Cambridge Labour Councillor Resigns

Cambridge Labour councillor, Kevin Price resigned live during a full Cambridge Council meeting on 23rd October 2020 in protest at a motion affecting women’s rights on which women had not been consulted.

See pages 15 – 17 of the Council  Information pack for the motion being  discussed.

The amendments proposed by Labour to the LibDem motion were accepted by a vote of 30 in favour, 4 abstentions, 0 against,  1 council resignation. The amended motion was then passed by a vote of 31 in favour, 3 abstentions, 0 against, 1 council resignation.

Labour Women’s Declaration working group extends a very big thank you to Kevin Price for standing with women and defending our right to speak around sex-based rights and policies which affect us.

As one of our Labour Women’s Declaration supporters said “It is distressing to see a good socialist Labour councillor brought to the point when he can no longer tolerate the cloth-eared attitude and open misogyny espoused by a small but noisy group within the party. All power to Kevin for standing up.”

Full text of Kevin’s speech:

Trans rights are human rights.  Of course that is indisputable.  The Equality Act 2010, enacted by a Labour government, was a major step in enshrining and promoting the rights of all nine protected characteristics and no-one should have a problem in committing to defending and upholding those.  I certainly don’t.

But it is foolish to pretend that there are not widely differing views in the current debate or that many people, especially women, are concerned about the impact on women’s sex based rights from changes both legislatively and within society and who fear, not only that those rights are under threat but that they are unable to raise legitimate questions and concerns without a hostile response. The treatment of Rosie Duffield and JK Rowling has made clear that those concerns are well founded.

Indeed, I was astounded that the public information pack produced for this motion stated, in my view unbelievably for a local council document, that the council should use its own communication channels to counter ‘transphobic reporting’ in the national media. Coverage of government consultations, responses and issues around potential legislation is not transphobia but the role of journalism.

There is much in the amendment to be commended, including the commitment by the Executive Councillor to meet with women’s organisations and activists in the same way she has met with trans rights organisations and activists and I hope that she will do that as soon as possible.

Despite that, the inclusion of the first three sentences of this motion, will send a chill down the spines of the many women who believe there is a conflict of rights and who want to be be able to discuss those in a calm and evidenced based way, as indeed was shown by World Rugby in its recent decision to exclude transgender women in those areas of the sport which it controls on the grounds of safety and fairness for women.

I have been a Labour councillor for 10 years – this time around on the council – and have always thought that representing Kings Hedges, my home ward, is a privilege, along with fighting for the right of all its residents to live a life with respect and dignity in two tier Cambridge. A great part of that has been fighting for the provision of new council housing and, after the debacle of the Liberal Democrat administration dispossessing tenants and selling off council land, to lead the renewal of council house development by the City Council remains a source of great pride.

In those ten years I have never once voted against a Labour motion on this council, because I am on this council as a member of Labour Group. That is not a principle which I intend to break now.

But there are also times when principle – or conscience if you prefer – must be weighed against the pull of party. In all conscience I cannot vote for this motion or this amendment.  I have therefore decided that I am standing down as a Cambridge City Labour Councillor with immediate effect and will email the Chief Executive to confirm that on my departure from this meeting at the conclusion of these remarks.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve the people of Cambridge.

Thank you.

Watch Kevin speak here.

LWD Celebrates First Anniversary

Happy 1st Birthday Labour Women’s Declaration!

Labour women met up over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of October 2019, and the Labour Women’s Declaration was born.

We marked our anniversary with a public webinar (speeches and video coming soon) and played out on this:

“No More Silencing of Women!”

Statement in support of Rosie Duffield MP

#WeStandWithRosieDuffield

It should not take courage to speak about women – our sex and our bodies – nor to insist on our right to organise as women and defend our legal protections.

Yet this is 2020. And this is the Labour Party.

But, at last, we can celebrate the bravery of Rosie Duffield, the first Labour Party MP at Westminster to challenge the erasure of the female sex in public life – the cost of adhering to “gender identity” – and her commitment to speaking on behalf of all women, in and beyond the labour movement.

“I feel like I’m being shut up”, Rosie told The Times, after months of public hounding, “and it was really horrible. It does feel like Gilead, where women aren’t allowed to ask questions or proffer alternative ideas. The shutting down of ideas is particularly dystopian.”

Thousands of Labour women feel the same.

We know what it is like to face expulsion from our party – or even to be refused entry – despite a lifetime fighting for the marginal and oppressed. We know the relentless bullying, the demands that we be sacked on spurious charges, and the campaigns to destroy our reputations, businesses and friendships. We know how it feels to constantly be targeted by vitriolic abuse and threats of violence and rape. We know that sex matters because, as Rosie says, this harassment “strikes at the heart of who you are as a woman, and because it’s base, pure misogyny.”

We know, too, that misogynistic attacks are all the more traumatic for countless women, like Rosie, who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse.

Yet where is the compassion now from her fellow MPs, who praised Rosie when she spoke in the Commons about her harrowing history of abuse and urged them to support the protection and welfare of victims and survivors? Where are these MPs when sadistic men compare her with Mussolini and fantasise about seeing her strung upside down from a lamppost?

This is not about denying trans people human rights. We stand with Rosie in saying that “everyone has the right to express themselves and be whatever and whoever they need to be.” We strongly support medical and social services that will enable trans people to fully participate in society and enjoy the human rights we all share.

But we are concerned to protect women’s rights, fought for by the women who built the Labour Party. We hold sex equality legislation as one of the great achievements of our party and we were proud to campaign for our 2019 Manifesto, committed to ensuring that “the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.”

