We are pleased this year to be holding two fringe meetings at the Labour conference in Liverpool. “Disagreeing well: finding ways forward on sex and gender” takes place within the ACC on 8th October. “How can Labour champion freedom for women and girls?” on 9th October will be chaired by Tonia Antoniazzi and addressed by MPs and peers including Jess Phillips, Rosie Duffield, Dianne Hayter and Diana Johnson plus the co-founder of the Femicide Project, Karen Ingala Smith, who was recently readmitted as a party member after a previous rejection on the basis of gender critical belief. Both meetings have been accepted for listing in the party’s conference guide.
We have two candidates standing for election to the National Women’s Committee which will be decided by CLP delegate vote at the National Women’s Conference on 7th October.
We will also be supporting another fringe meeting on Sunday 8th October and other events hosted by Lesbian Labour and other gay and lesbian organisations.
Background to LWD stand application to Labour conference 2023
Following last year’s refusal, a group of eight Labour politicians applied on 23rd February this year on our behalf for a conference stand. Stand 51 was provisionally reserved for us by Labour’s exhibitions team on 13th March, subject to “approval as new exhibitors”. The Business Board of the NEC, which we understand rarely meets formally to discuss individual stand applications, decided in early July to reject our application. Foolishly, the party has not been prepared to review this decision, despite the subsequent policy shift towards our position taken at the National Policy Forum conference on 23rd July.
As early applicants to a first-come, first-served system, any argument that the stands are now all sold or that other applicants were chosen in preference over us, does not hold water.
LWD response to Labour’s policy shift on sex and gender following National Policy Forum (NPF) conference agreement
The UK Labour party made a major shift in policy following agreement obtained at its NPF conference on 23rd July. It has broadly been welcomed, and the party will be pleased there has been very little high-profile opposition from within its ranks.
We explain in our response to Labour’s policy shift, that we welcome this move. It now needs consolidation, and there are still problems with several of the party’s proposals.
Due to the years of “no debate” within the party, Labour is now behind the curve in its understanding of the depth of policy capture of UK institutions by gender identity ideology, such as the NHS and schools. This began under a Conservative government, but it will need to be tackled by the Labour party if we win the next general election.
In addition to allowing LWD supporters to speak freely within the party structures and conferences, we call on Labour to commission expert briefings across all policy areas in order to understand the harms to women and children which are already occurring. The next stage should be a scheduled programme of policy team briefings with LWD and the other groups which advocate for fair and rational policies on sex and gender, including those which defend the rights of those with same-sex orientation, ie lesbian and gays.
UK Labour must also urge Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour to follow UK Labour in at least starting to listen to women on issues which affect us. If they were listening to women, Scottish Labour would not have voted for the controversial GRR Bill and the Welsh Government would not have introduced its flawed LGBT+ Action Plan.
Labour also urgently needs to better resource and support the National Women’s Committee (NWC) and National Women’s Conference so that they can carry out their proper function of advising the party on issues as they affect women. If the NWC had been in existence during the years since 2014, it is highly likely that women’s voices would have stopped the stealthy policy capture by gender identity ideology lobbyists.
If the party fails to resolve these outstanding policy and resource issues, and fails to insist on free speech for women members, it will continue to be ambushed by the simplest of questions about the party’s policies and about its preparedness to allow women to speak.
A spokeswoman for LWD Working Group said –
‘We are delighted that UK Labour has responded to our years of campaigning and finally adopted our policy position, i.e. protection and ‘legal clarification’ of the single-sex exceptions and retention of the requirement of a diagnosis in the GRC process.
We congratulate Keir Starmer, Anneliese Dodds, Wes Streeting and the National Policy Forum for resisting the pressures against its policy shift from powerful internal lobby groups such as Stonewall and LGBT+ Labour, and for starting to listen to women.
This rejection of self-identification of gender is a significant and positive move towards a sensible consensus on sex and gender in the party, and we welcomed it in a blog and twitter thread. While many questions still remain, the recognition that sex and gender are different and of the importance of supporting the single-sex exceptions for women and girls, is a win for our thousands of signatories. It is in line with our Declaration and all polling shows that it is also supported by the majority of Labour voters and members across the UK.
