George Orwell, the prophet of political correctness, does not belong to the Left

Among the various characteristics of political correctness is the branding of dissident thinkers as racists, sexists or homophobes (thoughtcrime) the necessity of holding two contradictory ideas together (doublethink) and attempts to change the language to change politics (Newspeak).

As Nick Cohen once cheerily pointed out, most journalists’ work dies with them. One of the few modern exceptions is George Orwell, whose star has continued to rise since his death from TB in 1950, and whose essays and articles continue to be sold and read.

Today the author of Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier remains not just the foremost chronicler of the great ideological battles of the early 20th century, but a sort of conscience for British journalism.

So one would have thought that there would be little objection to a sculpture of Orwell at Broadcasting House, where he had worked during the Second World War, especially as the money has been raised privately. And yet the BBC has blocked a statue of Orwell on the grounds that he was too “Left-wing”.

It’s understandable that the corporation should be sensitive about the subject, especially considering the criticism it attracts in this paper. Yet is Orwell confined to the Left?

Certainly Orwell was on the Left throughout his life, and the hard Left before his experience of Communists in Spain moved him towards more moderate socialism. Yet although Orwell’s essays are among the best things he did, he has become chiefly best remembered for his last two works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the latter in particular has become one of the most conservative books in history.


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