Posts Tagged ‘trans’

The real work for Keir Starmer starts here

16/07/2022, 09:47:50 PM

by Rob Marchant

Given that Boris Johnson’s prime ministership, however corrupt and venal it may have been, was always made of glass, one hopes that Labour’s leader and his team have been preparing for this sudden change at the top.

It is true that Johnson himself benefitted greatly from having, in Jeremy Corbyn, a disastrous figure as his initial chief opponent. And it is certainly open to question whether he would even have won against a half-decent opposition leader.

But just as the outgoing prime minister has benefitted from facing Labour’s worst-ever leader – as did his two predecessors – across the despatch box Starmer must also recognise that he has been the lucky recipient of the Tories’ own historic low point.

A man who was never going to last the distance, Johnson’s main gift has always been his success in selling undeliverable promises in the campaigning stage. But, to use Mario Cuomo’s adage, he could not handle the “governing in prose” stage.

If his only real achievement in government was to “get Brexit done”, then it was a Brexit that polls now show even most Leavers unhappy with. As it is, he has departed under the cloud that has followed almost all his other jobs; the cloud that all that have followed his miserable trajectory over the years predicted he would.

What, then, of a leader who is significantly better than Johnson, by the simple expedient of not being Johnson? We might look at the field of Tory candidates for the leadership and be uninspired. But we have no reason to believe there will not be a marked bounce in the polls for them, whoever is chosen. And that incoming PM will now very likely have two years to get their feet under the table before a general election.

There is an obvious conclusion to all this: Starmer now needs to up his game.

While we should not dismiss that he has made a great deal of progress in cleaning up the party, and gradually steering it towards being a party of government, he is not there yet. And, with Johnson’s political demise imminent, any honeymoon for Starmer’s leadership is now definitively over.

There are three areas which urgently need attention.

One: as Dan Hodges has pointed out, without the convenient own goals that Johnson has consistently provided in the guise of Partygate, Jennifer Arcuri, crony contracts during Covid, and so on, Starmer will need to tack from the personal to the political. No longer can Johnson’s personal failings be his stick to beat the Tories with.

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Is Labour listening to voters enough? Not yet.

18/05/2022, 10:25:34 PM

by Paul Wheeler

As a party organiser in the 1980’s I was charged with organising ‘Labour Listens’ events. The idea was that Labour MPs and councillors would respectively listen to an audience of voters on what Labour needed to do to win their vote.

It worked up to a point although the average time before one of the politicians broke their silence  was about ten minutes. It was more successful in allowing the then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock a platform to move away from a series of policies that were popular with activists, such as unilateral nuclear disarmament, and rather less so with the average voter. Sadly, it didn’t work for Neil’s bid to be PM, but a willingness to listen to the voters paved the way for our electoral success in 1997

As the full results of this month’s local election become clearer it’s evident that Labour fortunes were distinctly weaker the further you travelled from Central London. It’s not a good result when the Tories lose over 300 council seats and we gain barely 30.

So maybe It’s time for an updated ‘Labour Listens’? If so here’s two issues we can put out there for a wider conversation

David Evans the robust General Secretary is reputed to be a fan of the Values Mode analysis of social groups and voting behaviour. One of the key groups are what might be called’ ‘Prospectors’ those driven by a desire to succeed but also a strong sense of community and family values. Liverpool has a lot of them as do many ethnic groups whose support for Labour has been vital. Many rely on their vehicles to earn an increasingly precarious living as self- employed drivers and tradespeople. The outright hostility of many Labour councils to these elements of the working class through the imposition of driving restrictions and low/no traffic neighbourhoods has alienated many and was certainly a factor in the surprise loss of Tower Hamlets council. Thankfully Andy Burnham as Mayor of Greater Manchester successfully gained a deferral of a low emission zone there until the Government committed to additional funding.

If Labour can be accused of zealotry in its approach to the millions of motorists, it is minor when compared to its current attitude to the vexed issue of women’s rights and representation.

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Starmer is doing well, everywhere except defending women’s rights

15/02/2022, 07:40:44 AM

by Rob Marchant

The best part of two years ago at Uncut, we set out eight things that then-incoming leader Keir Starmer would need to fix, in order to get Labour’s rusty ship back in seaworthy condition, after the battering of the Corbyn years.

