Jack Lesgrin’s week: Stonewall have got it wrong. We all know it. So why are many on the left so nervous about calling it out?

by Jack Lesgrin

Perhaps it was forever the case that some moral or political issues are so sensitive, so toxic that they stultify debate or cause rancour between former allies. The case of so-called gender-critical beliefs is such an example. Recently, Matthew Parris, a co-founder of Stonewall claimed that the charity has lost its way on the issue. New Stonewall boss Nancy Kelley also appeared to lump anti-Semitic beliefs in with gender-critical beliefs as part of her defence of legal remedies when “controversial” beliefs are “harmful or damaging”. In last Sunday’s Observer, columnist Sonia Sodha wrote an article with this at its core, headlined: “Stonewall risks all it has fought for in accusing those who disagree with it of hate speech”. The headline implies that the writer might be exploring this issue without fear of favour. The semantics were expertly crafted, providing the reader with glimpses, chimera-like, of supposedly bold positions taken by the columnist, which on reflection were more the repetition of others’ views. Hence it is “gender-critical feminists” who believe that “in a patriarchal society women’s bodies and their role in sex and reproduction play a major role in their oppression.” Ms Sodha didn’t actually say whether she believes it.

She then reflected on how her own “two decades of womanhood” had allowed her feminism to mature into “understanding that male violence is a more important tool of oppression in a patriarchal society than board appointments.” She cited horrific stats on male violence against women as rightly necessitating the need for “women’s rights to single-sex services, such as refuges and women’s prisons.” She notes that this clashes with Stonewall’s “campaign to abolish legal provisions for single-sex spaces, so that males who identify as women have the same rights to access them as those born female”. There are disagreements on whether being a woman is “solely based on a feeling or whether it is related to sex”, she writes. With reference to Nancy Kelley’s statement, she asserts, confidently, that “women must be free to express the view that it is risky to allow men who self-identify as women to access female-only spaces as default.”

Yet it’s hard to decipher from this what her personal views are. What she could have said, in clear terms, is that men who self-identify as women should not have access to female-only spaces. But she didn’t.

Later in the article, Sodha added other concerns of people who are so-called gender-critical including that around biological males who become trans women competing against so-called cis-gendered women born biologically female. Using it as a stick to bash Stonewall, she appears to be taking a strong line, but on close inspection she is only semi-attached to the cause. Hence the belief that “there should be restrictions on biological males competing in women’s sports” is thus one of several “other views that Stonewall appears to regard as hateful”. She implies that they should not be regarded as hateful, but she doesn’t say, herself, in clear terms that biological males should not compete with biological females. Why?

You’d have to ask her of course. It’s likely that to state such views clearly would bring a deluge of abuse down upon a writer, as happened to JK Rowling. An intelligent commentator such as Sodha appears to know that something is going badly wrong with philosophical debate and our politics when stating biological reality can be conflated with antisemitism. It’s all very well standing up for gender-critical feminists by saying that people shouldn’t be “drawing a parallel” between their views and hate speech, but gender-critical feminists would surely appreciate more high-profile people having the guts to stand shoulder to shoulder with them too?

It was also the week in which a judge at the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that Maya Forstater’s belief that biological sex is real, important and immutable is a genuine philosophical belief that is therefore protected in law under the Equality Act. Ms Forstater had originally been fired for having expressed such ‘gender-critical’ beliefs (terminology in this debate, such as ‘cis-gendered’, or ‘TERF’, is rather Orwellian, isn’t it?) and had lost her original case at an Employment Tribunal.

Baroness Falkner, the new chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported Maya Forstater’s case, has also been in the media given that EHRC along with Index On Censorship, intervened in the case in support of the view that gender-critical beliefs were protected under the Equality Act. On the Today programme last week, she gave a very impressive and nuanced view which did much to clarify that the judgement was quite rightly no means a license for people to discriminate against trans people. Mishal Husain tried to tease out of Baroness Falkner whether she agreed with Maya Forstater’s apparent view that ‘trans women are male.”

