A Conservative MP has been criticised for suggesting anyone using the term “white privilege” should be reported to the Home Office as an extremist.
The Independent has obtained a leaked recording in which Jonathan Gullis says anti-racism campaigners using the term should be referred to the government’s Prevent programme – which is meant to track down potential terrorists.
Mr Gullis, who made the comments in front of an invited audience of Tory activists at a late-night event last week, was branded “dangerously authoritarian” and urged to withdraw his remarks.
During a question time session on the fringes of his party’s conference Mr Gullis, who until recently sat on parliament’s education committee, also said Labour-supporting teachers that criticise the Tories should be sacked.
“The term white privilege – very quickly – is an extremist term, it should be reported to Prevent, because it is an extremist ideology,” he told the activists.
“It’s racist to actually suggest everyone who’s white somehow is riddled with privilege.”
The Home Office’s Prevent programme was set up to counter violent extremism and stop people from sympathising with terrorism – but it has been criticised for restricting freedom of expression and institutionalising anti-Muslim racism.
Mr Gullis, who was speaking at an event organised by the Conservative Friends of Education, added: “I hope [using the term white privilege] will be reported, I hope that will be looked into, and any teacher who’s perpetuated it in the classroom ultimately should face a disciplinary hearing at the very least.”
Speaking at the same event, the Stoke MP promised “consequences” for left-wing teachers, telling the audience: “The other way we can stop the cancel culture is by actually saying to the woke left lecturers and the woke left teachers – who seem to becoming more and more apparent – is that ultimately, what’s going to happen if you are going to push your ideology in the classroom, there are going to be consequences for you.”
He added: “For some reason if a Labour Party member wants to stand up in front of the classroom and say how bad and evil the Tories are, then the headteacher has to take some kind of sympathetic view to that. It’s absolutely disgusting, we need to start sacking people who are pushing their political ideology.”
Labour MP Dawn Butler told The Independent: “For a member of parliament and recent member of the Education Select Committee to show such ignorance is as shocking as it is dangerous.
“To insist that anyone using the term white privilege should be referred to the counterterrorism Prevent course is not only bizarre, it is dangerously authoritarian and from a dystopian philosophy.
“Jonathan Gullis must withdraw his comments immediately and apologise for his insensitive and frankly offensive remarks.”
White privilege is the idea that a person who is white benefits from inherent advantages in a society where racism exists.
The Independent understands that the concept of white privilege is not considered an indicator of extremism by Home Office officials, and would not be used as a threshold for intervention by the Prevent programme.
Mr Gullis is far from the first Conservative MP to make extreme remarks on the subject of anti-racism.
His MP colleague Tom Hunt previously claimed the Black Lives Matter movement wants to abolish the family, while attorney general Suella Braverman has referenced the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory.
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has meanwhile railed against “critical race theory”, an amorphous term that has gained currency in right-wing circles to push back against a new wave of anti-racism.
But some Tories are uncomfortable at their party’s shift towards radical right-wing rhetoric. Party chair Oliver Dowden was challenged by party activists at the conference who criticised his “anti-woke rhetoric” and the government’s pursuit of draconian legislation “antithetical” to Tory values.
Meanwhile Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, told a fringe event: “[Woke] now means so many things to so many different people, it’s becoming an increasingly diverse term that is somewhat devoid of value.
“And we need more sophisticated, more nuanced ways of talking about this stuff – because, otherwise, we will be trapped into a debate that doesn’t work in the way that we need to.”
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