The National:

YOU cannot move in the media for the word “woke”. That is true of the organs of the right: Andrew Neil’s GB News, the Daily Telegraph, Spectator, The Times and right-wing commentators and think tanks.

They use it as an insult, a catch-all phrase to describe the forces of the left they detest and see as motivated by political correctness, “cancel culture”, non-binary identities, toppling statues, and decolonising the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities.

The latest wheeze has come from US pollster Frank Luntz who is over in the UK working for the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies (set up by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph in 1974). Luntz has undertaken polling which shows that the UK is on the verge of a woke war.

The Times declared on its front page: “‘Woke’ culture war is biggest dividing line among voters”. Luntz himself said the UK was only six-twelve months behind the US: “Britain isn’t as bad as America – yet. But it’s clear that there are an awful lot of people who feel they’re being ignored.”

This brought forth the usual suspects claiming this was groundbreaking. Academic Matt Goodwin noted: “"Woke" versus "non-woke" is becoming a bigger divide in the UK than north v south, cities v rural, women v men, young v old”.

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Luntz’s research showed that the top issue for voters was the divide in the UK between rich and poor, with “woke issues” seventh.

Gareth Southgate (below) and the English national football team courted controversy pre-Euros with their "Taking the Knee" gesture towards Black Lives Matter and racial equality, leading some England fans to boo their team and Tory MPs such as Lee Anderson to dissociate themselves from supporting England.

Such a backlash has subsided as England have progressed.

The National: Gareth Southgate claps above his head

“Woke” comes from black America and was used by blues singer Lead Belly in his 1938 song “Scottsboro Boys”, which told the story of a group of black teenagers wrongly accused of raping young white women.

In 1971 the American playwright Barry Beckham used the term in his play, “Garvey Lives!”: “I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr Garvey done woke me up, I'm gon' stay woke. And I'm gon help him wake up other black folk.”

Thirty years later American R&B singer Erykah Badu invoked the term in her 2008 track “Master Teacher” which contains the refrain: “I stay woke.”

The remaking of “woke” has in the past few years crossed the Atlantic and became part of everyday conversation not just of the right, but of people uneasy with sections of the left. In recent months Meghan Markle’s claims of being subjected to racist media brought forth claims that she was “woke”.

Broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer opined: “The only negative media coverage Meghan has had is over her obvious self-obsession and her woke hypocrisy telling people to be green while flying on private jets.”

Piers Morgan walked out of his ITV job when challenged on air on his views on Markle. Subsequently, he used the language of “woke” to present himself as victim: “I think it’s fair to say, although the woke crowd will think that they’ve cancelled me, I think they will be rather disappointed when I re-emerge.”

READ MORE: Tories' ‘anti-woke agenda’ bid to keep Brexiteers' support, John Curtice says

Nigel Farage (below) declared his support for Morgan: “Cancel culture and the woke mob are killing free speech.”

The National: Nigel Farage

The word “woke” is continually used to define the media. Andrew Neil has pitched in declaring that GB News will be “anti-woke”: “The direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people”, continuing: “There’s a restlessness, a sense that they’re being talked down to: that much of the media no longer reflects their values or shares their concerns.”

GB News offers a regular feature called “Woke Watch”.

“Woke” baiting has found a foothold in Scotland via the likes of Wings Over Scotland, run by Bath-based blogger Stuart Campbell, and has even been invoked by the likes of Alex Salmond and George Galloway (below) in the recent Scottish elections, and the latter in the bitter Batley and Spen by-election last week.

The National: George Galloway

All three have regularly laid into the “woke SNP” – a political stance which becomes increasingly weaponised, intolerant and right-wing.

All of this is part of the so called “culture wars” which are often about the challenges and claims of once silenced and marginalised groups and voices seeking to be listened to and respected. This goes to the heart of how broadcast media is portrayed by the right-wing press including the Daily Mail and Murdoch empire.

The increasingly contested role of the BBC is central – under fire from right and left – and seen by the “anti-wokers” as irredeemably part of a "woke liberal establishment" which thinks it knows best for the ordinary folk of this country.

Different interpretations of history, Empire, imperialism and colonialism, alongside Britain’s military past and wars, are all in this mix which brings forth arguments about how the past is interpreted.

Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph (and official Thatcher biographer) has a long running vendetta against the National Trust for England and its attempt to collect data and information about the properties it manages and their connections to slavery and Empire.

This is the cultural and political landscape we inhabit. One interpretation is that in the past ruling elites got their way – whether it was what the BBC broadcast or what statues went up and how they were described. Things are a bit more contested and challenging now and some do not like that.

There is at the heart of the “anti-woke brigade” a deep-seated entitlement from the likes of Andrew Neil, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Charles Moore, which invokes a feeling that the present state is not how things used to be and a desire to get back to a mythical past.

In this people who have influence pull the trick of appearing to speak for those who are powerless, presenting a sense of victimhood and being wronged by the “woke liberal establishment” – a charge put by members of the British establishment.

READ MORE: GB News mocked after Welsh version of Paw Patrol gets better TV ratings

Underpinning the war on “woke” in the UK is a struggle over contested versions of the UK and Britain and its continuation as a political union. The UK is a state made in the fire and fury of Empire, imperialism, war and conquest, and is still to this day at its core an Empire State – undemocratic and not motivated by the health and well-being of its citizens.

The “anti-wokers” know that the world is changing all around them, once silent voices finding their power, old wrongs being brought to our attention, and the nature of the UK’s place in the word historically and contemporaneously becoming a live issue. This does not make any “woke” campaigners anti-British; rather it is about rejected the rotten ruling class version of Britain peddled down the centuries.

In all the noise, charge and counter-charge, what people need to realise is that while the Andrew Neils and Piers Morgans get all worked up about “the war on woke”, what matters even more than statues, symbols and semantics, is the substance of who tells our stories and who speaks for us. And that is fast changing in ways that none of us can predict.