Open letter to Sir Keir Starmer MP

 

Open letter to: Sir Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition

Cc: Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader

Marsha de Cordova, Shadow Secretary, Women and Equalities

From: Labour Women's Declaration

 23rd November 2020

Dear Keir,

OBJECTION TO YOUR TWEET OF INACCURATE AND OFFENSIVE VIDEO

The Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group, on behalf of over 5000 Labour Party members and supporters, objects to the video tweeted by you and also the Labour Party on 20th November, Transgender Day of Remembrance, featuring Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, incorrectly implying that trans people suffer disproportionate murder and hate crime rates in the UK.

No trans person has been murdered here in the past two years. 82% of the 350 murders mentioned were in Latin America and none were from the UK. The homicide and femicide rates in Brazil, and in particular of women and trans people driven into prostitution through poverty, are appalling and of course each victim deserves remembrance, but by presenting those figures as if they were UK based you do further disservice to those very real issues, and expose an alarming level of ignorance about them.

Angela’s video is also misleading on the issue of hate crime and fails to distinguish between hate crime and hate incidents. We would suggest the Labour Party and your Policy Officers inform themselves about the law and relevant guidance.

20th November was International Children’s Day. There are 4.2 million children in UK living in poverty (30% of our children) yet no video for them; nor were there videos on Lesbian Visibility Day, World Toilet Day, International Day for Tolerance nor National Anti-Bullying Week.

Meanwhile, the Femicide Census 2009-2018 records that 1,425 women have been murdered by men in the UK. This represents one woman every three days since 2009. This year alone, as of April, 90 deaths of women as a result of male violence have been recorded by Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of Nia  and founder of “Counting Dead Women”. The names of these women are read out in Parliament every year by one of your MPs. (We note that this is the same Karen Ingala Smith, who was rejected as a Labour Party member in February 2020, ostensibly because of hostility to “gender identity”, an expression with no definition in law.)

This Wednesday, 25th November 2020, will be International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Via @countingdeadwomen Karen will be naming every UK woman killed by a man (that she is aware of) since IDEVAW last year, 108 women so far. She will start at 8am and tweet about one woman every 5 minutes.  

Can we expect the Labour Party to release a video drawing attention to those 1425+ women who have been murdered in the UK in the last 10 years, and highlighting the urgent need for women’s refuges to be adequately funded?

Your fear-mongering and virtue-signalling are failing both trans people and women. In addition to stoking anxieties for trans people, the unfounded claims in your video have real and increasingly dangerous consequences for women. You can see clear evidence of this in the comments below your tweets which have incited those who are already bullying MP Rosie Duffield (and party members like us) to further excesses and silencing tactics of threat and hatred.

 You and the Party are failing in your Public Sector Equality Duty to foster good relations between groups protected under the Equality Act, and in your duty to safeguard your own female MPs and party members, many of whom tell us they feel unable to speak freely about women’s sex-based rights, despite the manifesto commitment to them. Here’s just another example – read what happened in a Portsmouth CLP meeting last week over a motion focussed on women’s right to speak. It is an account that clearly demonstrates that women members in our Party are actively being denied their democratic right to speak and be heard. Keir, the Labour Party has a problem that won’t go away just because you’re trying to ignore it.

For the many women members who are questioning their allegiance to the Labour Party because women’s rights appear so low on your agenda, Angela’s video, falsely identifying transgender people in the UK as being more at risk than any other group and exposing women in your party who speak up about it to yet more abuse, is chilling.

How can it be that leadership of a party with such a history of advancing and defending women’s rights can exhibit so little understanding of the issues we face? If you continue to refuse to listen to women who have offered to explain and discuss with you the conflict of rights referred to in the Equality Act, you will continue to blunder into promoting inaccurate propaganda like Friday’s video. You called for ‘more light, less heat’ but have done nothing to allow light to shine, and your video has fanned the flames of the heat.

We look forward to your response to the many requests from women’s groups like ours, including Woman’s Place UK, for a meeting with you. We also look forward to hearing you and the Deputy Leader stand up for the manifesto’s commitment to the enforcement of sex-based rights, and for women’s rights, including MPs’ rights, to discuss issues which affect us.

Nothing about us, without us. Women’s voices matter.

Yours sincerely,

Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group

LWD Webinar Video Now Available

We are pleased to announce that the video of our webinar held on 20th 0ctober 2020 is now available to watch on our YouTube channel.  Click on the link below.

Labour Women’s Declaration – Standing up for women’s rights in the Labour Party

We have also uploaded transcripts of speeches.  Please click on the links below.

How 50 years of women’s liberation led to the Labour Women’s Declaration

LWD reflect on a year of the women’s movement

A Materialist Feminist Perspective on Women’s Rights

How we can help you at constituency level

Labour Women’s Declaration Cymru – An overview of grassroots organising in Wales 

 

 

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!”

Voting in the NEC elections

Ballots for Labour NEC elections were sent out on 19 October 2020. Voting closes 12 November 2020.

We wrote to all candidates and also did some research on what they had said on the public record. In case you wish to inform your choices based on the information we collected, please see the two lists below. Please understand that we are not endorsing any particular candidates, merely attempting to provide information so you can make an informed choice.

Click on their names for the information we have collected.

List 1: We believe these candidates support the “understanding and enforcement of the single-sex exceptions in service provision”

Dave Anderson (CLP)

Yasmine Dar (CLP)

Iram Woolley (CLP)

Esther Giles (Treasurer)

List 2: The following candidates have either stated that they believe that transwomen are women; and/or that they support the existing policy whereby men who identify as women are allowed to stand on All Women’s Shortlists (AWS); and/or they signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights Pledge in February 2020, calling for those who express “bigoted, transphobic views” to be expelled from the Labour Party.

Again, click on the names below to see what each candidate had to say:

Kendrick Fowler (Disabled)

George Lindars-Hammond (Disabled)

Kevin Watts (Disabled)

Reg Cotterill (Treasurer)

Vincent Lo (Treasurer)

Kira Lewis (Youth)

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.