Starmer’s disastrous Pride

by Rob Marchant

It was all going so well.

Keir Starmer, having made it intact through his first year of leadership, had managed – admittedly, not entirely by design – to remove the toxic presence of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, from the party and win back a majority on the party’s ruling NEC. And even in the face of an unprecedented “vaccine bounce” for the current occupant of No. 10, he was nevertheless starting to be seen as Labour’s most serious leader in more than a decade, whether or not his electoral ship might come in in 2023-24.

His recent “soul-baring” interview with the ever-dreadful Piers Morgan, which could have turned out so badly, ended up showing him in a positive light, as a genuine and humble everyman, in a way neither of his two predecessors could have ever achieved.

All in all, a creditable first year: albeit with much left to do, not least on the unpleasant nitty-gritty of eliminating anti-Semitism.

Yes, it was all going so well – until last week. The week he decided to alienate a large swathe of women in his own party and many thousands outside it.

A little background: during the last two weeks, the following things happened.

One. The boss of Stonewall – which, despite being an overtly political organisation, still provides a system of diversity accreditation to hundreds of public and private bodies in the UK – compared the idea of being “gender-critical” – essentially, to insist on the immutability of biological sex – to anti-Semitism, not only a woefully wrong but an abhorrent comparison.

Almost immediately afterwards, Equalities minister Liz Truss followed the lead of the EHRC and recommended withdrawal for government departments, and a former list of 900-plus Stonewall Diversity Champions is now diminishing rapidly.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this move. Stonewall, during prior decades a hugely-respected organisation, which did much to bring about the liberalisation of laws on homosexuality during the last Labour government, seems now to be so broken that it is difficult seeing it survive through to the end of the decade – at least, not without a huge shake-up in its management and culture. A seeming obsession with trans campaigning above all other facets of lesbian, gay and bi politics has driven many to a new organisation, the LGB Alliance.

And that is not to mention training given by Stonewall according to guidelines that go far beyond what the 2010 Equalities Act actually stipulates, making them look ignorant of the law as it is, as well as conveniently forgetting its special protections for women.

LGBT+ Labour, an organisation which has often taken its moral cues from Stonewall, is also compromised and in trouble.

But Stonewall’s attitude of “agree with us or you’re a transphobe” is proving toxic to the debate about how far trans rights should go without harming the rights of others, particularly women.

This stance has not been without consequence. Former Stonewall founders Simon Fanshawe and Matthew Parris have, more in sorrow than in anger, gravitated towards a more LGB- than LGBT+-oriented version of minority rights. And, to state the bleedin’ obvious, it is hardly transphobic merely to suggest that the gay rights struggle and the trans rights struggle have different challenges and different ends.

Two. Last Thursday, policy analyst Maya Forstater won her appeal against her employer, the Centre for Global Development, which had dispensed with her services after her tweets declared her gender-critical views. It was loudly applauded by many Labour women who had been following the case, one with major implications for freedom of speech in this area, as Mr Justice Choudhury’s judgement highlighted.

The previous day had been the day of Starmer’s intervention. It was not being caught off guard in an interview, no: it was a fully-”premeditated” piece to camera for Pride Month, reaffirming support for trans self-id.

Perhaps no-one should be really surprised at this: although he did not go as far as his leadership rivals Nandy or Long-Bailey, he offered support for this position last March in the run-up to becoming leader, and then reiterated it last December.

But the situation has moved on since then: the Keira Bell case of a young, detransitioned woman suing the UK´s premier hospital for gender reassignment cast light on the fact that teenagers and younger were being offered puberty-blocker drugs when clearly not at an age to make informed consent. That is, potentially making life-changing decisions about their future sex lives when not remotely at an age to actually have sex.

The Bell case also showed that, when trans lobbying comes up against the current law in a British court, it is often found crashingly wanting, and Forstater’s win last week has only reinforced that impression. One would have thought that a former Director of Public Prosecutions might have noticed this.