Three were a slam-dunk: the party quickly got a new General Secretary after the terrible Jennie Formby; Starmer has ignored Momentum, while they have split and withered on the vine; and the NEC has been wrested away from the Corbynites. So far, so good

Four more were more tricky areas and were never going to be resolved quickly, but Labour has still made progress.

On antisemitism, there is clearly still work to do. The antisemites are not all gone: there are eminently reasonable, moderate Jews on the liberal-left who do not yet see the party as detoxified, and not without reason. The party’s bungling of Corbyn’s suspension did not help. On the other hand, the relationship with the Jewish community has undoubtedly improved, for example, to the point of Dame Louise Ellman feeling that she could rejoin.

On the others: Unite’s stranglehold on party funding has not yet been broken, although the union’s own money problems and a less Labour-centric General Secretary at the helm means that it certainly has reduced its influence and may well reduce further. The Scottish party is not rebuilt but, in Anas Sarwar, it has its first credible and effective leader in years. It has allowed a number of people who left over antisemitism to rejoin, but of those who left to form Change UK and stood against Labour in the 2019 election, none have so far rejoined. This seems tragic, given the unique circumstances of their leaving: they were principled resignees not political opportunists.

All this is cautiously good news: even if all the damage of the Corbyn years has yet to be undone, solid, if sometimes frustratingly slow, progress is being made back towards sanity.

It is only on the eighth and final point, where we come to the ‘D’ in Labour’s report card: “Get the party into a sensible place on trans self-id”. And that is not just because there is a clear moral imperative to defend the hard-won rights of women, now under attack. It is because it has the same potential to corrode the party and its public image as antisemitism did during 2015-20.

It is, in short, the new antisemitism.

If you think that a stretch, first bear in mind that Starmer’s first-ever conference as leader last September was very nearly derailed by car-crash interviews with David Lammy and Starmer himself, when asked basic questions on womanhood and women’s rights.

But if there were a point in time which would underline to Keir Starmer precisely why he can no longer afford to sit on the fence in the debate between women’s rights and trans rights, it was surely this last weekend.

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The Uncuts: 2021 Political Awards (Part III)

01/01/2022, 09:46:19 AM

Political Bravery Award: The women who stood up for Gender Critical beliefs

2021 may well go down as the year that it became impossible to ignore the clash between the ongoing campaign for transgender people to be able to self-identify themselves as the opposite sex, and the women’s and children’s rights on which this campaign impinges.

It was also the year when the BBC finally realised Stonewall, at the centre of this campaign in the UK, was a political lobbyist rather than a neutral service provider. And so, it finally left its Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme only after a piece of brilliant radio journalisism by the BBC’s very own Stephen Nolan and David Thompson. It was the two Ulstermen’s ten-part series which methodically exposed the sharp practice that Stonewall had been pulling off for years, with hundreds of companies: assess them for “diversity”, and then sell their services to those same companies to fill the gaps identified. Conflict of interests? Us?

But perhaps most importantly, the “cancellation” of figures who challenge the Stonewall-driven conventional wisdom – that men should be able to get access to women’s spaces by dint of simply saying that they identify as one – continues apace. It continues even to the point of apparently being official Labour policy, much to the dismay of many of its members and voters. Partly for this reason – with a few noble exceptions – it has mostly fallen to non-politicians to take a political stand on this.

Now this year, as for the last several years, J K Rowling – in the face of a furious backlash from the entertainment and literary industries – has been in the news for periodic, uncompromising tweets and articles on women’s rights. To a large extent, she has acted as not just a British but a global figurehead for the many, many women who refuse to be told to pipe down on this issue.

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How not to lose culture wars

06/10/2021, 10:32:23 PM

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s Reset: The Path Back to Power”. Click here to download it. The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election

by Rob Marchant

What is a culture war? From dictionary.com: it is ‘a conflict or struggle for dominance between groups within a society or between societies, arising from their differing beliefs, practices, etc.’

Culture wars are nothing new, but they are currently higher profile than ever, arguably because of (a) the political trend towards populism at home and abroad, and (b) the magnification of disagreement and polarised viewpoints via social media, providing the tools for instant public reaction. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that culture wars form a noticeable part of the current political Zeitgeist.

