Liz Truss suggested the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should mean pride in Britain’s values should make a comeback.
The foreign secretary, who is also equalities minister, told a Tory conference in Blackpool this weekend that “now is the time to end ludicrous debates”.
She said: “We have to be proud of our country and our long-standing commitment to freedom and democracy.
“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, is what makes us what we are today.
“We live in a great country, a great democracy and we should be proud of it.”
Truss made the remarks after years of debates around historical British figures such as Winston Churchill and roads and buildings with names linked to slave traders.
Heated debates have also been taking place in the UK on trans rights of self-identifying, as well as people’s freedom to choose the pronouns they want to be used when addressing them.
But the Tory minister’s comments have triggered further debates, with one Twitter user suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is being used as a distraction tool by the government party.
“They really don’t want you to have any opinions on anything vaguely important. This war has been a godsend for them,” the user said.
Another added sarcastically: “Let’s start the book burning now and lock up the ‘thinkers’… all seems familiar.”
Last year, Liz Truss and her equalities minister colleague Kemi Badenoch were accused of vilifying the trans community by a government LGBT adviser who – along with two colleagues – quit their posts.
Jayne Ozanne resigned from the government’s LGBT advisory panel and was followed by James Morton, a manager at the Scottish Trans Alliance, who said he had been “very concerned for serval months that Liz Truss and her junior ministers are not committed to LGBT equality”.
“It doesn’t appear that they’re doing anything useful or helpful for trans people, in terms of government policy,” he added.
Ellen Murray had also quit the panel, after reportedly accusing the government of “hostility” towards LGBT people.
On race equality, Truss said in 2020 that the discrimination debate should not focus solely on race, religion, sexual orientation and disability.
Discussion had too often been dominated by “fashion” and not “facts”, she said.
Speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Ms Truss said: “To make our society more equal, we need the equality debate to be led by facts, not by fashion.
“Time and time again, we see politicians making their own evidence-free judgements.”