Or, for that matter, the patent possibility of moral hazard with self-id, and the safeguarding issues that might result. As Fanshawe put it last week on the Today programme: “we have safeguarding for children not because all adult males are paedophiles…we have it because of the very small number of kids who need to be protected.” The same goes for women-only shelters or prisons.

Let’s take a moment to explain what self-id actually means: it means that someone no longer requires a legally-recognised Gender Recognition Certificate to be treated in law as a member of the opposite sex. In particular, it means that any biological man who “feels like” a woman, may elect to declare themselves as such, and have a legal right access to all-female toilets; all-female prisons; all-female domestic abuse shelters; all-female competitive sport.

Although some of these things are becoming de facto rights (e.g. the Olympic committee is allowing trans women to compete as women, despite countless studies confirming the superior strength of a male body even years after hormone treatment), none are so far actually enshrined in British law and are therefore challengeable.

What did Labour women think about this act of video solidarity by their new leader? Not a lot, it would seem, for many.

Now, there are some such as Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who have been vocal in favour of self-id. But many, many female Labour MPs who are not are nevertheless simply too afraid about the pile-ons they invite by the act of speaking out against.

And if you want to have a good indicator of how many support gender-critical ideas against the radical trans lobby and are fed up of being browbeaten, you need look no further than the fact that Rosie Duffield, seen by many of the radical trans left as their bête noire, was last month re-elected as Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party. This self-evidently would not have happened were a majority of women MPs not seriously unconvinced by the party’s current position on trans rights.

Why is this? Well, it´s pretty straightforward. First, women are concerned that they are not being consulted about the encroachment of biological males, however harmless the majority may be, in their safe spaces. Or that they find it unfair that they should be able to compete in women’s sports with superior physical strength.

But second, and more disturbingly, is use of language. Language – especially pronouns – has become so important that the very words “woman” and “mother” are steadily being removed from the lexicon, to be replaced by such idiocies as “vagina-haver” or “birthing parent”, so as not to upset those who do not share in those physical attributes. Data on sex is being changed in databases, or not kept at all and replaced with “gender”, a construct Stonewall want to be self-defining.

If this is not an erasure of women in an entirely non-hyperbolical use of the word “Orwellian”, it is difficult to see what is.

And data, a dull subject, is it not? Not so here. In Health, Education and other government departments, we soon may not have records on who is actually a genetic male or female, with predictably terrifying consequences of researchers trying to make sense of statistics, and the risks of who may die of what. For example, how do you contact a biological male over prostate testing, if you don´t actually know they are male?

Finally, it is not enough merely to ignore this issue and assume it will eventually go away. Women are being piled onto on social media, publicly shamed and, in some instances, sacked from their jobs, for merely disagreeing with the prevailing orthodoxy.

And it is this, the complete shutdown of debate and the immediate assumption of bigotry and bad faith on the part of the gender-critical, that is more than anything going to lead Stonewall and others off a cliff (and that is even before we start with the very real and tricky safeguarding issues relating to children and vulnerable young adults, particularly those with autism).

Now, it is unusual for Uncut to find itself on the same side of an argument as both Liz Truss and Ruth Serwotka, but here we are.

It is not an understatement to say that there are now women across the left, from the moderate left to the hard left, who are livid. These women are not bigots. They are women with reasonable doubts who are being told to shut up: by a small number of women and a seemingly larger number of men.

Furthermore, for moderate women who have already put up with five years of Corbynite agression, often tinged with misogyny, it is particularly galling to suddenly find that the party’s new leader, whom many have seen as the light at the end of the tunnel, lining up with the very people trying to erase them – biological women – as a group with a unique shared experience.

Yes, it is an international issue. The governments of Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Norway, New Zealand and the US are all well-advanced along the road to self-id or there already, and are seemingly less well-positioned than the UK to turn back to sanity. In that sense, we are lucky.

Yes, we know that this is not an issue high on UK voters’ priorities. But that stance is in itself a cop-out: there are issues of morality or of credibility which still count at elections if you are on the wrong side of them. Even at sixteen, I could see that Michael Foot would never win an election while he had unilateral disarmament on his manifesto ticket. This is heading to be the same kind of touchstone issue.

