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Conservative Anti-Racism Group Tells Liz Truss And Rishi Sunak To Ditch Divisive “Culture Wars”

Conservative Anti-Racism Group Tells Liz Truss And Rishi Sunak To Ditch Divisive “Culture Wars”

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have been urged to focus on the cost of living crisis rather than so-called 'culture war' issues (Alamy)

4 min read

A Tory race-relations group has called on Conservative leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to ditch divisive “culture war” topics that have featured prominently in their campaigns and focus on urgent cost of living crisis issues.

Albie Amankona, the CEO of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE), the UK’s first centre-right organisation dedicated to race-relations, accused Truss and Sunak of creating an “unhelpful distraction” from issues affecting people in the UK by relentlessly focusing on issues of gender identity or other perceived “woke” ideology.

YouGov polling has shown that just 8 per cent of Conservative party members – the only people who are able to vote in the leadership contest to choose the next prime minister – want "combatting the woke agenda" prioritised.

Earlier this week Sunak gave a speech attacking “woke nonsense” that he believed related to free speech and gender identity. Despite insisting he had “zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war”, he vowed to protect the words “woman” and “mother” from being replaced in certain settings with gender neutral language. Truss promised at the first leadership hustings to ensure schools provide single-sex toilets.

Attorney General Suella Braverman, who is backing Truss after failing with her own leadership bid, used an editorial in the Daily Mail on Thursday to declare war on “woke witch trials", and criticised officials across her department for taking part in almost 2,000 hours of diversity training last year.

Braverman compared diversity consultants who offer training on how to ensure equality in the workplace in areas such as race and gender, to “the witch-finders of the Middle Ages” who “do nothing to create solidarity and support but rather keeps emphasising difference, creating a sense of ‘other’ and pitting different groups against each other”.

But Amankona, who co-founded CARFE urged the two leadership candidates to stay away from culture war “nonsense”.

"The airtime that this war has been given when there is literally a war going on in Europe, there’s a cost of living crisis, which is going to get worse this year, inflation could raise to 15 per cent next year, when the NHS is in crisis, when the civil service can't even provide passports for people in a timely manner and there are shortages going on, I think it is self-indulgent to be spending so much time on culture war issues,” he said.

“Culture war issues which are used purely for political gain rather than actually solving the issues that impact all people in the United Kingdom, including people from minority backgrounds.”

He said if Truss and Sunak wanted to deal with prejudice and social justice they should commit to implementing the government’s own Inclusive Britain strategy, published earlier this year.

The document, which is the government’s response to a flagship report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities from March 2021 sets out more than 70 recommendations grouped under three main themes: trust and fairness, opportunity and agency, and inclusion.

Neither Truss or Sunak have mentioned during the campaign if they would stay committed to the actions, which equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said would “put us on a course towards a more inclusive and integrated society”.

Amankona said there has been “an ‘anti-woke’ element to the campaign” so far.

“I think it is unhelpful, and I think it's a distraction," he continued. 

“I think it's fine for the party to stand against things – but instead of just standing against things, we actually have to propose our own Conservative solutions to problems.”

He criticised the treatment of Penny Mordaunt, the former equalities minister, over comments on trans rights made during the leadership campaign before she was knocked out at the final stage of voting by MPs. 

“What would be better is if we actually focus on the issues that the public needs solving, rather than making up wedge issues to make people angry with each other,” he added.

The CARFE leader said overall he did not feel race has been a big factor in the contest, and dismissed reports that Sunak is struggling to gain support with Tory members because the party “isn't ready to elect an ethnic minority leader”.

He pointed to the first stage of the contest, when a majority of MPs backed “either a woman or an ethnic minority candidate, or both,”, and polls that put Badenoch as the favourite with grassroots supporters.

“So do not say the Conservative Party isn't ready for an ethnic minority leader, I think they're ready for it and the party actually wanted it, and it was the MPs who prevented the most popular ethnic minority candidate from being on the final ballot because of a perception of a lack of experience,” Amankona added.

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