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‘Bonkers’ Liz Truss speech pulled from government website

Rant about Foucault replaced with note saying content has been redacted

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 18 December 2020 21:06 GMT
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Parts of a controversial speech given by cabinet minister Liz Truss have been pulled from the government’s website amid concerns about its content.

The speech was branded “bonkers” by critics after the Tory claimed children in her class at school were left unable to read or write because too much time was taken up learning about racism and sexism.

The minister, who went to school in Leeds under Margaret Thatcher’s government, said children had been deprived of a proper education and “business opportunities”.

But after appearing in full yesterday on government’s website, by Friday lunchtime large swathes of the speech had been cut and replaced with a note saying that “political content” had been redacted.

One such redacted passage, which included a bizarre rant about French philosopher Michel Foucault, read: “While we were taught about racism and sexism, there was too little time spent making sure everyone could read and write.

“These ideas have their roots in postmodernist philosophy – pioneered by Foucault – that puts societal power structures and labels ahead of individuals and their endeavours.

“In this school of thought, there is no space for evidence, as there is no objective view – truth and morality are all relative.

“Rather than promote policies that would have been a game-changer for the disenfranchised like better education and business opportunities, there was a preference for symbolic gestures.”

Officials say the political elements of the speech attacking “the failed ideas of the left” had been uploaded in error. Government resources are not supposed to be used for political campaigning and parts of speeches that cross into this territory are usually left off departmental websites.

A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office told The Independent: “We are aware of the issue and have now updated”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader and education spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “Liz Truss’s speech was utterly bonkers.

“To suggest that schools had to cut back on reading and writing in the Eighties to teach children about the deep inequalities in our society is both absurd and deeply irresponsible.

“Rather than trying to stoke up another culture war, the Conservative government should give our schools the funding, flexibility and covid testing support they need, before our young people become a lost generation on their watch.”

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “I also went to a (not great) comprehensive school in the 1980s and the idea people were getting taught about racism rather than to read and write is absurd. Unless there was something very specific going on in Leeds I doubt this stands up at all.”

Ms Truss is part of a group of hardline Conservatives MPs from the “Britannia Unchained” group. Along with colleagues such as Priti Patel and Dominic Raab, the MPs’ 2012 eponymous book argued for the application of unrestricted free market policies across government. 

In the redacted speech, Ms Truss has claimed that the UK focused too heavily on “fashionable” race, sexuality, and gender issues at the expense of poverty and geographical disparity.

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