Rishi Sunak has vowed to review the Equalities Act to stop the “woke nonsense” he claims is “permeating public life”.
While claiming he has “zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war”, the Tory leadership hopeful pledged to “stand up to left-wing agitators” and “protect British freedoms” if he becomes prime minister.
It is his latest policy announcement to woo Conservative Party members who will decide whether he or rival Liz Truss get the keys to No 10 in just a few weeks time.
The foreign secretary, who has just unveiled a plan to help renters get on the property ladder, has also spoken out on issues of gender and identity – which have proved divisive in the Tory leadership race.
Mr Sunak said he wants to preserve gendered words such as “woman” or “mother” by ensuring sex means biological sex in the 2010 Equality Act.
He said the legislation – which ensures people with protected characteristics are not discriminated against – was “conceived in the dog days of the last Labour government”.
Mr Sunak added: “It has been a Trojan horse that has allowed every kind of woke nonsense to permeate public life.
“My government would review the Act to ensure we keep legitimate protections while stopping mission creep.”
The former chancellor said he also wants to clarify that gender self-identification does not have legal force.
He previously made this aim clear in the first public policy pledge of his leadership bid, when he said he would oppose biological males being allowed to compete against women in sport and protect single-sex services.
His plan to “protect British freedoms” also includes strengthening statutory guidance for schools on how they teach issues of sex and relationships so that pupils are “shielded from inappropriate material”.
And he promised to protect free speech by ensuring organisations “are open and welcoming” to people with differing political opinions and religious and philosophical world views, “putting a stop to practices such as no-platforming”.
He is expected to tell supporters in West Sussex today that his government would “safeguard our shared cultural, historical and philosophical heritage”.
He will say: “What’s the point in stopping the bulldozers in the green belt if we allow left-wing agitators to take a bulldozer to our history, our traditions and our fundamental values?
“Whether it’s pulling down statues of historic figures, replacing the school curriculum with anti-British propaganda, or rewriting the English language so we can’t even use words like ‘man’ ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ without being told we’re offending someone?
“It’s not us who are the aggressors; we have zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war.
“But we are determined to end the brainwashing, the vandalism and the finger pointing.”
So called “culture-wars” have dominated the Tory leadership debate, despite YouGov polling showing just 8% of Conservative party members want “combatting the woke agenda” prioritised.
Former leadership hopeful Penny Mordaunt came under scrutiny for her stance on gender self-identification after leaked government documents suggested she had supported watering down the legal process for transitioning.
Ms Truss has also spoken out in favour of single-sex spaces, telling a hustings audience on Thursday that she backs a policy that guarantees schoolgirls can go to a toilet in a safe environment.
“I’ve been very clear that single sex spaces should be protected,” she said.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will take part in a head-to-head debate on Sky News on Thursday 4 August at 8pm hosted by Kay Burley.
If you would like to be a member of the live studio audience and be in with a chance of asking a question, please apply here.