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Tory party member confronts Oliver Dowden over 'anti-woke’ rhetoric

An audience member at the Tory conference asked the Conservative Party co-chair: "Was women’s suffrage woke? Were gay rights woke?".

oliver dowden. woke

Dowden railed against "woke aggression" in his party speech. Image: Pippa Fowles/No 10

Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden has been told his “anti-woke rhetoric” is standing in the way of social progress by one of his own party members.

Appearing at the Daily Telegraph fringe event at the Conservative party conference today, Dowden was grilled by a member of Conservatives Against Racism for Equality over his and the party’s stance on social issues. It came after the MP took aim at “woke aggression” and “culture wars” in his party speech.

The member told Dowden: “I really don’t like all of this anti-woke rhetoric.

“If you pit people against each other, we can’t make progress.

“My question is: Was women’s suffrage woke? Was universal suffrage woke? Were gay rights woke? We couldn’t even suggest that people didn’t boo our national football team on the global stage.

“Have we learned anything from the progress of the last 100 years?”

In response, Dowden explained that whenever he intervened in issues in his former role as culture secretary he said to himself: “Am I standing in the way of change, in a reactionary way?”.

“And I genuinely do not believe that is the case,” he concluded.

“And if you take one example, statues and pulling down statues, you would think from a small but vocal minority that that was the desire of the Black British community. Actually, research shows that 84% of Black Britons don’t want us to do that.”

His answer referred to a report by the Henry Jackson Society which found only one in six Black people believed tearing down statues to be a legitimate form of protest – not specifically whether they believed they should be taken down.

The same study showed that 58 per cent of people from Black British backgrounds believed the UK was racist, double that of the general population (29 per cent).

“What worries me about some of this woke argument is that it’s actually reinterpreting our history to the point of saying we should see shame when we used to see pride in these things,” Dowden said.

He referred to people of colour in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, such as Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel, as examples of “Conservative opportunity in action”.

The only people who benefit from “attacking our fundamental values” are “the authoritarian regimes who have a very different view on democracy and freedom”, Dowden added.

The party co-chair previously suggested statues of “our national heroes like Nelson, Gladstone and Churchill” were under threat as a result of “woke” bullying, championing the protection of “taxpayers’ interests”.

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