Her response: “…the law as it stands, the Equality Act has protections built in for trans people. I don’t want to comment on Maya Forstater’s actual beliefs. We supported her case, because we believe that holding beliefs, philosophical beliefs, except for very small exceptions, such as Nazism and totalitarianism are protected characteristics. So they deserve our protection. People who hold beliefs, however offensive they may be, are nevertheless protected in law. Mis-gendering a trans person is wrong. The question is whether the beliefs you hold comes with a responsibility to treat others with respect and as an equal human being. That’s the key to it. So people who are transitioning, who are proposing to transition or have transitioned, are protected from discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment, which is where the protections lie in the Equality Act.” This is a reasonable position. It deals with a difficult issue with perhaps the only solution – compromise. Now, as a matter of law, gender-critical beliefs, which can be offensive to some, are protected philosophical beliefs despite their causing offense in some circumstances. This is progress.

Finally, another line that Baroness Falkner spoke at 8.41 am on Friday caught my attention: “we all have a right not to be offended.” When journalist Stephen Pollard tweeted his shock at this, the EHRC responded: “This was a slip of the tongue during a live interview. Baroness Falkner intended to say that we do not have a right to be offended.” It certainly was a slip of the tongue. It gets to the nub of things, though, because what we are witnessing is a growing belief that we do have a right not to be offended, or for our views not to be robustly challenged. I wish Baroness Falkner well in her thankless task.

A good slap for radio 

Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci collaborated in the 1990s to create On The Hour and The Day Today, satirising the pompous and self-referential nature of broadcast news. Looking back we can see that while they stretched credulity at the time, the passage of time was all it took for news media to eat itself and begin mimicking the satire. In the case of Iannucci’s The Thick Of It, nothing that Malcolm Tucker or Nicola Murray did would appear out of place in the real-life disaster movie that has been British politics since 2015. It was On The Hour (which satirised BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme), that came to mind last week, when Evan Davies introduced a segment about the unfortunate slapping of President Macron. Obviously this was a televisual news event, yet Davies played the audio in which the only discernible sounds were a couple of Frenchman murmuring “oh, oh”. Evan then advised listeners: “that’s a little bit of what the video caught. You could actually hear the slap in the middle of that. Obviously a lot of background noise…” This was not the case, unless you were an expert police witness with a finely tuned ability to hear light slapping of political leaders. Speaking of which, I’m reminded of John Prescott’s approach to being assaulted on the campaign trail. Perhaps he could put a call into the Élysée Palace with advice on how to handle situations like this in a more robust manner.

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23 Responses to “Jack Lesgrin’s week: Stonewall have got it wrong. We all know it. So why are many on the left so nervous about calling it out?”

  1. Alf says:

    If you elect a Tory-lite leader, you get Tory-lite policies. Where’s Starmer?

  2. Ann Onnimus says:

    Stonewall hasn’t got it wrong. “Gender-critical” is a euphemism for “transphobic”, nothing more and nothing less, and the ‘gender-critical movement’ is a dangerous cult founded on hate, bigotry and the deliberate production of ignorance. ‘Gender-critical’ (transphobic) ideas and the methods of those who seek to spread them are also intimately connected with the fundamentalist Christian far-right and with antisemitism.

  3. Tafia says:

    Stonewall ceased to be of relevance some years ago and are now a fairly pointless idiotic orgnistion on the fringes. Bit like the Labour Party is rapidly becoming.