As a political party, you may not always get to win the culture war – sometimes, you may need to do the right thing in advance of public opinion, as Labour did in the 1980s on gay rights. However, it is useful not to lose them, and Labour seems to have been doing just that on some subjects.

Two major examples are antisemitism, where the new leadership has demonstrably taken the ‘right’ side but seems sluggish in following through to the end; and the vexed issue of trans rights, where the leadership has managed to stifle almost all debate and in doing so managed, seemingly oblivious, to alienate a large swathe of its female membership.

Not only have they surged with the proliferation of social media, but they have both used institutional capture as a way of determinedly promoting their agendas. Far-left entryists took over Labour for half of the last decade; and Stonewall’s worryingly driven zealots have spread themselves over large parts of Britain’s public and private sector, promoting equalities law not as it is, but as they would like it to be.

But there have been other examples over the last decade: ‘taking the knee’ may have been something that the public bought into around Euro 2020, but the linked association with the Black Lives Matter organisation ultimately turned out to be problematic. Being anti-austerity was justifiable, but the UK Cuts movement and the 2011 London demo were decidedly not; Ed Miliband was left with egg on his face. Labour’s association with such single-issue movements over the last decade has generally later turned out to look unwise.

So, here we set out a few thoughts for Labour on how not to lose the culture wars:

1.Think carefully before wading in and do not pick the stupid side. There are often issues around a ‘culture war’ position that need to be considered; for example, are we getting into one or more of the following?

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Labour leadership’s achievements overshadowed by its tin ear

28/09/2021, 10:46:10 PM

by Rob Marchant

Labour, despite what you might think after the last few days, is back on the road to recovery. The consolidation of the leadership’s upper hand over the rump Corbynites has been sure-footed. It has won key votes on an independent complaints process to finish the job on anti-Semitism, as well as rule changes to make it very hard for any repeat performance of the Corbyn years, where a tiny tail of hard-lefties flooded the party with entryists, in order to wag the Labour party dog. Yes, it didn’t manage to get to fully reverting leadership elections to the electoral college but that was, frankly, the icing on the cake.

There is, of course, a but.

Labour’s problem so far this week is that no-one has really noticed all that good stuff, because of its abysmal management of its media spotlight since Saturday, where a catalogue of unforced errors has left it reeling.

First came Angela Rayner’s “scum” diatribe against the Tories, in a fringe meeting on Saturday night. If our Deputy Leader genuinely thinks that kind of language will have helped woo floating voters, then we should be asking very serious questions about her judgement.

Then our normally-sensible leader, the lawyerly former barrister and DPP, managed to wobble and bluster like a rookie country lawyer when questioned by Andrew Marr on Sunday morning about whether it is ok to say, as Rosie Duffield MP did, that only women have a cervix.

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Labour is losing women. It could cost the party the next election. It doesn’t have to be this way

22/09/2021, 09:45:33 PM

by Nicole Lampert

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s reset: the path back to power” which Uncut will be launching at Labour conference next week. The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election.

Labour is losing women. It is losing its female activists, its putative politicians, its core voters. And the trans debate could even see it lose the country at large. Again.

There’s a female MP, Rosie Duffield, who is too frightened to appear at Labour conference because so many trans rights activists – whipped up into a fury by people within the party – have threatened violence against her.

A long-awaited statement yesterday by Keir Starmer was the usual fence sitting – asserting the Party supports the Equality Act which legislates for single sex spaces but adding that trans people should mainly be allowed in them – while also reasserting plans for self-identification. They leadership must have hoped that this would dampen down the row but, in fact, it served to only add fuel to the fire. Did they learn nothing from the Brexit fudge which managed to infuriate both sides and lost them votes from Brexiters and Remainers?

Women’s rights are being removed all over the world; in the last few weeks we’ve seen it from America to Afghanistan. And that is why women will not take this lying down, even from a party that they have always supported.

Sara, whose parents and grandparents were Labour councillors, and has campaigned on doorsteps for the party since she was a child, calls it: ‘The toxic nail in the coffin of my support for Labour. I cannot support Labour because of this.’

Joan, who with her partner made up the only gay couple in her CLP, says: ‘When I asked for help from our Labour candidate in keeping hospital wards single sex, I was told that I was, ‘irrationally prejudiced against trans people.’ I’d rather spoil my ballot than vote for Labour.’

