Miriam Cates, member of Parliament of the United Kingdom. / Credit: David Woolfall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
London, England, Apr 22, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Every Wednesday at noon in the House of Commons, the U.K. prime minister stands and faces a line of questioning from the leader of the opposition, followed by politicians of all political colors. This weekly interrogation makes for great entertainment for political junkies and is known as prime minister’s questions (PMQs). It is reputed for its boisterous, brutal, and unforgiving atmosphere.
On March 8, when it was time for PMQs, a quietly confident female rose to her feet, surrounded by a sea of older male faces. The women’s name is Miriam Cates, member of Parliament (MP) for Penistone and Stocksbridge, and she delivered an impassioned speech to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak regarding sex education in U.K. schools.
“Across the country, children are being subjected to lessons that are age-inappropriate, extreme, sexualizing, and inaccurate, often using resources from unregulated organizations that are actively campaigning to undermine parents,” she told the House of Commons. “This is not a victory for equality; it is a catastrophe for childhood.”
So, who is this courageous politician who is bold enough to challenge the status quo and speak out against the U.K.’s sexually permissive educational ethos?
Here’s what you should know about Cates:
1) She is an evangelical Christian and mother of three.
Miriam Cates is a Conservative MP who won the constituency of Penistone and Stocksbridge, in the North of England, in 2019. Cates is 40 years old and an alumna of Cambridge University, where she studied genetics. Before she became a MP, she earned a postgraduate degree in education from Sheffield Hallam University and worked as a science teacher at a local school in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Cates went on to become the finance director of the technology consultancy company Redemption Media, which she co-owns with her husband. They are both evangelical Christians and met each other through their church. They have three children.
2) She has persuaded the U.K. government to launch a review of its Relationship and Sex Education Statutory Guidance (RSESG), the nation’s policy on sex ed in schools.
Cate’s constituency website explains that she has presented the prime minister with a 51-page “dossier of evidence” concerning the state of Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) — the umbrella program for RSESG — in U.K. schools, which she claims has moved from the biological to the ideological.
Following her powerful question to the prime minister on March 8, where she claimed that children were being taught things such as “how to choke your partner safely” and that there are 72 different genders rather than two, Prime Minister Sunak reassured Cates that he would be introducing a review of RSHE statutory guidance.
Cates commented on her website: “Whilst I was pleased at the prime minister’s response in which he committed to bring forward a review of RSHE statutory guidance, I will keep pressing for an independent inquiry into this matter.”
3) She is an outspoken opponent of liberalizing gender recognition laws.
Back in January, the U.K. government blocked highly controversial legislation in Scotland that would allow individuals to change their sex on their birth certificate from the age of 16 without any medical certification or official diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Cates was an outspoken supporter of the U.K. government’s move to derail the contentious legislation, arguing that the bill would have made it “vastly easier” for predators to exploit loopholes in the bill to gain access to women and children.
In a debate in the House of Commons, she said: “We should not be asking how easy it is for someone who is uncomfortable with their sex to obtain a GRC; we should be asking how easy it is for a predator to get access to children. The bill would make it vastly easier for a predator to get access to children by changing their gender with an eye to exploiting loopholes to access children and women in particular.”
Cate’s contribution to the parliamentary debate was so impassioned that it prompted a strong response from a male MP who accused her of transphobia and bigotry, which prompted accusations of misogyny toward Cates from some quarters.
4) She has successfully lobbied the U.K. government to strengthen protections for children online.
Along with MP Sir Bill Cash, Cates successfully lobbied the U.K. government to amend its Online Safety Bill to include potential prison sentences for managers and directors of social media companies who knowingly allow harm to come to children on their platforms. In an article for the Daily Telegraph back in January, Cates explained:
“For children, the internet is a modern Wild West, a lawless and predatory environment where they daily encounter content intended to draw them into self-harm, addiction, and sexual abuse … If you think that tech bosses are going to wake up one morning and suddenly decide to prioritize child safety then I have a bridge to sell you. As regulations for other sectors show, only the threat of personal sanctions for senior managers will drive the significant culture change that is required in Big Tech boardrooms.”
5) She has called for a tax system that incentivizes women to have children.
Cates generated a lot of attention last month when she gave a speech at an event for under-35-year-olds in which she argued that Britain’s tax system penalizes parents. Her comments attracted so much wider discussion that she had to further clarify them, for the publication Politics Home, in which she wrote:
“Over the last few generations, we have privatized family life. Having children is now seen as a personal choice, a luxury, like buying a Porsche. You shouldn’t get one unless you can afford to maintain it … Having children and raising them well is the most significant contribution most of us can make to society. If we care about the success of our nation, we should be doing everything we can to encourage young people to have children and to support them through our tax system as they seek to do a good job of raising the next generation.”
Cates also argued that marriage “is the best institution that societies have developed for the successful raising of children” and pointed out that while marriage in high-income groups has remained high with divorce rates low but among low-income groups, marriage rates have collapsed.
“Marriage has become a middle-class secret and as a political class we have failed to be honest about its advantages for children,” Cates wrote.