  4. John P Reid says:

    To behind one of the following

    you don’t have to be the other Left /right- liberal /conservative- Authoritarian / libertarian
    A liberal authoritarian soul want control of speech and medical ID cards

  5. John P Reid says:

    Neil Kinnock on Tonybenn opposing the selling of council homes
    you’ve never needed to worry about how to pay the mortgage until then you won’t have any authority on the matter I was incandescent with the superficiality and the patronising attitude a land owner they can tell someone that they should be able to buy their own home-  with all good conscience he was totally misguided

    Blairites. / Corbynites 2 sides same arse  cheek

     In 1987 Neil Kinnock saying to his own party conference- how can I sell this manifesto to the public when I would be saying to the public who already have nice holidays abroad and satellite TV and I’ve bought their own house and I’ve got a nice house with a mortgage and a second car I will take you to the promised land I’ve seen the utopia by socialism when it already got it and then just hope after enough changes in 1988 the Tories have done enough to lose It will have time for a change but it might of been enough for the Tories

    With the poll-tax for Labour to have one in 92 until I did the sensible thing and got rid of the poll-tax anyway

  6. A.J. says:

    It should be blindingly obvious to anyone with even a single braincell that the relentless pursuit of equality (whatever that’s supposed to mean) has led the Labour Party (all right, the ‘Left’ if you like) straight up a cul-de-sac or a blind alley. Now it finds itself unable to move into reverse gear and can only keep revving in the direction of a brick wall.

  7. John. reid says:

    Like the while labour movement we were gain at Apartheid and section 28 attended many a picket line during a strike So while not middle class I could say with labour having no intention of being a. Serious government in waiting it was a protest group for people like me who didn’t have to move in Gruel But those protests a would always return labour councillors even when labour was unpopular nationally as even with right to buy and one of the biggest council estates in The world of Harold hill that would see Mrs thatcher proud of The record of selling And local elections piling over into national once labour would win councillors or eventually by 1990 the council So while there are rows of was the militant wing versus everyone else Not the middle class student toy town revolutionaries wasting money putting in dave book The working class are thick n racist Who wanted to run labour so they could invite Jess Philips in a zoom meeting so she could tell everyone how much. Of a victim she is So yes while the identity culture issued and testing labour as a protest movement was important

  8. John P Reid says:

    It’s quite Orwellian that labour re write history to say it was pro The police or wanted peace with the IRA or only corbyn was The only person opposed to section 28 

  9. John P Reid says:

    Labour wrongly thinks working class Tories are Hyancenth bouquet or And garnetts And aspire to be posh as they bought their council homes, Baring in mind the right to buy their homes was originally a labour policy but labour never said sell them dirt cheap but after that, yet unlike labour who said sell them and build some more to replace them
    there’s was no investment in the money from them to build future new council homes
    The lefts assumption that a working class tory voted Tory don’t see beyond the end of their nose and they didn’t twig their wouldn’t be enough social housing
    If they sold the council homes and didn’t replace them, rather than the public were fed up with trade Union militantism
    Same as labour assume now a working class tory voter thinks project fear of warning the public the Tories are far right extremists because they’ve decided to make up the Tories are racist homophobic sexist based in the fact the Tories are appealing to the working class and labour assumes it’s only the white working class who are racist sexist and homophobic based in stuff they’ve made up and decided to believe it to be true
    While financially feel the leave poster of spending 350 million in the NHS Mrs t that the Tory voters believed that and did that to feel they’d get financially things back while voting tory yet Labour’s promise of tax the rich and spend spend spend
    Didn’t convince the public yet labour felt working class Tories have A “I’m alright Jack attitude” but even when remain warned of financial trouble during the referendum what they didn’t get was leave voters felt is
    “If you’ve nothing you’ve nothing to lose” to quote Bob Dylan
    The public did not care financially about that they being promised free stuff want safety

    And Labour’s view is the It’s not bothered to be preferred not to lose to get to the
    State where labour just won’t care if it’s just a middle class protest fringe

    a couple of my mates dads were on the scrap heap having lost their jobs when thatcher shut the GLC and me ending up homeless

