April 13, 2023 - 7:15am

Former prime minister Liz Truss was known for being a committed libertarian and free-marketeer, but in a speech today to the Heritage Foundation in Washington she offered a new emphasis: as a campaigner against ‘woke’ politics.

“The woke Left has succeeded where people are silent. They’ve managed to infiltrate huge parts of the public sector, huge numbers of institutions, a large swathe of the media; and what they rely on is people being too afraid to take them on,” she said. 

While much of Truss’s speech was given over to criticising China, she also attacked targets such as ESG, gender self-ID and critical race theory. “We find ourselves on the back foot,” she told the D.C. crowd, asking “the idea that it’s your individual characteristics that are important — your hard work and your talent — not what sex you are or what race you are: how is it that those ideas have fallen by the wayside? […] Our sense of self-belief seems to be dissipating.” She went on:

Our freedom is being undermined. Of course we need to be self-critical; we should subject ourselves to examination; we believe in a free press. But what I think it’s come to is self-flagellation of the values that made our countries great in the first place. Identity politics, which is basically the idea that what group you’re in is more important than the person you are. Critical race theory, which says it’s more important how you appear on the surface than what your talents and attributes are. Or the whole debate about ‘what is a woman’, that completely subverts basic principles of science and biology. These are all core beliefs that we have seen being undermined, and I’m afraid there hasn’t been sufficient fightback.
- Liz Truss

Truss drew attention to her spell as minister for women and equalities between 2019 and 2021, when, she claimed, she “stopped gender self-ID in Britain without a medical certificate”. She also commended her successor as prime minister, Rishi Sunak, for blocking Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill. 

The ex-Conservative leader observed that “what we don’t see is enough people who are prepared to take the orthodoxy on,” continuing, “we’re in a situation where people in our own societies appear to be questioning the very value of what we are, whilst others are desperate to get into the country, and it’s an extraordinary contradiction.” By way of solution, she suggested that “we need to be as organised, and we need to be as fearless as our opponents. And first of all, we need to be proud of our core values and tell the story of freedom again.” 

On top of this, she stressed the need to “recapture the language”, given that “the Left has weaponised people’s concerns about the economy and the environment, using terms like ‘fuel poverty’ and the ‘climate emergency’ to justify policies which are anti-growth and socialist.”

To counter the rise of identitarianism and ‘woke’ politics, Truss advocated a more robust approach: 

We need to challenge those who seek to cancel people, and we need to be brave in speaking out, and we need to challenge those who subvert the laws of biology. There’s only one thing we can do, which is speak out every time this happens: we need to be intolerant of intolerance.
- Liz Truss

Rob Lownie is UnHerd’s Assistant Editor, Newsroom.

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