The annual so-called "Pride Festival" runs from Saturday 24th June until Saturday 8th July this year.
Lots of businesses, public and private, have chosen to show their support. They're proud to support Pride.
The trouble is, "Pride" is not something that is supported by all of the British public. Yet, in giving these businesses their custom, members of the public are giving their support (including financial support) to the Pride movement.
Sainsbury's have been adding the slogan "Supporting Pride" in rainbow colours to till-dispensed Nectar coupons 14-27 June this year.
1. If I shop with you, am I supporting Pride?
2. Is this a general statement or are you donating funds?
3. If so, how much?
Interestingly, they didn't reply in public, but by private message. They got to do that by asking me to PM them my postcode, yet nothing in my question or their answer needed a postcode. It's almost as if they didn't want to continue the conversation in public where their answers can be scrutinised.
In their reply, they sent me a link to their press release. That didn't answer my questions at all. In fact, it begged a further question. Here's the last paragraph from that press release:
"Our colleague presence at Pride continues to reflect our spirit of inclusion. Last summer, more than 2,000 of us took part in over thirty Pride parades, including Brighton, Manchester, Leeds and London. This year we’re expecting to see more orange t-shirts in the rainbow as colleagues are already signed up to attend York, Brighton, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Hull, Newcastle, Bristol and Cymru among others."
So I replied to their PM to ask them the follow-up question. Given their press release …
mentions Sainsbury's employees attending Pride marches in orange uniforms. Would this be in their own time or in work time? And, if Sainsbury's is donating employee time to Pride, how many staff hours is this in total, and what monetary cost of this will be reported to shareholders?
They replied after 24 hours, but only to say that they'd pass the question on to their internal teams to look into. Since then (120 hours ago) I've heard nothing back.
Yet a lot of people want to know the answer to this. My Twitter account is quiet. I don't use it very often, and I have only a handful (88) of followers. Yet my tweet to Sainsbury's was retweeted 10 times and liked 15 times. That makes it my most popular tweet ever. There were also a lot of people quoting that tweet, adding a simple message like "me too".
Gavin Ashenden added more when he quoted it in his Tweet (10 retweets, 18 likes):
Dear @Sainsburys. I don't support Pride after the hounding of Tim Farron. Are you promoting their campaign against free speech & conscience?
— Gavin Ashenden (@gavinashenden) June 19, 2017
Are people pleased to see Sainsbury's support Pride in this way? No doubt, many are. But many do not want to see the money they spend at Sainsbury's used in this way. What's more, Sainsbury's don't seem to want to tell us how much they are giving.
Next came Tesco.
They worked with Wrigley's to produce packs of all-white skittles:
"Only one rainbow matters this pride. Give the rainbow, taste the rainbow®. All the lentils are white in celebration of pride."
Public opinion was again divided.
This one also broke on Twitter, as Inspector Mark Evans tweeted that he'd just taken delivery of two patrol cars, redecorated in Pride-supporting livery.
The Tweet attracted a long discussion thread. One of the recurring questions was the use of finance. Apparently it cost them £750 to tart up two cars in this way; mainly it came from their "diversity budget".
Some people, commenting, felt that such a budget is a reasonable thing to have, if it increases the likelihood that people will report crime. You could reply by asking whether such a car commands the kind of authority that means you think it's worth reporting a crime to the people who drive it.
More to the point front-line policing budgets are severely stretched at the moment. Just this week, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said that the resources being necessarily ploughed into counter-terrorism will leave resources for other policing very tight indeed. In such a climate, it could well be argued that Sussex Police may have a diversity budget, but it's not the best use of public money to spend it on redecorating cars. Much better to spend it on fighting crime.
What's clear from the long Twitter thread, though, is that a great many people are tired of the diversity gravy-train. It doesn't command the support that many think it does.
Transport for London
Transport for London, under the oversight of the office of the Mayor of London, has redecorated some of their station platforms to put the iconic roundel in rainbow colours. They've also used their premises for billboard advertising to show their support of Pride.