    Project fear from brexit to have a emergency budget and run in the pounds

    The Lib Dems tried to be anti Labour Party up north there an anti-tory party down south which failed with the coalition
    they certainly hate Blair and the Labour Party has tried to ride 2 horses on being anti tory and anti Blair anti Nkck Clegg ever since
    Starmer would be a better dividing his time as defining himself as not a London labour man

    it’s no good you’ve got also remember if anyone wants to win and get labour back for Labour it’s no good to just hate the Tories

  10. John P Reid says:

    Ed Miliband Realised the public needed to see a perception of the Labour Party after suffering a defeat needed to have modernisers because the Labour Party wasn’t popular with them and David Miliband didn’t understand it
    So I stand by voting for Ed as my 2nd choice after a day Burnham in 2010
    but Ed felt just give the perseption presented that you’re a moderniser and you understand how unpopular it is and he didn’t do anything about it

    that means the party is actually going backwards and doesn’t do anything to modernise off with the problems it’s had to look forward and the perception is even more new popular and labour is out of touch which is quite delayed because of the current problem the state the parties in,

    needs to present itself with the public
    A relationship to have patriotism in place
    with yourself To understand self aspiration and working class pride but It won’t
    Afterall, Take Jess Philips Who talks Liike She’s about to cry she wouldn’t be able to talk if she liked Like she was gonna cry If labour won

  11. John Reid says:

    Rewrite history to say only Corbynites fought Aparthied or were against section 28 yet it was the whole labour movement against them and the kinnockites at the time were trying to win seats in council estates in. Essex
    While corbyn sat on his allotment in champagne socialist area
    So because they loony left say it was only Corbynites who were pro gay or anti racist decades ago
    That those people can be part of BLM or add the letter T too lgb
    But then women’s groups suffer train trans rights misogynists
    of jews or anti white racism flourished with the rise of blm

    And then yet the Corbynites allow it

    The Tories worried to be on the wrong side of history as were seen in The past anti gay or not sympathetic enough to be conserved about the police disproportionately stop snd searching black people for knives years ago

    But then labour feel

    “Trans rights rhey talk of nothing else down the dog and duck”
    And labour say
    Respect? You lot called brexiters the Fascists

  12. Tafia says:

    Labour could learn a lesson from the Chesham & Amersham by-Election result, which saw the Lib Dems take the seat from the tories on a 20% swing.

    Never ever fight a by-Election against the government of the day over their national policies or performance. ALWAYS fight it on a highly prominant and deeply unpopular local issue – in this case HS2 ((bizarrely, the LDems are in favour of HS2, but for this by-Election ‘suggested’ they could change their mind).

    Incidentally, Labour fell to it’s lowest vote share in a by-Election ever – 1.6%, losing their deposit and finishing behind the Greens who got over twice their vote.

    Batley & Spen will fall to the Tories in a couple of weeks as the bettinmg tightens further with the Tories at 1/4 to win, and Labour at 7/2 to hold.

  13. Join P Reid says:

    The way left wing people think they’re good ,right wingers are bad therefore they can vote in America for Biden to be more rightwing than trump
    in Costing jobs not. Creating them
    Causing many social houses to be repossessed or our women’s rights back be more authoritarian yet as the republicans are right wing therefore the baddies it’s justified

    This is like the middle class south Tories switching to the Nick Clegg orange book cloth cap Tories and the Tories being the party of the working class ploughing money into the north
    The Tories are more socially considerate better for the working class
    And the libdems become Thatcherite but with no free housing to sell off
    As such the left vote for. A Thatcherite anti working class Libdem party and Thd Tories help the working class but the liberal left convinced
    themselves they’re The good people and The Tories helping the working class are
    The bad people

  14. John P Reid says:

    Re Chesham

    As far as I know there’s been 8 different parliaments out of the last 11 where the gov’t lost a by election mid term and were re elected since 1955
    (Mar-Oct 1974, 1997-2001, and 2017-2019) being the only 3 gov’t’s where the government didn’t lose a by election mid term , of a seat they were defending