Yet there are Labour members, including some shadow ministers, who continue to equivocate over support for these exemptions. Like numerous women, we fear losing our hard – won rights and protections. “From a woman’s point of view”, as Rosie puts it, “what we are really terrified of is the erasure of women’s safe spaces. We seem to have galloped to the point where women’s spaces are being taken away and that’s deeply terrifying.”

Our rights, within our own party, to organise and speak – as and for our sex – have already been taken away, with barely any discussion. There could be “No debate” we were told, when we asked for a conversation on how we can move forward by reconciling sex-based rights with those of gender identity. Our attempts to open dialogue were met by accusations of bigotry and calls for our expulsion.

“More light, less heat” is all Keir Starmer will say, whenever the issue is raised. But we have seen no effort to turn on the light or to open space for respectful discussion. The Leadership, it seems, wants to avoid getting entangled in a “culture war” over sex and gender. But this is a culture war we cannot duck.

“There is an argument”, warns Rosie, “that the Tories are making it look as though they’re more tolerant than the Labour Party”, and on the current impasse over sex and gender, we fear she is right: “I think if we can’t discuss it then we’re in danger of that happening.” We believe the Labour Party will doom itself to losing the confidence of voters,  if it casts aside the rights and needs of women in favour of an unworkable model of “self-declaration”.

This should concern us all, women and men. It is time for everyone to take responsibility for grappling with this urgent matter. This means listening and thinking, not mantras and invective. It means compassion, reflection, and honesty.

It should not take courage to speak up for women.

But with courage comes strength and freedom. It is liberating and exhilarating to speak your truth. Feminism owes its existence to those who dared to speak their mind and challenge orthodoxy, while also listening, arguing, and even changing their mind. So too does socialism.

“Courage calls to courage”, proclaimed the women suffragists: “Dare to be free.”

Join us. Join Rosie Duffield. Speak up.

The Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group

Read and sign the Labour Women’s Declaration here.

 

 

 

 

 

Joint statement on Govt responsibility to uphold women’s sex-based rights

Labour Women’s Declaration is proud to stand in solidarity with the women who have campaigned for women’s sex-based rights across political parties and in the wider women’s liberation movement.

Together with the women of  Woman’s Place UK, FiLia, Fair Play for Women, the Institute of Feminist Thought, Women Uniting, SNP Women’s Pledge, WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus, Green Feminists, the Conservative Women’s Pledge, and the Liberal Democrats Sex-Based Rights Declaration we call on the government to ensure that women everywhere benefit in everyday life from the provisions made in the Equality Act 2010 to counter sexism and violence against women and girls, particularly with respect to single-sex spaces and services for women and girls. We know that this matters greatly to women, and we will continue to fight for women’s sex-based rights.

We welcome this week’s announcement by the Minister for Women and Equalities. We are pleased that she has struck a balance between improving the process for obtaining a GRC for trans people and restating the importance of women’s sex-based rights. All of our campaigning has been clear that we want everyone to be able to live their life free from harassment or discrimination. Women have worked hard to have our voices heard on issues that affect us. We are pleased that the Minister has listened. She has made clear that the law enables single-sex services and protections for women on the basis of biological sex. We call on the Minister to make a clear statement about the operation of the single sex exceptions under the Equality Act 2010 and how they interact with the GRA 2004. We also call on her to make sure all guidance from the EHRC to service providers, commissioners and employers is a clear and accurate reflection of the law. The same principle should apply to guidance to courts, other public authorities and media. It is clear that too many women are being obstructed from accessing the services and support we need by the ignorance or intransigence of organisations which need to know the law better.

Woman’s Place UK

FiLia

Fairplay For Women

The Institue Of Feminist thought

Women’s Equality Party Sex-Based Rights Caucus 

Labour Party Labour Women’s Declaration 

SNP Women’s pledge

Green Feminists Women & Girls Sex-based rights Declaration

Conservative Party  CUP Women’s Pledge

Liberal Democrats  Women’s Sex-based rights Declaration

 

 

Labour Peers speak up for women

Today’s urgent questions in the House of Lords saw three Labour Peers, speak up for women. Lord Triesman, Lord Young of Norwood Green and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath all expressed their satisfaction that the government has responded sensibly to the GRA consultation. Lord Triesman spoke out against the vilification of women such as JK Rowling who express the view that women’s rights can be exercised on the basis of biological sex, while Lord Young and Lord Hunt  pressed the government on the question of what guidance it will issue to ensure organisations  understand and implement existing law in relation to the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. Many organisations and institutions have already changed their policies and practices in anticipation of  legal changes and on advice that misinterprets the law, so it is crucial that the government acts to clarify how the exemptions can be applied and properly enforced.

We applaud our Labour Peers Lord Hunt, Lord Young (both signatories of Labour Women’s Declaration) and Lord Triesman for speaking up. Women especially lesbians have pushed hard for their voices to be heard. The Lords have clearly listened. That the Lords are speaking creates a space for others – especially Labour MPs who have been notably silent on women’s rights and the right for women to speak about issues around sex-based rights. They also create a space for the Labour Party to move forward and open up the respectful dialogue between gender identity campaigners and advocates for women’s sex-based rights that is much needed.

Click on the links below to hear their full commentary and questions

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Young of Norwood Green

Lord Triesman

Thank you Marsha De Cordova

“What will the Minister do to ensure that all public bodies including the Government Equality Office and the Equality & Human Rights Commission produce statutory guidance which is in keeping with the legislation?”

Sincere thanks to Marsha De Cordova,  Labour Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, for asking this crucial question in support of Labour’s 2019 manifesto pledge “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”

To watch Marsha De Cordova’s full commentary and questions, follow this link.