Conservative Conference: ‘Go too woke, risk going broke’ Dowden warns taxpayer-backed groups

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden wearing a Tory Scum badge during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden wearing a Tory Scum badge during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester

Mr Dowden warned that some cultural organisations were “responding too much to this noisy and aggressive brigade of activists” who criticised aspects of British history.

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Oliver Dowden has stepped up his attack on “woke” culture with a warning to Government-funded organisations they could lose cash.

The Tory chairman, who was culture secretary until September’s reshuffle, said: “If they go too woke, they risk going broke”.

At a Conservative Party conference fringe event he was challenged by one activist about his culture war and “anti-woke rhetoric” but Mr Dowden insisted his interventions were not “reactionary”.

Mr Dowden warned that some cultural organisations were “responding too much to this noisy and aggressive brigade of activists” who criticised aspects of British history.

“Organisations need robust leadership to stand up to that aggressive campaigning because ultimately they need to be careful. If they go too woke, they risk going broke and they just need to tread that line very carefully,” Mr Dowden said.

“They have to demonstrate why they justify the funding.”

At the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics event, Mr Dowden was challenged by Albie Amankona, co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality.

Mr Amanokna asked: “Was women’s suffrage woke? Was universal suffrage woke? Were gay rights woke? We couldn’t even suggest that people didn’t boo our national football team on the global stage.

“My question is, have we learnt anything from the progress of the last 100 years?“

Mr Dowden responded: “When I make interventions in this area, I genuinely ask myself exactly that question – am I just standing in the way of change in a reactionary way?

“I genuinely do not believe that is the case.”

At the event, Mr Dowden also defended his Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot, whose business and fundraising activities have come under intense scrutiny following cash-for-access allegations.

“Ben is a fantastic man and one of the great fundraisers of the Conservative Party,” he said.

Mr Dowden also defended party donors, saying “it has always been the case that there have conversations between members and the leadership, donors and the leadership, councillors and the leadership – they are all part of the Conservative family”.

He added: “Most people give money to political parties as part of their civic duty and a civic sense of responsibility.”

The party chairman donned a badge saying “Tory scum” in reference to deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner’s attack on the Conservatives during her conference in Brighton.

“I think it’s a sign of their lack of belief in themselves that they have to resort to this kind of name calling,” he said.

“I would call Labour deeply misguided individuals who would bankrupt our country if they ever get back in power again.”