Nicola, a Labour veteran, is almost in tears when she tells me: ‘The Tories are not competent. They are pushing more people into poverty. But I can’t vote for a party that prioritises the interests – political, economic, social – of males over the reality of women’s experiences.’

While Sally, a trans woman, says the debate feels equally poisonous for the trans community. ‘Self ID is a long-term negative for trans people because the barrier to a protected characteristic is too low and Labour needs to recognise that,’ she says. ‘Look at things like Wi Spa in America [when a self-identifying trans woman with a history of sex offences exposed their penis in a room full of naked women and girls]. People are beginning to think we’re all perverts and someone needs to talk about this sensibly.’

I haven’t given any of them their real names because this is the most toxic row that Labour is involved in today. Women don’t feel just ignored but demonised. They are being pushed out of the party and, in the wider world, losing their jobs. A writer friend lost work solely because she followed a gender critical feminist on Twitter. Aside from a brave few, Labour MPs are terrified about speaking up, because they know trans rights activists will then demand they are sacked and the leadership will do nothing to stop the bullying. Even the trans people who speak up against the activism orthodoxy are labelled transphobes.

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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?

16/06/2021, 02:40:00 PM

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.

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We need to talk about where the trans self-id debate is taking Labour

11/10/2020, 10:51:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

Last Tuesday, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner stated her view that Rosie Duffield – yes, the Rosie Duffield who has been a champion of women’s rights and bravely declared her own domestic abuse story to Parliament – should “reflect” on the fact that she had “liked” a tweet which described transgender people as “cross-dressers”.

Although Rayner attempted to paint the debate as “toxic”, with “both sides” needing to calm down, this was a somewhat disingenuous deflection; there is no doubt about which “side” she herself has chosen and her criticism of Duffield was clear enough. She was felt to be “upsetting” people.

It is also well documented that, during the leadership campaign earlier this year, Rayner – along with Lisa Nandy and Corbynite challenger Rebecca Long-Bailey – enthusiastically endorsed the idea of self-id for trans folk.

Let’s take a step back for a minute: Duffield did not tweet anything herself. She “liked” a tweet by Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who lost their job for speaking out about her opposition to self-id,  which used a term, “cross-dresser”, which – as Forstater herself points outis frequently used by some trans people themselves. For the record, J K Rowling writes poignantly about Forstater’s case, as well as her own story of domestic abuse, here.

Ah, but she had previous, you say. Duffield tweeted that “only women have a cervix”, which is seen as “exclusionary”. She was then clearly pressured into making an apology. Seriously? Is this what the Labour Party has become, that someone is forced to apologise for stating a biological fact?

That is apparently all you need to do, in the modern Labour Party, to be found guilty of thoughtcrime and asked to “reflect” on how you have “upset” people. Indeed, I myself have probably already invited abuse and social media pile-ons already, via the last few, pretty anodyne paragraphs, and probably added insult to injury by mentioning the now-unmentionable-in-polite-Party-circles Rowling.

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The madness of self-identification in a political party

29/05/2018, 07:53:53 AM

by Rob Marchant

While one can guarantee that on the streets of British provincial towns, it is not exactly an issue high on most people’s agenda, it is clear that, on Twitter and in the political bubble that is Westminster politics, the tricky area of trans politics has in recent months taken a huge step into the limelight.

Last week, Labour, for the first time, declared that people who declare themselves to be trans should be accepted as such within the party, without question. Obviously it is not intrinsically “trans-phobic” to have concerns about the fairness or viability of a mechanical process, but that is exactly the charge now being levelled at anyone in that category. And such criticism is, in most cases, because people genuinely see that such a policy is open to abuse.

Like activist David Lewis who, to draw attention to the potential for abuse, declared himself a woman but only “on Wednesdays” and put himself forward to be Women’s Officer in his local CLP. Satire, yes, but an important point – who is to say he is any less worthy of consideration than someone who says he is a woman five days, or seven days a week? Where do you draw the line?

No, rather like the penalty for criticising the Dear Leader himself, anyone currently raising concerns about self-id on Twitter (for the record, we are not talking about Neanderthal men, the critics are largely women) is now risking a torrent of online abuse. And Lewis is currently suspended from the party for his pains.

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