Liz Truss: ‘Ludicrous debates’ about statutes and pronouns must end

The Foreign Secretary said it was time for the ‘constant self-questioning’ of Britain’s history to cease.

19 March 2022

The Foreign Secretary has waded into the so-called culture wars by declaring that it is “time to end” the questioning of Britain’s history and shut down “ludicrous debates” on pronouns.

Liz Truss, who is also the UK Government’s equalities minister, said the “constant self-questioning and introspection” needed to cease.

In a speech to the Conservative Party spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday, Ms Truss said the UK’s response to the crisis in Ukraine should mean a restoration of pride in Britain’s values.

In recent years, there have been calls to reassess the reputations of key British figures, such as war leader Sir Winston Churchill, for views they held that are deemed incompatible with the modern day.

Road names and buildings have also undergone name changes due to links with slave traders.

During the debate on culture, trans rights have come to the fore, with heated public rows over the ability for people to self-identify as a gender different to the one they were born with, and people declaring their preferred pronouns in written interactions.

The Foreign Secretary told the conference: “Now is the time to end the culture of self-doubt, the constant self-questioning and introspection, the ludicrous debates about language, statues and pronouns.

“Our history, warts and all, makes us what we are today.

“We live in a great country, a great democracy and we should be proud of it.”

The Prime Minister has criticised previous bouts of vandalism on Sir Winston Churchill's memorial in Westminster
The Prime Minister has criticised previous bouts of vandalism on Sir Winston Churchill’s memorial in Westminster (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Prime Minister also included reference to the values battle in his speech closing the two-day conference.

Mr Johnson argued that the battle for democracy in eastern Europe highlighted the freedoms people enjoyed in Britain, adding: “We don’t need to be woke, we just want to be free.”

The comments come after Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, during an appearance at the resort conference on Friday, said it was time to “get away from the wokery that has beset huge sections of society”.

Mr Johnson, the Tory leader, also attracted criticism for remarks appearing to compare the situation in Ukraine with the UK Brexit vote.

He told supporters he knew that the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, is to choose freedom, every time” before citing the example of the European Union referendum in 2016.

It is not the first time the Prime Minister has involved himself in the culture debate, with the Churchill biographer having been a vocal defender of Sir Winston’s reputation in standing up to the Nazis.

He said, around the time of Black Lives Matters protests almost two years ago, that the decision to board up Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, to protect it from potential vandalism by protesters, was “absurd and shameful”.

In a series of tweets at the time, Mr Johnson said: “Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.”

On gender self-ID, following a consultation, the UK Government announced in 2020 it did not support allowing people to officially change gender without a medical diagnosis.

It instead announced plans to remove barriers to gender switches, including making the process available online, reducing the certificate fee from £140 to £5, and opening three new gender clinics that year to cut waiting lists.

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