Labour MSPs should be ashamed of themselves

by Rob Marchant

The following piece has been liberally linked with information sources – we would ask that readers check them out, but they are not for the faint-hearted.

It’s certainly been an historic year in British politics but, even in the last few days of the calendar, it seems we still have the ability to squeeze out the last drop of “history”.

In this case, it is one of those occasional moments when parliamentary votes become historic in retrospect, but not in a good way; where the actions of political leaders are so poorly thought-out that they ultimately result in years of embarrassment and regret.

Like the serial 2019 rejections of a half-decent EU Withdrawal Agreement under Theresa May, in favour of Boris Johnson’s final, shambolic one. Or the 2013 Syria vote, where Ed Miliband’s opportunism and Cameron’s bungling unwittingly triggered the collapse of any chance of international intervention to prevent the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Such a moment occurred last Thursday for the SNP, whose vote in the Scottish Parliament to allow that country’s citizens to decide what sex they are with no legally-enforceable proof, it is difficult to see as anything short of disastrous.

To the uninitiated, self ID means, in the name of “trans rights”, that any Scottish male will soon be able to declare themselves female – and any female male – by filling in a few forms and paying the princely sum of £5. They can then get all their government records changed to the opposite sex and, crucially, those who are men can legally insist on access to women’s spaces, in direct contravention of the single-sex exemption enshrined in the UK’s Equality Act.

This is a development that, if most of the public were made fully aware of it, would likely think insane.

However, it is not just the SNP: Labour MSPs also voted for this*, even though they did not need to. Their votes were unnecessary, they could have abstained or voted against and the SNP would still have won. But they were whipped to vote for the bill, because the top team seemed to actually think it was the right thing to do; their collective reputation now in the bin for nothing.

But for whom, and why, is it disastrous? Principally, for Scottish women, who will have now to live with the same fallout as is happening in Brazil; Canada and the US (in part); and Spain, Ireland and a number of smaller European countries, with many examples to be found on this site.

Such fallout is quite often under-reported, because people are afraid to speak out on the issue and media often wary of covering it dispassionately, but there is a well-researched and disturbing database run by volunteers, of crimes in the UK connected to men identifying, or in some cases, pretending to identify, as women.

As for the reasons, they are not difficult to see. First, it is surely obvious that all trans women are not bad faith actors; many want to be left alone and do not even engage with the radical “TRA” activism currently sweeping the developed world. And good luck to them. But that is not how safeguarding works.

Males are not habitually allowed into women’s spaces for a good reason: not because all men are attackers, but because overall they are far more likely to attack and abuse women as a demographic, and there is so far zero scientific evidence that gender reassignment, which does not legally require surgery, changes that fact.

In fact, there are numerous clear cases of bad-faith male offenders changing sex after conviction and before sentencing. And at least one study actually shows that, for example, trans prisoners are disproportionately likely to be there for sex crimes.

The obvious question is: how do you tell a “real” (i.e. medically diagnosed as gender dysphoric) trans person from a bad-faith male actor? You can’t.

In short, this legislation allows a bad-faith minority of biological males (gender-dysphoric or otherwise), suddenly to have a perfect right to walk into women’s spaces, such as toilets, shelters and prisons, putting women at risk. Anyone attempting to eject them would potentially be vulnerable to breaking equalities law and therefore liable to prosecution.

As an aside, we have not even mentioned the widespread concerns of parents that their teenagers are falling victim to a perverse way of thinking, often encouraged by this movement via schools, to feel “born in the wrong body”, at an age when most of them are already uncomfortable with their bodies; what many see as a bona fide social contagion, amplified by social media, that can put them on a path to lifelong medicalisation. But yes, that is also the case.

In spite of these compelling reasons to reject the bill – which, by the way, is so poorly drafted that it does not make any effort to define “trans” – it has continued to wend its way towards the statute book with the blessing of Labour’s Scottish representatives, who it seems had mostly not bothered to fully investigate the issue. That is, any further than the futile “both-sidesing” which bedevils this debate, exemplified by former leader Kezia Dugdale’s tin-eared piece in the Sunday Times.

Only one side of this debate threatens violence on the other; or dresses up in black, with masks, in an effort to intimidate the other.

Add to all this the “no debate” dynamic which has grown up around this issue, and we end up with a farce. The vital story of people who have transitioned and then regretted their transition – so-called “de-transitioners” – was ignored by the consultation group until just before the vote. A dismal litany of the poverty of its responses to women’s rights groups is to be found here.

And now for the coup de grâce: last week, in Scotland’s primary legislature, MSPs of all parties except the Conservatives actually mobilised to vote against an amendment preventing known sex offenders from registering for self-id. Yes, let’s protect the rights of predators to get into women’s refuges and prisons: makes total sense.

To sum all this up: this bill is not only unfair and unpopular. It is Pied-Piper level, Emperor’s-New-Clothes level lunacy. The Scottish Labour Party has got itself firmly on the wrong side of a debate which could make its recent problems with antisemitism seem like a sideshow.

There is a scandal, regarding medicalisation of children and assaults on women, which is likely to break worldwide over the next couple of years. And, if one had to call which country it would break first in, Britain – or, to be precise, England via the UK parliament – would not be a bad place to bet on. The voices of dissent are louder here; the debate less left-right polarised than in the States.

While England has happily stayed free of self-id so far and, while there is a Conservative government at least, that is unlikely to change, Scotland is clearly now on its way and Wales may well follow.

Even if we could be convinced, against all available evidence, that this bill will not end up being a disaster, we might look at the terrible politics this is for a party that wants to win in 2024, where the bill is opposed by two thirds of Scots. This week’s disastrous Scottish parliament vote in favour of self-id is a massive missed opportunity for Labour, who could have both done the right thing and had a wedge issue to beat the SNP with.

Finally, what is the implication for Labour nationally? Keir Starmer, recently making marginally more friendly noises towards the gender-critical movement, has been notably silent on the bill**, perhaps hoping once more to keep the peace within the party.

But he needs to decide which way Labour nationally is going to jump. Otherwise, he is likely still to be left holding the toxic parcel of self ID when the music stops.

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

*There were two noble exceptions: Labour’s Claire Baker and Carol Mochan voted against, along with nine SNP rebels.

**By dredging up comments made in a video for Pink News eighteen months ago, last Friday’s Daily Telegraph disingenuously attempted to paint him as supporting the Scottish bill, and was quite successful in propagating this story in the Express and the Mail, but it was quite false.

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