I contacted them on Twitter, to ask how much money they'd spent on platform redecoration, and how much advertising revenue they had waived by using billboards to promote their support for Pride. Their social media team are normally very responsive, but I've had no reply. This gives the same impression as Sainsbury's, that they don't want those figures to be known, and they don't want a public conversation about it. I didn't even ask them how much they paid for the graphic design.
Yet again, public opinion is divided. When they announced their rainbow roundels on Twitter, there were many positive responses. But others were not so enthusiastic.
Can you stop wasting money on political gimmicks and buy Manual Boarding Ramps (MBRs) so I can actually use this station? #AccessDenied ♿
— John Dunne ♿ (@safc4ever) June 22, 2017
What has public transport got to do with people's sexuality. Answer lots apparently.
— justin o'sullivan (@cheyfitz) June 22, 2017
Good for you, well done, any thoughts about getting home on time?.
— Steven Hughes (@hughesat10) June 23, 2017
I thought the purpose of roundels was to be a legible station indicator. #Fail
— Andrew C Leach (@AndrewCLeach) June 22, 2017
Transport for London used the hashtag #LoveIsLove for this campaign. I've seen other organisations use it; I don't know who started it, but I first met the hashtag on TfL's material. More on that hashtag in another post.
Divided Public Opinion
Now, here's the point.
Part of the reason these organisations have supported Pride in this way is because they believe the public wants it. The public bodies (TfL, Sussex Police) believe that it's a good use of public funds to support such a good cause. The private companies believe that their estimation will go up in the eyes of potential customers if they support such a good cause.
The problem is that isn't universally true. In each of these cases, public opinion has been divided. There have been some who have been pleased to see "Pride" supported in this way.
There have been others who have been horrified. These people have no objection whatever to others supporting Pride. If it's something that others wish to support, then by all means let them. But they themselves do not wish to support Pride. If they give these private companies their business, they would be adding their own financial support, which makes them think twice about shopping there. Public bodies are funded by compulsory local and national taxes; that means these people are being forced to give funds to Pride against their better judgement.
The same could be said of any charity: public bodies are accountable to the public whose taxes pay for the services; private companies are accountable to their shareholders and customers for the same reason. Businesses ought to think carefully before giving away funds they are entrusted with.
In this particular case, Pride is a very divisive cause to support. Many charities raise funds for causes that nobody in their right mind would object to. The same cannot be said of Pride.
There is a long term culture war raging in the United Kingdom. The three main ideologies playing out are mainstream Christianity, secularism and Islam. It's a little more complex, because those ideologies invade segments of each other's structures, leading to fifth columnist regiments and hybrid syncretism.
In that climate, it seems these businesses have been advised that they can and should support Pride. By doing so, they will gain the goodwill of many people, and it will cost them nothing in terms of the loyalty of others. If that is so, they've been misadvised. These businesses may well rise in the opinions of some, but they go down in the opinions of others. By nailing their colours to the mast (sic.) in this way, these businesses are playing a high-stakes game. Long term, it could cost them more than it benefits them.
I'm pleased to see that Pride events in London are named "Pride in London". That is, of course, because the trademark "London Pride" is already taken. It would be the easiest thing in the world for Fullers Brewery, technically "Fullers, Smith and Turner PLC", to back this whole modern fad. Before I close this post, a quick shout out to them for resisting this obvious pressure. Long may they do so.
The opposite of pride is grace.
God is a God of grace, free and unmerited kindness, because of the great cost he paid in the death and resurrection of his Son. This is, as the apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 2, so that no-one can boast. Grace levels pride.
This means that it is a wonderful thing to be a Christian. But because the privilege is entirely unearned, we must not be proud of what we have, but gratefully humble and humbly grateful.
The final word goes to Richard Baxter:
"Predominant pride is a certain sign that you have no saving grace at all; and so are proud of what you have not: and if you have it, so far as you are proud of it you abuse it, contradict it, and destroy it: for pride is to grace, what the plague or consumption is to health."