A TORY MP referred to a conspiracy theory with an "antisemitic" link in a chilling speech at a conservative conference in Westminster on Monday.

Miriam Cates, the MP for Peniston and Stocksbridge, claimed “cultural Marxism” is “destroying our children’s souls” and causing self-harm, suicide and “epidemic levels of anxiety”.

The term "cultural Marxism" refers to a conspiracy theory often associated with the far right and antisemitism, which claims that Marxist scholars devised a manipulative programme of progressive politics to undermine Western democracies. 

In 2019, now Home Secretary Suella Braverman was condemned by The Board of Deputies of British Jews for using the term. 

A spokesperson said "the term ‘cultural Marxist’ has a history as an antisemitic trope", and called on Braverman to clarify her remarks.

Asked by Jewish News this week if he would link the phrase to antisemitism, the Government’s independent adviser on antisemitism Lord Mann said: "It is antisemitism."

He added that it was “just not appropriate for a parliamentarian to be using a term such as this".

Cates made her comments while giving one of the opening speeches at the National Conservatism Conference, and said that young people would not have children if they did not have “hope for the future”.

She added: “That hope is sadly diminishing in so many of our young people today, because liberal individualism has proven to be completely powerless to resist the cultural Marxism that is systematically destroying our children’s souls.

“When culture, schools and universities openly teach that our country is racist, our heroes are villains, humanity is killing the Earth, you are what you desire, diversity is theology, boundaries are tyranny and self-restraint is oppression, is it any wonder that mental health conditions, self-harm and suicide, and epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion characterise the emerging generation?”

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She added: “We must end the indoctrination of our children with destructive and narcissistic ideologies, instead protecting childhood, training children in the timeless virtues and teaching them how to love our country.”

The former biology teacher also used her speech to argue that falling birth rates were “the one overarching threat to British conservatism and indeed the whole of Western society”.

The UK’s birth rate has fallen over the past decade from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to 1.6 in 2021, although that was a slight rise compared with 2020.

A fertility rate of under 2.1 children per woman is considered to be below the “replacement rate” and means populations will shrink without immigration. According to the ONS, the UK last had a birth rate above 2 in 1973.

As well as economic barriers to having children – including expensive housing, mounting student debt and a lack of support for childbearing in the tax and benefits systems – she said society had ceased to value children and parenthood properly.

“You cannot be socially liberal and economically conservative. If you think that government and society should have nothing to say about the conditions that promote strong families, don’t be surprised if you end up with a high-tax, high-spend economy, with a nation of broken people dependent on the state.”

She also attacked efforts to encourage women back into work quickly after giving birth, saying it “undermined” motherhood, and said current childcare policies treated mothers as “GDP contributors” who should “outsource their child to the state”.

She added: “People do what others value and so, as conservatives, we must seek to restore the value of children in British society.

“For children are not an economic burden. They are not a threat to personal autonomy or a lifestyle choice. Children are a joy and a blessing, they are the symptom and the cause of a society that has hope.

“Our children are the reason that we seek to rebuild a nation whose future is prosperous, safe and free.”

Yoram Hazony, the conference chairman and an orthodox Jewish theologian, defended Cates and said the term 'cultural marxism' is “apt”.

He said: “I deplore this attempt to smear a friend of the Jews such as Miriam Cates with the utterly preposterous accusation of antisemitism.

“The term ‘cultural Marxism’ is an apt phrase to describe the cultural agenda promoted by many on the left today. The Edmund Burke Foundation offers no platform to antisemites. We are proud to number Miriam Cates among our speakers and friends.”