    Governments tend to lose by elections of their own seats get re elected a few years later

    Tactical votes protests votes low turnout
    The Libdem are a anti Labour Party up north anti tory one down south their literature contradicts itself depending where they stand

    Second by election The libdems have won in 4 years where labour for less voted than its actual members

    When Zak Goldsmith lost the by election he re stood for in 2016 to Sarah onley in Richmond?
    Many labour members voted Libdem tactically

  15. Tafia says:

    Lot of nonsense being spouted in the press by half-witted journalists saying that the Lib Dems won because the Labour vote voted tactically.

    Load of bollocks.

    If the entire Labour vote had stayed with Labour, the Lib Dems would still have won. They won because the Lib Dems fought it on local issues that are deeply unpopular with the Tory shire vote pure and simple.

    Anyone who wishes to see all the previous results for this seat can find them here:-

  16. Tafia says:

    Hot off the press

    Batley & Spen, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 47%
    LAB: 41%
    WPGB: 6% (george galloway)
    LDEM: 3%

    Survation 09 – 17 Jun


    To try and negate the impact of Galloway, who is campaigning almost exclusively in the muslim areas with a strong pro-palestine/anti-Israel message, Labour over the last few days has produced and distributed a leaflet in the Mount Pleasant area (home of most of the muslims), likewise pushing a strongly pro-Kashmir, pro-Palestine, anti-Israel message. This has enraged the few jews locally and also unsettled the large Jewish community in Manchester some 40 miles away who see it as further proof of Starmer’s anti-semitism pledges as being utter rubbish.

  17. Tafia says:

    More on Batley & Spen polling.

    Johnson’s favourability in Batley and Spen:

    Favourable: 50%
    Unfavourable: 32%
    [Net rating: +18]

    Starmer’s favourability in Batley and Spen:

    Favourable: 18%
    Unfavourable: 50%
    [Net rating: -32]

  18. Tafia says:

    And more from batley & Spen in depth polling

    Best PM
    BJ 55%

    Best Policies
    Cons 57%, Lab 17%

    Cons 55%, Lab 21%

    Cons 55%, Lab 21 %

    Cons 45%, Labour 30%

    I think the NHS figures really startling.

    Leaders Ratings
    BJ 54%, KS 24%

    BJ 39%, KS 32%

    BJ 73%, KS 67%

    BJ 60%, KS 23%

    Understands Workers
    BJ 33%, KS 38%

    Has a clear stand on issues
    BJ 50%, KS 32%

    KS only leading on one and BJ seen as more trustworthy!

  19. Join p Reid says:

    John Bercow has joined the Labour Party
    So the Former Monday Club member who wanted repatriations of migrants and in 1986 when chair of young Conservatives when they wanted to hang Mandela said the Tories-today are Xenophobic
    You couldn’t make it up

  20. John P Reid says:

    When labour voted against the formation of the EU years ago in the second reading of the Tory governments policy of supporting Maastricht in 92’
    It was a tie in Parliament
    Betty boothroyd the speaker a very pro EEC former Labour MP, had to vote with the government as protocol as the speaker has to have the casting vote
    So even though a boothroyd was pro the common market she had to vote against her own former party labour who had shipped to vote against Maastricht on the 2nd reading
    So if she didn’t let her votes affect the bias of her job as speaker hoe come Bercow ignored The rules voting against at the Tory amendment in Article 50 when he was speaker in 2019 too try to stop Brexit

    Let alone The Bullying allegations he ignored while speaker and his Monday Club ,hang Mandela T-shirt

  21. Merseymike says:

    Because most on the left agree with Stonewall, not their opponents.
    That’s the left in its broadest sense, incidentally – Lord Cashman is hardly a Corbynista!

  22. john P reid says:

    Mweseymike it was lord Cashmans lot that pressurised Corbyn into having a second referendum for remian, which lost the red wall

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