Shropshire Star

Mark Andrews: Pardon my language, Sir Keir the free speech champion, and time runs out for ministers on TikTok

First of all, please accept my apologies for my use of bad language. It has been drawn to my attention that the words I used last week were offensive and unacceptable. And the ones I am about to use may also be construed as pretty ripe, if any of the bosses of Oxfam are reading.

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Oxfam seems to be in a pickle about inclusive language

Because according to the charity's new 92-page booklet on 'inclusive language', by writing this column in English I am complicit in Britain's 'colonial legacy' and using 'the language of a colonising nation'.

Sorry about that, me old mucka. Trouble is, I never quite got the hang of Esperanto. I did scrape an O–level pass in German, but suspect there may be a whiff of 'colonial legacy' about that too.

The guide actually apologises for itself being written in English, saying 'the dominance of English is one of the key issues that must be addressed to decolonise our ways of working'.

And you thought Oxfam was about feeding the hungry?

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Words to be avoided include 'headquarters', which 'implies a colonial power dynamic', and 'field trip' because it can reinforce colonial attitudes. You shouldn't 'stand with' somebody in solidarity, lest it offends people who are unable to stand. And talk of 'sanitary products' 'reinforces the stigma around menstruation'.

Oddest of all, it says we should not talk about the 'aid sector' which 'cements ideology where an agent with resources gives support on a charitable basis'.

Erm, isn't that what Oxfam is all about?

I was going to say raison d'etre. But I think French might be a bit colonial too.

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We are not told how much this guff cost to put together, or how it was funded, but there's no such thing as a free lunch. One way or another, directly or indirectly, it will impact on the real, important work that Oxfam should be focusing on.

I hope heads will roll for this. Although I suspect that is not inclusive terminology either.

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At PMQs this week, Sir Keir Starmer taunted Rishi Sunak over the Gary Lineker affair.

"Why doesn't he take some responsibility and stand up to his snowflake MPs waging war on free speech?" he asked.

No argument with that. While Lineker's comments were out of order, freedom of speech means nothing if it doesn't protect people's right to say objectionable things.

But why wasn't Sir Keir so vocal when his own MPs signed a petition demanding 'action is taken' against Jeremy Clarkson for his choice of words?

Maybe he lost his voice.

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Government ministers have been banned from using official phones to access Chinese video website TikTok amid security concerns.

Why would they be on it in the first place? Surely the people who run the country have more pressing things to do than watch teenagers lip-syncing to Britney Spears.