THERE aren’t really words to describe accurately the involuntary noises that came from Boris Johnson’s screaming soul this week when asked if he thought that President Biden was woke. “Weu Wa Wa Bah” is the closest I could come.

But his frantically darting-around-the-room eyes, and flailing arms said it all: 'This really is a frightful bugger of a question.'

How could he keep Biden on side – a man who Johnson needs to do a juicy trade deal with? How could he keep those errant Brexiteers, in search of a new cause, on side? And what the hell does ‘woke’ even mean actually? He looked like he had mistaken ‘woke’ for ‘awake' and, fresh from his alleged afternoon nap session, had been startled out of his mid afternoon grogginess.

Forget the pandemic, this really was Johnson’s biggest challenge this week. So he plumped for “N...nothing wrong with, with um, being woke.”

This was a strange concession given that just a few weeks ago we saw his Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss come down hard on the "woke brigade" who apparently want to "introduce quotas, diversity agendas and so-called unconscious bias training".

And just this week his trusty Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick criticised the "woke worthies" who seemingly want to expunge various difficult bits of British history.

It’s hard being a politician but it’s harder when you desperately have to keep factions within your own party sweet, and create some sort of newsworthy copy over and above the dreadful daily death totals from coronavirus.

I have a certain degree of sympathy for Johnson’s befuddlement. Apart from being grammatically jarring, the word "woke" is definitely problematic.

Originating in the US as a term to describe those who were awake to social and racial injustice, at some stage it metamorphosed. Some woke folk got a tad judgemental. Woke became less about activism and more about a label.

In 2019 Barack Obama said: “This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke…you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities.”

Some woke folk shut down debate where people could learn from one another and perhaps change their views. Some groups got tired of discussing their oppression – and who can blame them after decades of doing so?

Woke got attitude, the word somehow got completely corrupted and the new and more pejorative definition of woke sprang up: Unyielding, unlistening, wanting to remove everything in its way that doesn’t fit with its worldview. This definition seems to prevail at the moment.

But that’s not the definition of woke I and many others recognise. Former Tory minister Ed Vaizey was spot on when he said on Times Radio this week that Joe Biden is “woke in the best way, which is that he celebrates the traditions of America. He swore his oath on Lincoln’s Bible and swore to defend the constitution, and he had a wonderful 22 year old poet reading at his address.”

Lord Vaizey continued: “Maybe I’m not noble enough to be woke. I want to be woke.”

If woke is to strive for social and racial justice and equality then surely we should all want to be woke?

I mean, I’d like to think I’m woke. No confusion there surely? Fairly clear cut really. From my early days as a student getting the overnight bus to London to protest against apartheid outside the South African Embassy, I’ve always been an advocate of equality. But, just to double-check, I asked one of my student sons, currently cocooned back with me during these lockdown times, to confirm I am woke.

He looked at me sympathetically and, as if wishing to assuage my ‘fears’ touched my arm gently and said, ‘No, mum, you’re not woke. Don’t worry so much.’

I gulped. 'But...but...what about the anti-Iraq war march I took you on when you were two years old; what about the gender neutral toys I bought for you; what about the equal pay placards you helped me make with your Crayolas, what about the trip to Turnberry to protest at Trump in 2014, what about our daily dinner table discussions about trans rights and Black Lives Matter?'

‘The clue is in the word discussion,’ he said. 'Woke people don’t want to discuss and debate.'

Strange noises, similar to Boris Johnson’s, but not half as upper class, gurgled from my mouth as confusion and utter disappointment enveloped me.

The younger son then emerged from his black hole to ask who wanted to know if I was woke.

It’s for an article, I replied.

‘Oh no. PULEASE don’t tell people you think you’re woke, it’s the ultimate virtue signalling.’

I replied, more confused than ever: 'But if woke is bad, how is it virtue signalling?'

He shot back: 'Well, it depends who is defining woke and who is defining virtue.’

At this point I slapped my frazzled forehead, marched out of the room and headed out for a long walk.

If one word could cause such high level confusion in one small family, imagine what it was doing to Boris Johnson’s brain.

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