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Oliver Dowden gave a speech earlier this week in which he warned that western civilisation is in danger – if totalitarian China, woke Twitter mobs, social justice warriors, Churchill statue defacers, a revisionist blob and moral relativists aren’t fought and beaten.

Why did he give it?  After all, the co-Party Chairman is no longer Culture Secretary, the post from which he occasionally fired off volleys of shots in the culture war.  I offer three reasons.

First, he was in the United States and his venue was the Heritage Foundation.  To what audience can one invoke the spirit of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s resolve if not to a conservative American think-tank?

Second, Dowden’s job has a lower profile than it did, and he wouldn’t mind a bump in this site’s Cabinet League Table.  This explanation comes, as we say in the trade, from several sources.

Third, some of those near the top of the Government truly believe, as Dowden does, that modern Britain is challenged by “a dangerous form of decadence”, as he put it.

At any rate, the Conservative Party took his speech seriously enough to e-mail it to Party members, unaccompanied by the standard requests for money.

Dowden’s sweeping vista suggests a Spenglarian response but, instead of offering one, I’ll say only that he is right to be “standing up for our values”, as the headline in the Party’s e-mail put it…

…Before adding that the proof of the pudding is in the etcetera.  And illustrate the point by asking: what’s the Government’s view of the Sewell Report?

You will remember that the report of the Commission on Racial Disparities, which Tony Sewell chaired, was ferociously assailed by some of the forces that Dowden criticised.

This was doubtless because the report was “so commonsensical but consensus-challenging that we’re surprised it was allowed to happen,” as I put it at the time.

The commensensical elements of Sewell lay in the detail of its recommendations, which would have been applauded in the pages of the Guardian had those writing been unaware of the source.

Improve training to provide police officers with practical skills to interact with communities…Advance fairness in the workplace Increase legitimacy and accountability of stop and search through body-worn video…”

So far, so conventional.  Now to the consensus-challenging part of Sewell, which lay less in its headline recommendations than its philosophical framework.

It argued that not all ethnic minorities are similarly placed, that BAME is a term that obscures more than it reveals, that the charge of  “institutional racism” is over-deployed, and that “decolonising the curriculum” should be resisted.

The Government might not have commissioned Sewell at all were it not for Munira Mirza, the culturally-aware Head of the Number Ten Policy Unit until her recent resignation.

For different people near the top of this administration have diverse views, and Boris Johnson’s statement on Sewell was distinctly tepid.

“It is now right that the Government considers [its] recommendations in detail,” he said of the report.  That was the best part of a year ago.  When will we get a formal response?

I understand that Ministers will issue one by March 31, the anniversary of the Prime Minister’s statement (a Ukraine war and police reports permitting).

Kemi Badenoch will make an accompanying statement in the Commons, but the friends of this most un-politically correct of Ministers are keen she do more.

She might write a substantial piece or give a substantial interview or make a substantial speech – the best option of the three, all considered, if they’re to be mutually exclusive.

What might be in it and where’s the beef?  The answer will be a test of the new Downing Street, and may turn on three Ministers beside the Prime Minister himself: Badenoch, Michael Gove and Steve Barclay.

I’m told that Badenoch will want to “hug the report”, and decommission the explosive cocktail of disparities and grievances, or try to.

She’s now a Minister in Gove’s department, so he will have a say in the response. His instinct as so often will be to get to first principles.

When Education Secretary, these included challenging, as George W.Bush once put it, “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

Gove’s argument was that it is those near the bottom of the ladder who suffer most when rails of opportunity are wrenched out of it.

Free schools, academies and exam reform were part of his mission to “level up”, to use language Ministers didn’t at the time, and it is well worth clocking who still has the greatest distance to climb.

“Attainment is closely related to socio-economic status…all major ethnic groups perform better than White British pupils except for Black Caribbean pupils (with the Pakistani ethnic group at about the same level).”

So said Sewell, and the Government, taking its cue from Gove, will surely make the case that truly conservative policies (higher home ownership, freer schools, family-friendly taxation) benefit poorer people most.

But what happens when one element of this programme conflicts with another?  For example, if a school wants to teach white children that they gain from “white privilege”?

Nadhim Zahawi is currently wrestling with a form of this problem in response to Brighton and Hove Council adopting five-year “anti-racist schools strategies” based on critical race theory.

The Education Secretary is rushing out new guidance – as he should if there are to be some non-negotiable requirements for what state schools teach.

But the Government is clearly playing whack-a-mole in this context and in others.  Whether or not it responds more systematically may depend on Steve Barclay.

Dominic Raab is Deputy Prime Minister in name and Gove has arguably been so in fact – given the reach which levelling up has across Whitehall.

But the latest iteration of Downing Street suggests that the baton has now been passed to Barclay, who as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff is now “clothed in immense power”.

He has written this week that “cutting back the size of the state must be a priority” – which comes as news to me, at least as far as this Government has been concerned to date.

Talking of a smaller state, Barclay will be working with Andrew Griffith, Mirza’s replacement as Head of the Policy Unit, who has strong views on economic growth but whose take on cultural struggle is unknown.

If Badenoch wants to defuse a dangerous cocktail, it is Barclay who must ensure that she has the instruments for the job and that Zahawi is backed up.

For example, Amanda Spielman and Ofsted could be tasked with giving greater priority to ensuring that schools found to be teaching critical race theory are held to account.

Pressure on Boris Johnson from his backbenchers over national insurance, fracking and small boats are signs that Conservative MPs believe that policy is up for grabs amidst partygate-driven turmoil.

Dowden has spoken out abroad but how Barclay acts at home will be crucial.  We are about to find out what the Prime Minister’s new top team is made of.