Not be outdone by the right flank of his Conservatives, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak jumped into the culture wars raging from the US to Argentina and Poland.
(Bloomberg) — Not be outdone by the right flank of his Conservatives, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak jumped into the culture wars raging from the US to Argentina and Poland.
“We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be,” Sunak said to loud applause during an hour-long speech at the Tory conference in Manchester. “They can’t. A man is a man and a woman is a woman.”
Sunak is a man trying to make up for a 20-point deficit in the polls ahead of elections that are expected next year.
His party has been in power for more than 13 years and in that period Brexit went from being a concept nurtured by the Tory fringes to a reality in 2016, the year that also saw Donald Trump elected as US president.
Rather than go moderate — Sunak, a committed Brexiteer and the UK’s first British-Asian premier — is lurching further to the right.
In many ways he’s trying to keep up. His home secretary, Suella Braverman — also of Indian origin and openly eyeing his job — received a standing ovation for railing against “gender ideology.” Andrew Boff, a prominent gay Tory politician, was ejected for muttering objections to her language.
Her counterpart in charge of health policy promised to ban transgender women from female wards.
It all fits into a broader, troubling trend playing out across continents. In the US, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy drew attention to himself by saying “transgenderism” is a form of mental illness.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had a breakout moment in 2019 — before ascending to power — when at a rally she chanted “I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian.” It was turned into a viral dance mix.
Sunak’s own remark tap into a US-style culture wars to appeal to the grassroots, following warnings from members of his Cabinet about “woke” scientists, “sinister” 15-minute cities and a nonexistent opposition Labour Party plan to tax meat.
His own push-back against calls by trans campaigners for less rigorous rules on gender self-identification aligns not only with his party grassroots, but also with the wider British public.
The British Social Attitudes survey released last month found that in 2022 just 30% of Britons agreed trans people should be able to change the sex on their birth certificate if they wish — down from 58% in 2016. Some 39% disagreed, up from 22%.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health and other leading medical groups all recognize gender-affirming care as the standard of care for transgender youth.
–With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.
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