‘Shouldn’t Get Bullied Into Believing People Can be Any Sex, Man is Man and Woman is Woman…’: UK PM – News18

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said people “shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be”. “A man is a man, and a woman is a woman; that’s just common sense,” he said to loud cheers from the audience as he spoke for more than an hour during the all-important annual conference of the Conservative Party.

Sunak kickstarted his election campaign positioning the Tories as a force of “change” even after 13 years in power and increasing disaffection among voters. He promised the Conservatives will be “bold and radical” and break the mould of the last 30 years of government.

“We will be bold, we will be radical. We will face resistance and we will meet it,” he told delegates in what is being dubbed as the most important speech of his political career nearly a year after he took charge as Tory leader.

He said: “We will give the country what it sorely needs and yet too often has been denied,” adding that, “it’s time for change and we are it.”

The conference, which began on Sunday (October 1), has seen the Conservatives try to put clear water between themselves and the main opposition Labour party. That has included stoking “culture war” issues such as the environment and trans rights.

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According to opinion polls, however, the Conservatives are on course for defeat at the next vote indicating that they have a mountain to climb if they are to secure a sixth consecutive term of office. A new Savanta poll published before Sunak took to the stage put Labour out in front by 20 percentage points, with the prime minister trailing Labour’s Keir Starmer in the personal popularity stakes by 12 points.

‘UK not a racist country’

During his speech, Sunak also used his own elevation as UK’s first Indian-origin PM as proof that the country is not racist and that his skin colour was not a “big deal”. “Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not,” he said.

“My story is a British story. A story about how a family can go from arriving here with little to Downing Street in three generations,” he added.

He went on to point to his frontline cabinet members in the audience, among them Indian-origin home secretary Suella Braverman and energy secretary Claire Coutinho, as reflective of what the Tories offer migrant families, including “even the chance to become prime minister”.

Reflecting on when he was first chosen by the local Conservative Association to contest from the stronghold of Richmond in North Yorkshire, a seat he has held as MP since his win in 2015, Sunak claimed people in other countries could not understand it.

“I am proud to be the first British Asian Prime Minister, but you know what, I’m even prouder that it’s just not a big deal. And just remember: it was the Conservative Party who made that happen, not the [Opposition] Labour Party,” he said.

‘Never be afraid to talk about family’

Sunak’s speech was peppered with major policy announcements. He confirmed rumours that he will scrap the second leg of the HS2 rail project between Birmingham in central England and Manchester. “I’m cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place we will reinvest every single penny, £36 billion ($43.6 billion), in hundreds of new transport projects in the north, in the Midlands, across the country,” he said.

Manchester had been due to be a terminus for the massive infrastructure project, which has been plagued by huge cost and delivery overruns.

With his speech largely focused on domestic life, Sunak also mentioned that one should never be afraid to talk about what is most important to them – and that is family. He also proposed a tougher crackdown on smoking, with a New Zealand-style model of raising the minimum age on the sale of cigarettes by one year every year.

“I propose that in future we raise the smoking age by one year, every year. That means a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they — and their generation — can grow up smoke free. We know this works,” he said.

The PM also spoke about educational reforms as he promised to introduce a new Baccalaureate-style qualification in England – a combination of academic and technical courses, increasing teaching time and subjects taught including compulsory mathematics and English.

“We will introduce the new rigorous, knowledge rich Advanced British Standard which will bring together A-Levels and T-Levels into a new, single qualification for our school leavers. First, this will finally deliver on the promise of parity of esteem between academic and technical education because all students will sit the Advanced British Standard. Second, we will raise the floor, ensuring that our children leave school literate and numerate because with the Advanced British Standard all students will study some form of English and maths to 18, with extra help for those who struggle most,” he said.

Sunak is a former finance minister, who was only voted in as Tory leader last October by party members. He has to call an election by January 2025 at the latest but speculation is rife about when he might seek to confirm his party’s mandate with the wider electorate.

He has taken charge at a time when the UK is battling sky-high inflation, which has caused a cost-of-living crisis and deep industrial unrest.

(With agency inputs)

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