On 18th January, residents of Cazenove Ward in Hackney voted in a byelection to
elect a new councillor.
It was always going to be a close-run competition between Tories and Labour. The
local Conservatives were standing a well-known former Lib Dem councillor candidate
from the Charedi community, Ian Sharer, and a highly efficient postal vote campaign
had been organised. Labour’s candidate was local resident, Labour activist and
feminist Laura Pascal who hoped to hold the seat for Labour in this historically
marginal and unpredictable ward. An extensive Labour campaign of engagement
was planned, intensifying over the final weekend. At the same time opponents of
Laura’s unapologetic stance in support of Labour’s policy on sex-based rights began
to attack her online and to describe these positions as transphobic, but this activity
was mostly invisible to the vast majority of local voters
And then on 13th January the local Labour party suddenly suspended its campaign
on the ground, without explanation. It soon became apparent via press reports that
Laura was under administrative suspension by the party during the investigation of a
complaint against her, apparently for liking some tweets.
On 14th January we published this statement with more background on these
dramatic moves. We called on the UK party to expedite the hearing of the complaint
against Laura so that the campaigning could resume for a Labour win.
On 17th January, on the eve of polling, London Region and Hackney Labour
reinstated their campaign after presumably lifting the suspension of its candidate,
and a last-minute polling day campaign operation took place, with Lib Dems and
Greens actively exploiting the confusing situation for voters in their campaigns on the
In the event, the Tories won with a large majority with Labour second.
Greens trailed way behind and the LibDem vote collapsed to double figures.
There’s not a simple tale to tell, nor any easy answers.
This is our take on this outcome and what led up to it:
However there’s no doubt that there was a negative effect on Labour turnout due to the
confusion around Laura’s suspension and reinstatement, and particularly the suspension of
the local campaign for the five days before the poll. But that reduction was not the main
factor in the overall decisive result. Others have already analysed the multiple factors at
play, for example Dave Hill here. Both national media reporting and prominent social media commentators referring to the loss of a ‘safe seat’ is a failure to consider the local and demographic context of this part of the
borough in the increase in the Tory vote in the byelection. The Conservatives already hold all
three seats in the two wards immediately adjacent to Cazenove.
We believe that the official Lib Dem leaflets distributed to homes on the eve and day of the
poll with a headline message “Labour candidate SUSPENDED”, definitely did reduce the
Labour turnout with some Labour voters staying at home as they thought there was no
Labour candidate on the ballot to vote for. The lack of any clear communication on polling day
from Hackney Labour to voters about her reinstatement was also deeply unhelpful. However,
the Lib Dem vote collapsed, and the Greens’ vote did not grow significantly; there’s no
evidence of Labour supporters switching their votes to other parties on our issue of sex and
One of the absurdities arising from the result has been those suggesting that voters who
oppose Laura’s position must have switched their votes to the Tories. We agree with
tweeters who say that it’s unlikely Labour voters supportive of gender ideology, believers
that “Transwomen are Women”, transferred their votes to the Charedi (Ultra Orthodox)
Jewish candidate for the Conservative Party because of this issue. It’s also very clear that
gender critical Labour voters in the ward did not move their vote to the Conservative
candidate out of disgust with Labour’s lack of support for her – Laura remained steadfast that
her gender critical views were valid and in line with party policy and LWD supporters joined
the doorstep campaign for her. On the doorstep we met voters who were definitely going to
vote Labour because of her stand. These voters constitute the majority view amongst Labour
voters, as polling repeatedly shows.
We do not know the precise details of the allegations made to the party against
Laura, and neither do the campaigners for the Greens and Lib Dems who amplified the issues
raised by ‘local Labour supporters’ fly-posting lamp posts in the ward with their own
Labour party investigations and complaints are confidential and we cannot
know if Laura’s like of a tweet about the US influencer Dylan Mulvaney was indeed the
complaint that led to her temporary administrative suspension. However, transactivist
complainants, aware of the Forstater judgement on the right of people to hold gender critical
beliefs, and the recent Meade judgement against Westminster Council, can sometimes tag
on additional allegations such as racism to a vexatious complaint in order to get the
complaint accepted for investigation, in this case days before a by-election in a highly marginal seat.
Our take on the tweet which the party is apparently investigating Laura for liking, points out what many of Pascal’s attackers have completely missed: the two images are clearly intended as a criticism of
Mulvaney for presenting a mockery of girlhood. We believe that both images in the post are
offensive. The tweet implicitly condemns both the appalling racism of “blackface” and the
sexism of Mulvaney’s videos. Our previous statement has made it clear that a single “like” of
this tweet, if it was the cause, did not justify London Labour’s draconian actions of
suspending the candidate and all campaigning. Suspension was an own goal by our Party.
A local LWD activist involved in the election campaign said: “There was apparently a
complaint to the party, which misinterpreted a tweet liked last June by Laura long before
there was even a hint that there would be an election. Without consideration for the
proportionality of their response or the potential safeguarding implications for the candidate,
whichever section of the Labour Party that was immediately responsible overreacted by
putting her on administrative suspension, depriving the Labour campaign of the vital last few
days. Opposing parties, (though not the Tories), capitalised on the suspension to spread
malicious misinformation about Pascal, leading to some Labour voters staying at home”.
It’s clear to us that unless the party makes its current policy positions clearer to its members, officers, politicians and staff, female candidates who speak out in support of these positions will continue to suffer from vexatious complaints on the eve of elections being taken seriously by party officials.
We urge the party to heed the judge’s words in the ruling on Rachel Meade vs Westminster Council:
“The state of mind of both Social Work England and the local authority had been that the [gender critical] beliefs expressed were inherently discriminatory and transphobic and therefore unacceptable”.
As the legal expert Michael Foran points out in the article linked to above, “The tribunal was heavily critical of the investigators for their clear failure to do due diligence to ensure that the complaint against Rachel was not malicious. This should be seen as a warning not to unquestioningly investigate every complaint made by hard-line activists. Some complaints should be dismissed out of hand.”
Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group
20th January 2024.
Tel 07887 508395