Tory Brexiteers refuse to take part in Commons unconscious bias training

(left to right) ERG members Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Mark Francois and Steve B

(left to right) ERG members Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Mark Francois and Steve Baker in Whitehall. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The training focuses on addressing prejudices people may carry without knowing it and has been available since 2016 following multiple allegations of racism and sexism in the Commons.

But Tories from the European Research Group and the “Common Sense Group” of right-leaning MPs said they will not be taking part in the programme, The Times has revealed.

“I would really rather gouge my eyes out with a blunt stick than sir through that Marxist, snake oil crap,” one anonymous backbencher said.

Tom Hunt MP, who narrowly won the seat of Ipswich in 2019, claimed his constituents would not “want me to waste two hours on a pointless unconscious bias session that will have no effectiveness whatsoever”.

Last week, Tory MP Ben Bradley said he would persuade colleagues not to attend, adding that MPs should be “unabashed of our cultural conservatism” and resist the “woke” agenda promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement and others.

Writing on the Conservative Home website, Bradley said: “Nobody doubts that racism exists and can make life more challenging for some people. Nor that sexism exists, [or] ageism and discrimination across a whole spectrum. That much is true.


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“What I doubt here is that these things are somehow buried deep in all of our subconscious, steering us at every turn, and that with the help of some genius ‘educator’ I can be cured of my unseen evil. I’m yet to see the evidence of it achieving a great deal, apart from big profits for the training company.

“There’s something deeply undemocratic about it too, in my view. I’m elected to this place to represent my constituents. To share their thoughts and views with the House. We’ve already seen through the Brexit debates how the views of Leave voters were characterised as racist and unacceptable, and now we’re to be ‘educated’ about which views are appropriate for us to speak about.”

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Boris Johnson has said Britons must avoid “self-recrimination and general wetness” about their British identity.

Speaking amid the row over the BBC’s Last night of the Proms, the prime minister said: “I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture.”

Labour has already introduced unconscious bias training for all its staff.

According to the Daily Mail, parliament has paid £7,000 to the Challenge Consultancy to design the training for MPs. The London-based company reportedly “uses a giant blue puppet called UB” as part of the course and says that clients who have undertaken similar training include “people managers at the BBC”, as well as Bafta and Oscar judges.

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