In response, Dowden explained that whenever he intervened in issues in his former role as culture secretary he said to himself: “Am I standing in the way of change, in a reactionary way?”.
“And I genuinely do not believe that is the case,” he concluded.
“And if you take one example, statues and pulling down statues, you would think from a small but vocal minority that that was the desire of the Black British community. Actually, research shows that 84% of Black Britons don’t want us to do that.”
His answer referred to a report by the Henry Jackson Society which found only one in six Black people believed tearing down statues to be a legitimate form of protest – not specifically whether they believed they should be taken down.
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The same study showed that 58 per cent of people from Black British backgrounds believed the UK was racist, double that of the general population (29 per cent).
“What worries me about some of this woke argument is that it’s actually reinterpreting our history to the point of saying we should see shame when we used to see pride in these things,” Dowden said.
He referred to people of colour in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, such as Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel, as examples of “Conservative opportunity in action”.
The only people who benefit from “attacking our fundamental values” are “the authoritarian regimes who have a very different view on democracy and freedom”, Dowden added.
The party co-chair previously suggested statues of “our national heroes like Nelson, Gladstone and Churchill” were under threat as a result of “woke” bullying, championing the protection of “taxpayers’ interests”.