing of its customers’ freedom of thought. It is an indictment of our lazy, complacent media, too. They responded to Farage’s claim that he was being picked on for political reasons essentially with laughter. What a preposterous notion, they chuckled. The BBC slavishly reported Coutts’ claim that Farage was ousted because he didn’t have sufficient funds in his account – a claim completely contradicted by the dossier’s acknowledgement that ‘the client’s economic contribution is now sufficient’. The Twitterati branded Farage a fantasist, a conspiracy theorist, a self-pitying embarrassment. You can’t take anything he says ‘at face value’, said posh shock-jock James O’Brien.

Some journalists flat-out refused to do journalism in response to Farage’s claims about Coutts. Jon Sopel, former BBC staffer and now host of grating Remoaner podcast The News Agents, laughed at Farage’s claim that he was the victim of ‘an establishment stitch-up’ when in truth his account was closed because he is ‘not rich enough for Coutts’. Even radical leftists who’ve spent the past 15 years bashing the banks as the source of our every economic woe lapped up the Coutts spin that said the closure of Farage’s account was an entirely financial decision. Overnight these people went from agitating against the big banks to doing their dirty propaganda work for them on social media. Corbynistas became Coutts’ unpaid PR stooges.

These people are woke capitalism’s useful idiots. Time and again they’ve given their nod to the tyrannical antics of the corporate world. When the billionaire rulers of social media started banning people for such speechcrimes as correctly referring to biological males as ‘he’, they said: ‘Well, they’re private platforms, they can do what they want.’ When the boss class started sacking gender-critical feminists, they were fine with it. When fundraising platforms refused to release money to the Canadian truckers’ movement, they batted not an eyelid. When PayPal, Visa and others threatened to restrict the spending rights of ‘controversial’ groups and individuals, they weren’t bothered. The left’s breezy acceptance of the rise and rise of this new regime of capitalist reprimand for wrongthink is almost as disturbing as the new regime itself. It has certainly helped to make life easier for arrogant corporations who want to control our minds as well as our money.

The Farage / Coutts story is important because it highlights what a huge threat woke capitalism poses to freedom and fairness. Let’s be clear about what has happened here: a man has been economically unpersoned for having the supposedly wrong views. He’s been blacklisted for being a little too dissenting on the big issues of the day. And it’s happening to others, too – including people who do not have access to the same media platforms as Farage and thus have little leeway to protest against their expulsion from economic life by unelected, unaccountable banks and businesses. We acquiesce to this capitalist policing of thought at our peril. It is surely time for the government to act and clip the wings of banks and companies that believe they have the right to penalise citizens for the contents of their conscience. It might be Farage today, it could be you tomorrow.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK


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