Starmer’s problem is not – as of now – the portion of the electorate who will see him as firmly on the wrong side of an argument which will very likely end in scandal and disgrace for those involved, not to mention actual harm for many (especially children) on the receiving end of this new orthodoxy, disturbing though that is.

His immediate problem is the women who resigned from the party last week and others whose memberships are now hanging by a thread. The women who feel that he has failed to support them.

This, do not doubt it, is an inflection point. If Starmer’s attitude to those women, who have stuck it out through five very troubled years, turns out to be “let them go”, he can genuinely say goodbye to this election. And the next one and the one after that.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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26 Responses to “Starmer’s disastrous Pride”

  1. Anne says:

    I am very surprised that the Olympic committee has agreed to allow trans women to compete as women. Why bother then to have drug tests. Trans women will have developed muscle mass prior to transition- this would be irreversible surely. Therefore giving trans women great advantage in a competitive field. Women work very hard when training for their chosen sport even at club level. This does not seem to be a level playing field. There will be many top sports women who will speak out against this. This affects all women’s sports – tennis, golf, cycling, athletics – all of them.
    The Kiera Bell case should be a warning to medics regarding prescribing and even surgery. Parental consent would be required if under 16 years.
    This issue is certainly raising questions. Perhaps more information from ‘the science’ is required before more legal action is inevitable.

  2. Alf says:

    Starmer is hopeless. The simple fact is that he just isn’t any good at politics.

  3. Harry Goldstein says:

    An excellent article.. However, I tried to link to it on Facebook and I got the following message:

    This URL goes against our Community Standards on spam:
    To protect people on Facebook from spam, we don’t allow content that contains such URLs.

    Were you aware that this censorship was going on?

  4. Dave Roberts says:

    A balanced article which is in tune with the long delayed backlash against all forms of PCism. Expect to find yourselves de-platformed.

  5. Thomas Montesquieu says:

    ‘Women are being piled onto on social media, publicly shamed and, in some instances, sacked from their jobs, for merely disagreeing with the prevailing orthodoxy.’

    Is the Labour Party really starting to recognise the value of free speech? Now there’s a turnaround.

  6. michael says:

    Organisations seem to have a survival instinct.
    There is no significant level of homophobia to battle against, hence the transmutation into this (ironically) misogynist campaign.

    We see the exact same process in the hysterical reactions to Tony Sewell’s race report. Too many people make a life out of victimhood that they don’t want to know the truth.
    How many people know, for instance, that black teens are 24x more likely to be killed by other black teens than comparable white kids?

    Stonewall should admit the truth. The gay debate is over. Pack up and get a proper job.

  7. Tafia says:

    If it’s still got the various bits and pieces of the anatomy it was born with, then that’s what it is. What it says it is is neither here nor there. Somebody in a skirt and make-up with a cock and bollocks is a bloke in drag. It is not a woman. We have already seen wone instance of serious sex crime in a female prison carried out by a man claiminhg he’s a woman.

    Anne – . Trans women will have developed muscle mass prior to transition- this would be irreversible surely. Therefore giving trans women great advantage in a competitive field. Unusually correct for once. Look at the case of Fallon Fox, a MMA/Cage Fighter who transitioned from man to woman, bacame a fighter, fighting just one as an amateur before switching ‘pro’ then went on to have 6 professional fights. She seriously injured 5 of her opponents (‘normal’ women) giving two of them life-changing injuries. In one, against Tamikka Brents on September 13, 2014, Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head all inside the opening two minutes of the 1st round. UFC official Joe Rogan siad: “First of all, she’s not really a she. She’s a transgender, post-op person. The operation doesn’t shave down your bone density. It doesn’t change. You look at a man’s hands and you look at a woman’s hands and they’re built different. They’re just thicker, they’re stronger, your wrists are thicker, your elbows are thicker, your joints are thicker. Just the mechanical function of punching, a man can do it much harder than a woman can, period.”. Fox herself, who retired due to lack of people wishing to fighht her, added that she found fighting another woman ridiculously easy. If trans men and trans women wish to compete in sports it should be against other trans men or women.

