Rishi Sunak is launching a fierce attack on “left-wing agitators” undermining British history and traditions, as he tries to prevent a likely defeat in the Tory leadership race.
The former chancellor entered the contest arguing the country has “had enough of division”, in what was seen as a promise to dial down the culture wars of the Boris Johnson years
But, with Liz Truss set to win the race for No 10 according to polls of Tory members, Mr Sunak is switching tack – with a pledge to stamp out the “woke nonsense” he is blaming on Labour’s Equality Act.
Speaking in West Sussex, he will also pledge to protect the use of the words “women” and “mother”, linking it to his promise to protect the green belt from housebuilding.
“What’s the point in stopping the bulldozers in the green belt if we allow left-wing agitators to take a bulldozer to our history, our traditions and our fundamental values?” Mr Sunak will ask.
“Whether it’s pulling down statues of historic figures, replacing the school curriculum with anti-British propaganda, or rewriting the English language so we can’t even use words like ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ without being told we’re offending someone?”
He will claim he has “zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war”, arguing: “It’s not us who are the aggressors.”
But, Mr Sunak will add: “We are determined to end the brainwashing, the vandalism and the finger pointing.
“The worst offender in this regard is the 2010 Equality Act, conceived in the dog days of the last Labour government.
“It has been a Trojan horse that has allowed every kind of woke nonsense to permeate public life.”
The speech will echo the former chancellor’s marked shift to the right on other cultural issues, in an apparent attempt to appeal to the Conservative members who are deciding the contest.
His hardline immigration plan would cap the number of refugees allowed into the UK and withhold overseas aid from poor countries refusing to take back failed asylum seekers.
Mr Sunak also wants to double the number of foreign offenders deported and undermined his pitch as the “fiscally responsible” candidate with a U-turn on removing VAT from energy bills.
He was also ridiculed for telling the first party hustings that, despite Brexit, there is no need for any trade border between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Sunak’s new plan would:
• Review the 2010 Equality Act and associated guidance – to “make sure ‘mothers’ and ‘women’ are not erased from public life”
• Strengthen guidance on Relationships and Sex Education in school – to ensure children are “shielded from inappropriate material”
• Amend the Public Sector Equality Duty – “putting a stop to practices such as no-platforming”.
But in a further blow to Mr Sunak’s flagging campaign, his former leadership rival Tom Tugendhat said on Friday night he would be backing Ms Truss.
In a major boost for the foreign secretary’s campaign, Mr Tugendhat wrote in The Times that her plans for vast tax cuts are “founded on true Conservative principles”.
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee also criticised Mr Sunak’s tightening of fiscal policy, saying it is “not right” that the tax burden should be rising when people are heading into winter with “dread”.
His endorsement is important as he is popular among Conservative Party members and a senior figure in the One Nation group of centrist Tory MPs.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace also came out in support of Ms Truss on Friday.