I've always loved Billy Bragg. I loved his humour, his songwriting (I know the lyrics of The Saturday Boy off by heart) and his guitar playing, and when Arthur Mathews and I started writing comedy, I was delighted to have a chance to meet him when we put him in an sketch with Alexei Sayle.
However, something has happened to Billy. His new book is out and I believe in it he expands on his recent piece about how those darned women and intellectuals better shut up about their rights/freedom of speech if they want to get with the program. In the piece, he describes himself 'cringing' at the George Orwell quote that's outside BBC Television "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear".
He cringes at that.
Luckily for him, Twitter, a huge American corporation, happens to agree with him, and recently confirmed to a user that posting the words "only females get cervical cancer' amounts to 'hateful conduct'.
Here's a fun fact about Billy. Before I was booted from Twitter (for saying "men aren't women"), I sent him the Kristina Harrison speech from A Woman's Place and asked him to watch it. I used to get complaints from some feminists when I shared this video, (because why was was I sharing a video from a transwoman and not a woman etc etc) but my reasoning was that surely a staunch left-wing trans ally like Billy would be moved by this testimony from a left-wing transwoman.
Not a bit of it. In fact, he refused to watch it.
And just as I write this I receive the news that transwoman Debbie Hayton sent him this typically dignified and polite tweet.
What was Billy's careful response? Reader, he blocked her.
By pretending he believes that Linda Bellos, Helen Steel and JK Rowling all turned into bigots overnight, Billy knows that the painful cognitive dissonance with which he already lives would reach an unbearable pitch if he actually listened to transwomen who agree with them.
A slight digression. This may seem off-topic but bear with me.
A fact that I have to check every time I include it in a piece like this is that the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal went on for almost thirty years. I just checked Wikipedia again, and yes, there it is in black and white.
"The Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal consisted of the organised child sexual abuse that occurred in the town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Northern England from the late 1980s until the 2010s and the failure of local authorities to act on reports of the abuse throughout most of that period.
The abuse included gang rape, forcing children to watch rape, dousing them with petrol and threatening to set them on fire, threatening to rape their mothers and younger sisters, and trafficking them to other towns."
From another piece by the BBC: Councillors and council staff in particular were criticised for "avoiding public discussion"; some through fear of being thought racist, and some through "wholesale denial" of the problem.
Thirty years, during which young girls were facing unimaginable horrors, and no-one said anything, because people didn't want to tell people what they didn't want to hear.
In today's Times, we can work our way through more stories of young women who have been abandoned by society. These are detransitioners, whose stories of seeking relief from internalised homophobia and misogyny are all-too familiar to those of us who have been following this issue carefully.
Once again, women and girls suffer, because intellectual and moral cowards like Billy Bragg think it's more important to be kind than to be honest. They think it's kinder to encourage and indulge dysphoria than work out a way to help these people that does not involve drugs and surgery. This makes him and his reckless, thoughtless follow travellers on the Left not just wrong, but dangerously wrong, just like those on the council in Rotherham who decided that girls' lives mattered less than hurt feelings.
So, much as I love Billy's work, I would swap it all for that single quote. "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear" because like everything Orwell wrote, it still rings with truth, and its truth is eternal, and it warns us about the dangers of people like Billy Bragg.