September 11, 2023 - 3:05pm

Depressing news from the Conservative Party on the “conserving anything at all” front. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has refused to publish the results of a recent independent report on sex education in schools, promising only recommendations from the Department for Education on amending sex ed guidelines by the end of the year. 

This follows a public furore on third-party education providers propagating extreme progressive sex ideologies directly to children, in the name of compulsory Relationship and Sex Education, seemingly with minimal quality control or parental oversight. A dossier was presented to Parliament earlier this year, revealing some of the material being taught to children in British state schools by unregulated sex education providers. 

Examples include materials teaching 12-year-olds about anal sex, pushing gender ideology, introducing “safe” sexual choking, or setting masturbation as “homework”.  The lessons in which such content is delivered have been compulsory since 2019, with only limited parental rights to opt children out. Now, having commissioned a report into this mess, the Tories are trying to bury its findings. This is part of a pattern: Sunak’s government has also come under recent fire following repeated delays on promised guidance for schools on transgender-identified pupils.  

We shouldn’t be surprised, though, given that the Tories have long been averse to substantive engagement with social matters. This stance is epitomised by Matt Hancock, who argued earlier this year that explicit advocacy for “normative” heterosexual married families is “a completely fringe view” in the Tory Party. Though (to say the least) at odds with historic Tory views, or indeed the views of Labour MPs for much of this party’s existence, Conservative ministerial priorities suggest he’s probably right. There is, for example, no minister with a specific brief for marriage. 

But the trouble with this “do what you want” consensus is that radical progressives have no such scruples about personal choice. Even as the Tories have shrugged and mumbled about choice, these zealots have been hard at work spreading their beliefs in schools and institutionalising them in public bodies, to increasingly authoritarian effect. 

Faced with this asymmetric warfare, the Tory response has often been active collusion, as with Keegan, or the advocacy for “gender self-ID” by Maria Miller that catalysed Britain’s recent feminist renaissance. At best, we get stalling and whining about “woke”, even as increasingly unhinged ideologies are entrenched and consolidated on the Tories’ watch. 

And it seems that the prospect of an upcoming general election has only increased the party’s reluctance to grasp the nettle on any policy of substance that might reverse this direction of travel.

Instead — much as is the case with immigration — as the General Election looms conservative voters, concerned parents, and everyone capable of noticing basic biology can relax in the certainty that Britain’s “Conservative” Party will deliver headline-friendly outrage, soon-to-be-buried reports, and (if we’re lucky) a symbolic proposal or two that can be suggested safe in the knowledge that they’ll be deemed “unlawful”. 

Forget banning paediatric gender transition, requiring schools to teach basic biology, amending the Human Rights or Equality Acts to ensure proper recognition of sex dimorphism in law, or even installing more than a handful of token conservatives in the institutions that now set Britain’s social policies. There’s clearly no consensus for enacting such elementary conservative changes. 

In lieu of a genuinely conservative party, the choice for voters is between progressive gradualism and progressive accelerationism. For repeatedly lying about this fact (and much else besides), Britain’s nominally “conservative” party richly deserves its projected electoral wipeout.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.