Wes Streeting indicated in his interview on Times Radio that he realised that the arguments and fury of women colleagues should no longer be ignored and that apologies are due. The party should indeed acknowledge the years of silencing and disciplinary investigations women members and politicians have experienced – just for advocating what is now party policy.
In this context, the rejection of our stand application again this year by the party’s NEC Business Board is a stupid mistake. It is not only retrogressive and discriminatory, but also runs counter to Labour’s newly agreed policy position. It risks damaging the trust of women members and voters.
Refusal to review the decision following the subsequent policy shift is all the more inexplicable, given our two fringe meetings are accepted for listing in the conference guide and will be addressed by senior Labour politicians. There is no justification for preventing interested delegates from talking with us one-to-one at a conference stand.
For the party to say to the eight senior Labour politicians who applied for the stand that they are not deemed suitable hosts, is of course ridiculous.’
Our message to the NEC committee chairs who make up the Business Board
‘If you think you are expressing the wishes of party members in banning our stand, you ought to get out more. All polling shows that the majority of members and voters in every age group share our views and support the party’s official policy shift. And even out of those who don’t agree, very few support a ban on our stand. You are the outliers. We speak for the mainstream. We realise that you made this decision before the NPF conference which agreed the new policy line. But whatever you decide now, it’s win-win for us.
The policy shift was a significant first step. Our two fringe meetings will give conference goers a great chance to engage with our ideas. And if you don’t want people at conference to discuss sex and gender with LWD women – or for it to yet again be a hot topic at conference, then the best way to get more people talking about it, is by rejecting our application. You’ll guarantee we’ll sell out both our fringe meetings. And you’ll free us up from having to find the £5k+ fee, which we’ll enjoy spending on refreshments for everyone at our meetings and reception and on new merch’.
Our message to conference attendees
LWD activists will be everywhere inside both conferences as delegates and visitors. Watch out on social media for info about our daily meet-ups and fringe meetings. Come and say hello and have that one-to-one conversation which the Business Board members clearly don’t want you to have.
The party now needs dialogue, not denial, free speech rather than censorship. We need a confident, well-informed party developing clear, evidence-based and consensus-led policies on sex and gender, in readiness for government. The party has made a great start with its recent policy pivot, but it now needs to consolidate and reinforce that shift. Trying to continue to silence women is silly. It won’t work, and risks undermining the progress the party has now made on this issue in the eyes of voters.”
Labour politicians comment
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, one of the stand applicants on behalf of LWD, said-
‘The NEC business board’s decision to reject our application for a stand is short-sighted and authoritarian. Banning voices one disagrees with usually rebounds and in this case it damages the party’s ability to further develop robust, evidence-based and consensus-led policies on sex and gender.
The chilling effect of the years of “no debate” needs to be dealt with by the party. This includes acknowledging the poor treatment of women within the party for merely proposing what is now the party’s official position’.
Diana Johnson MP, one of the speakers at LWD’s fringe meetings, said-
‘The party’s newly agreed position on reform of the GRA is sensible and is now broadly in line with the seven statements in the Labour Women’s Declaration.
I’m pleased that for a second year running the party is including the LWD fringe meetings in its conference guide and delighted to have been invited to speak on “How can Labour support freedom for women and girls?” in Liverpool on Monday 8th October.
However, it’s disappointing that conference delegates and visitors interested in these issues but unable to attend the fringe meetings will be denied the opportunity to discuss them with LWD, due to the party’s rejection of their conference stand application’.
Tonia Antoniazzi MP, one of the applicants for the stand on behalf of LWD, said-
‘Women are constantly having to fight for their sex based rights when they are struggling to make ends meet and keep a family in a cost of living crisis. As a single mum I know first-hand how real this battle can be. Politically it’s not an either/or choice between tackling the cost of living crisis and defending sex based rights. Both are a priority.’
Karin Smyth MP, who attended LWD’s fringe meeting last year, says she stands by her views expressed in these tweets from July ’22
‘Wandering @UKLabour Conference, talking with stall holders about their interest is an important part of the political experience and education. I’ve learnt so much about different issues and causes, I’ve agreed and disagreed, enjoyed the discussions and the free chocolates’.
‘So disappointed @LabWomenDec currently not allocated a stall and trust we can find space in the coming weeks so everyone leaves Conference more informed and more united in our campaign to defeat the Government. It’s their attack on all our rights needs that needs to be our focus’. ‘