Florida’s rightwing governor, Ron DeSantis, has backed UK business secretary Kemi Badenoch in taking on what he calls “the woke”.
DeSantis, who is expected to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential electoin, met Badenoch and foreign secretary James Cleverly on a visit to London this week.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, DeSantis said Badenoch had offered her support for his “war on woke”, which has included a bitter legal battle with Disney after the company questioned a Florida law aimed at limiting discussion of homosexuality and gender in schools.
DeSantis said: “She complimented what we are doing in Florida. She committed that it is what they are trying to do in Britain. She pointed out, and I think it’s true, that some of the woke has been exported from the United States.”
“I commend her and her efforts to make sure that this is not corrupting British society.” His staff tweeted a picture of him and Badenoch, describing them as “two great conservative fighters on a mission”.
Some of DeSantis’s views would be considered far outside mainstream UK politics – he recently signed a law to ban abortion in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy, for example.
He won a landslide re-election to the governorship last year and describes his state as “where woke goes to die”. He has not yet formally announced his candidacy for next year’s presidential race but is widely expected to stand.
DeSantis told the Sunday Telegraph: “At the end of the day you cannot have a successful society if it is being operated by woke ideology. It is fundamentally at odds with reality and facts and truths, and ultimately a society needs to be grounded in truth.”
The Florida governor has taken his battle against what he sees as leftwing ideology well beyond the traditional political sphere – accusing companies with environmental, social and corporate governance policies of trying to use economic power to “impose a political agenda”, for example.
“We always just assumed that all these other institutions in society were healthy, whether that’s corporate America, academia or all these other things. Now there is just more of a realisation that you can win an election, and we won an election big in Florida, and yet the left can still impose its agenda through these other arteries of society, and that’s a problem,” he said.
Some of his interventions have echoes in the UK, where the Conservative government has waded into rows over issues including historic statues, free speech at universities and the National Trust.
DeSantis said he agreed with Badenoch’s theory that what he sees as woke ideology had been partly imported to the UK from the US. “It’s like you are sitting here in the UK trying to just do right and then all of a sudden you have this dump,” he said, accusing US “elites” of “pushing that outside of our borders”.
Badenoch ran in last summer’s Tory leadership contest, and is widely seen as a potential future candidate. Her campaign heavily featured culture war issues, including the claim that civil servants had tried to block a policy of providing single sex toilets in public buildings. She holds the equalities brief alongside her post as secretary of state for business and trade.
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