    Rob, As for Starmer’s interview, Starmer did not come across as ” a genuine and humble everyman, ” at all. He came across as weak and spineless and his comment about being a tough guy who would push Boris over in a football match only left you wondering whether that would be before or after he ripped a tissue and crushed a grape.

    Meanwhile, Starmer is preparing his troops for the upcoming loss of Batley by saying the by-election isn’t about him. The betting odds immediately widened further. The Tories are now 1-3 to win the seat, Labour 3-1 to hold it.

  8. Dave Hansell says:

    ‘Women are being piled onto on social media, publicly shamed and, in some instances, sacked from their jobs, for merely disagreeing with the prevailing orthodoxy.’

    A pile on which also involves no platforming and no debate in Labour Party Units. Tolerated behaviour which includes slanderous and libelous statements in meetings against Labour based organisations and fellow members as well as abuse, bullying and intimidation.

    But, hay ho. The context in which this is occurring is one which has institutional blessing from the Party. Everyone, including Saint Keir, having given a green light to the fundamental philosophy underpinning this issue, among others, by either openly declaring or tacitly going along with the notion that an allegation is sufficient to determine automatic guilt. Whether that allegation concerns Transphobia against Gender critical positions; Anti-Semitism against any critique of the State of Israel; or sacking party members for not having the correct opinions which align with the Party hierarchy and bureaucracy.

    Due process standards and principles of innocent until proven guilty, use of testable objective based evidence and rights to a defence and or proper professional investigation having been jettisoned in favour of the subjective opinion of whatever mob mentality is convenient to achieve sectarian political goals- presumably to fit in line with the post modernist zeitgeist of GIT and similar based power politics.

    Which is why, whilst welcome one of the areas where this article is seriously misframing is in regard to the very same approach and process employed here in regard to the misuse in too many circumstances of allegations of AS against members for sectarian political purposes – many of whom are members of the Jewish Community who, as with those such as Debbie Hayton in the equally manufactured gender/sex controversy, are shamefully treated as not proper to that community and are those conveniently silenced.

    A process common to both issues but which is criticised here in regards to only one issue whilst conveniently misframing the other so as not to draw attention to the commonality of approach and process employed.

    Don’t doubt this is seen for what it is.

    L1469498 Dave Hansell

  9. You know Rob, I don’t think Starmer lost Hartlepool on the issue of trans rights. Do you think it could be something else about him? To me it didn’t seem he was doing as well as you say.

  10. steve says:

    Rob: “It was all going so well.”

    Yes, please retain your leader.

    I’ll be very happy to see the Red Tories disappear in the electoral disaster indicated by consistently polling ten points behind the Blue Tories.

    Nice work, Sir Keir.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Helen I got the same block in Facebook for posting a link, think it may work in private groups, I haven’t tried yet

  12. Claire Williams says:

    I am one of those very angry women who are ‘hanging on’ to membership.(Actually I tried once to cancel my membership but the computer said ‘no’ so I am still here.)

    I have been raising these issues with my MP for about three years. Never had a reply.
    Friends have been forced to resign from the party bercause they have been vilified and ostracised for their GC views, and everywhere GC women (and some men) in the party have been treated disgracefully.

    Greens and SDP are also in thrall to this cult and have scandal waiting in the wings over their dumb aquiescence to dangerous ideas.
    I am politically homeless as I can never vote Tory despite the fact that they are the only party seeing the red flags.
    Your article is a much needed re-assurance that things are moving in the right direction at last.
    Could we reclaim the party and actually move forward towards government? I fear this is a lost cause.
    In solidarity,

  13. Ann Onnimus says:

    That’s a lot of words to say “I hate trans people”.

  14. Rob Marchant says:

    @Harry: I think it’s just because of the hyphen in the Uncut URL. Try posting the tweet to it from the Uncut timeline.

