I watched Trevor Philips' programme with interest. He became President of the National Union of Students just as I was leaving student politics for the real world - back in the 1970s. He was a familiar presence at the NUS conferences I attended in the years before he was elected to that job.
Conservatism was generating all the new ideas at that heady time so Trevor and his comrades of the Broad Left (the Labour / Communist Alliance in "power" at the NUS) seemed like dinosaurs. Their policy of "No platform for fascists and racists" for example was simply not supported by sane students. I don't recall ever falling out with my Labour counterpart at university (where I was chairman of the Conservatives) on issues of free speech. As I recall it, he thought "no platform" was daft too. But the sane students went off into the real world. I became a lawyer and my Labour counterpart became a doctor. The "no platformers" like Trevor and his successor David Aaronovitch didn't. They went into politics, the media and academia and kept droning on about identity politics and multi-culturalism while the rest of us earned not just our living but - through the tax system - theirs. Their relentless efforts at promoting cultural Marxism have borne vile fruit so that now, he reported in his programme, two thirds of all British students support the NUS's current "no platform" policy, which has gone well beyond anything he and Aaronovitch ever argued for.
Trevor spent his whole career in the public sector and rose to be the head of the British "thought police" - the Equalities Commission. He was in that role when I next came across him at the Battle of Ideas conference at London's Barbican Centre about three years ago. He was speaking about how certain ethnic groups (notably black boys) underperform in Britain's schools and I challenged him from the audience. I pointed out that while black boys were at the bottom of the educational rankings, black girls performed better. What kind of racist makes an exception for the females of an ethnic group? I pointed out that, while Pakistani children did little better than black boys, Indian children were the second best performing group. Pakistan was an artificial construct imposed when the Brits granted independence to India. Ethnically, these kids were identical. What kind of racist would distinguish between them? It seemed to me that if teachers were the problem, then they were bloody strange racists. Apart from these other quirks they seemed to favour the Chinese. as their children were easily the highest performing!
To Trevor's credit, he listened politely and laughed at my sarcastic humour even as the aspiring members of the left-liberal ruling elite howled me down. If racism was not the answer to this question, he asked politely, what was? I told him it was a question of parental attitudes informed by culture. I had worked in China where every mother saw education as the highest good. If West Indian and Pakistani women (not to mention working class white ones) wanted their children to do well at school they should make like Tiger Mothers. Teachers, schools and the educational establishment would not stop their children learning if they showed up at school wanting to.
From watching his show - which has received damning notices from his fellow-lefties - it almost seemed I had struck a chord. I would certainly like to think so. His contribution was thoughtful and intelligent. He senses that the Left has gone too far and alienated ordinary folk. The depressing parts were his interviews with students - who really do seem to have left the reality-based community - and his experiments with Mancunians ("straight-talking Northerners") who seemed culturally whipped but still craving more of the lash.
If you get the chance to watch it, do. It's as good a political thought piece as the biased media is currently likely to produce. The link above will expire soon.