Miriam Cates: the new Tory “darling” and right-wing star 2023

On weekday lunchtimes, Conservative backbencher Miriam Cates plays piano for a Christian MP chapel service in Westminster Hall.

She spoke at the National Conservatism conference this week.

Cates was the first key speaker, charged with rallying hundreds of people to support a socially conservative agenda and persuade the Tory party to take a tougher position on immigration and family values.

While cabinet members seized the spotlight, backbenchers like Cates—a rising right-wing star—put pressure on the government.

Cates was unapologetic about her generation’s biggest policy issue: the UK’s birthrate. She protested declining fertility, mass brainwashing of children, and family-unfriendly tax policies.

Danny Kruger, a 2019er and close ally, branded Cates “the darling of the party” and said, “She is the mainstream.” A government frontbencher said she had “tried to drag the party back to the dark ages on morality issues” and done a “tremendous job” rallying MPs against her.

She can remain a vocal backbencher as one of the few new MPs who has not chosen an unpaid post as parliamentary private secretary, the first step to becoming a minister.

A minister stated Miriam is one of the few who will go above and beyond. Many of us agree with her.

Cates, a former biology teacher, drew attention and criticism for opposing self-identity rights for transgender individuals and supporting efforts to abolish a Covid-era regulation that permitted abortion drugs to be returned home.

She’s been called a culture fighter yet has a loyal following.

Some call Cates a cultural fighter for her work with the Common Sense Group and co-founding the New Social Covenant Unit to advocate family-friendly legislation.

She has a loyal following, several of whom contacted the Guardian after she was interviewed.

Cates’ effort to evaluate sex and relationships teaching in schools “particularly impressed” equalities minister and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch.

They said Cates “convinced the PM that it needed serious reform” and ran “a coordinated campaign… which shows her ability to muster people to her cause and the support she has across parliament”.

Former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom dubbed Cates “fantastic” for supporting early years education, while veteran Brexiter Bill Cash branded her “one of the most diligent MPs I have come across in my 39 years in the House”.

Cates was the keynote speaker at a Women2Win event this week pushing more women to run for government.

She drives home to Penistone and Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire, every Wednesday evening to complete the school run for her three children.

“Miriam’s a mum first, a northerner second, and politician third,” remarked one ally.

Cates is a pious mother.

“Faith was part of everything we lived and breathed,” she said in a Theos podcast in August 2021. Cates sits on parliament’s ecclesiastical committee, which investigates the Church of England.

She has been compared to Kate Forbes, the SNP MP who ran for party leadership but whose passionate religious views were considered out of date by most of her party.

Cates hailed Forbes “incredibly brave” after her criticism. In a Christian Institute interview, the Tory MP mentioned former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who was criticized for calling homosexual intercourse a sin.

“I get so many emails from Christians and many others thanking me for taking a stand on these things and that does really keep you going,” she told the gathering last month.

Given current polls, Cates is likely to fight harder for the Conservative party to adopt a socially conservative platform to maintain her seat.

She will alienate colleagues already uneasy with her arguments. “We don’t represent modern people if we carry on down that route,” said a senior Tory.

Cates may learn early on that polarizing colleagues is risky.

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