  15. Mike says:

    Surely trans people in women’s spaces is a good thing. When feminists broke down barriers and ensured there were no men only spaces, it was a victory for equality, you couldn’t have a men only club, woman had to be let in.

    Now, the Hampstead Heath Women’s pools are the 21st century version of the “men only club”, and if feminism is about equality then trans women need to be allowed in, anything else would be hypocrisy.

  16. Roger Evans says:

    An excellent, if depressing piece. I have been a Labour voter for over 40 years, and last week I felt compelled to resign my membership over this issue. Thank you for your eloquence and clarity.

  17. PaulaJ says:

    The thing is, whichever way you cut it, Starmer is boring. What puzzles me is that, as a former barrister, used to addressing a court, he often has the startled look of that rabbit caught in the headlights. In a televisual age, that really isn’t going to work.
    Like that other Labour ‘big beast’, Gordon Brown, there’s a Wizard of Oz curtain-drawing moment when he can’t rely on a script and is in front of a camera.
    The other thing that struck me, when he and Rayner grabbed that knee-taking photo op, was the utter lack of awareness. Nobody could have doubted their position on the matter, so the exercise was both superfluous and futile.
    It’s one thing to look calm and authoritative in a carefully-contrived situation like that. It takes rather more nous and sang-froid to look so in a live situation.
    I’m prepared to be proved wrong on this, but I’m going to be pretty shocked if Starmer manages to do anything at all for Labour’s doldrums.
    I’m sure he has skills: they’re just not the right ones.

  18. Hilary Easton says:

    Great artical, thank goodness the fightback has started. I had come to the conclusion that I would never vote Labour again because of Starmer’s refusal to stand up for women against the ideological madness. Let’s see what happens next

  19. John p Reid says:

    Keir starmer hadn’t suspended either corbyn mcdonnell Naz shah Nadia Whitome Zultana sultana for anti semitism and labour is full of anti white racists or the likes of Doreen lawrence who wrongly accused fire fighters of not putting out grenfell fire

  20. Shar Kumar says:

    While the Labour Party and the leader say that women don’t exist as a material reality but we are instead an idea, it is impossible for me to vote for them, because abstract identities don’t vote. Women with bodies do.

  21. John P Reid says:

    Apart from starmer like most people outraged by the Israeli government( that’s the gov’t not the people)
    I don’t think starmer actually wants to pretend to Luke self identifying or Blm not that he’s prepared to fight the culture war for women( that’s adult human female) or to point out peoold were exploiting the blm movement to justify their own anti capitalist, anti Semitic of anti The family attitude)
    But he now is going core vote and is trying to hung on to the ever decreasing. Osmition of identity politics he’s got .

    The brexit debate post is leaving with the gammon pig insult being thrown around by ava Viddy the king left at Gb news etc is only going to do more to lose labour Thr working class vote in the shires

  22. Ann Onnimus says:

    Shar Kumar – women with bodies do exist as a material reality. And that includes trans women.

  23. Merseymike says:

    Amusing. Starmer finally gets something right, and here is Marchant all ready to whine.

    The Conservative party agree with Marchant. If even Starmer isn’t right wing enough for these people – well, they really haven’t grasped that they aren’t in line with even the most right wing version of Labour.

  24. Vik Mortim says:

    The Labour Party. Woke-ers of the world unite. The party of the woke-ing class.
    The party that swapped workers rights, for woke-ers rights. The population of Batley and Sem is now twenty per cent Muslim. And they say white replacement is a wild conspiracy theory. Dyslexia is word blindness. Some have maths lexia.

  25. Ann Onnimus says:

    Vik Mortim – a lot of workers are Muslim. A lot of workers are trans. Should Labour not fight for their rights and their class? Or is it just that the only workers you give a damn about are straight white cis men?

  26. john P Ried says:

    Ann onnimus thers no such thing as cis men, there’s men that sit

    can’t muslims be white men who are male adult human male defintiion

    by the way as for the combination of muslims and trans , you’ve got a point after all muslims have been strong defenders of trans activists?

    what class were these trans you mention> middle?
    as labour has never fought for the workng class in over 15 years

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