New safeguards to prevent statues and monuments from being torn down "on a whim" have resulted in a "turn of the tide", according to the Cabinet minister who introduced the protections.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Robert Jenrick said the recent changes had "made a huge difference already", with councils, charities and heritage organisations now "much more careful" about "bowing to a small number of very vocal people".
"I think that we have seen a turn of the tide," he said. "You’re finding organisations who were subject to abuse, often from a small but very vocal group of people, being able now to know that they’ve got the backing of the law… there is due process that has to be followed. And the Government now has a very, very clear position."
Along with Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, Mr Jenrick has been at the forefront of the Government’s involvement in Britain’s "culture wars", making both ministers lightning rods for criticism of Boris Johnson’s resistance to so-called "cancel culture".
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary also confirms plans, criticised by campaigners for gender-neutral facilities, to require new public buildings to have separate "ladies" and "gents" lavatories.
Robert Jenrick has been at the forefront of the Government's involvement in Britain's 'culture wars'
Credit: Jamie Lorriman
Responding to claims that the move was "transphobic", he insisted: "This was a simple matter of trying to protect the safety and privacy of women.
"Many women who we spoke with, and who participated in the call for evidence that we undertook, said that they would prefer there to be separate ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ loos in public buildings. And so we’re going to change the law so that is the case in all new buildings.
"Women who are using those facilities will have the confidence and security of knowing that if they want to, they can go to their own toilets, and they won’t find other people in them. I think that’s the right thing to do."
Mr Jenrick has been at the centre of the Government’s response to Covid, including last year’s shielding programme for clinically extremely vulnerable patients, helping rough sleepers off the streets and negotiating with councils over local lockdowns.
He appeared to share the optimism of Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, about the prospects of lifting restrictions on June 21.
"Clearly, there are some unknowns out there, and we’re going to consider the data in the coming weeks," he said.
"The Prime Minister will ultimately make the decision as to whether we can proceed with the next step of the roadmap. But he’s been clear that at the moment, it appears as if the data is moving in the right direction, and we should be able to proceed with the next stage of the roadmap."
Mr Jenrick, the youngest member of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet at 39, is responsible for the Government’s proposed planning reforms. Last year, he revised plans for a so-called "mutant" planning algorithm which many Tory backbenchers feared would lead to a surge of house building on greenfield land in their constituencies.
But with the Government’s watered-down proposals still facing significant opposition from backbenchers who view them as a "developers’ charter", Mr Jenrick warned his colleagues to think of the difficulties their children and grandchildren will face as they attempt to become homeowners amid a shortage of properties.
"Those of us who are in Parliament are generally lucky enough to be homeowners. I think most Members of Parliament, most people who campaign on this issue are fortunate enough to be homeowners," he said.
"We have to put ourselves in the shoes of those people who are not, and to think of our children and grandchildren, and how we can do everything in our power to help them to enjoy what we’re currently enjoying."
Mr Jenrick compared the need for new homes following the impact of Covid to Harold Macmillan’s post-war housing drive, stating: "If you think about it … if people came home from the Second World War, and wanted to build a new life, and have a home of their own, and that led to Harold Macmillan, setting out to build more homes.
"We’ve just lived through a period where people have had to spend a year through lockdown and the privations of Covid in their homes, and some people have been able to do that in large and comfortable homes of their own with access to outdoor space, playgrounds and parks around them for their children.
"Others have done so in cramped accommodation, sometimes poor quality accommodation, often rented accommodation where they had no security of tenure. This feels like the moment in which we should tackle this issue."
On Friday Mr Jenrick will launch the first wave of the Government’s "first homes" scheme in Bolsover, Derbyshire, which the Conservatives won from Labour in 2019 for the first time in the constituency’s history. Under the scheme, new properties are being constructed to be sold to first-time buyers and key workers at a 30 per cent discount.
Mr Jenrick has a "personal interest" in rooting out anti-Semitism – his wife is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors – as well as a professional one.
"I’m very concerned by it," he said, adding that he was "horrified" by the sight of anti-Jewish hate being blasted from a vehicle driving through Jewish areas of London earlier this month. Like other senior government figures, he fears that a rise in anti-Semitic incidents may be linked to a resurgence of extremist groups in Britain.
"Some of the themes we’ve seen in recent weeks are more than just casual anti-Semitism, or people who don’t understand what anti-Semitism is and drift into it by accident. I think there were signs of something more pernicious – of extremism," he said. "And that makes my desire to root out extremism even stronger."