Defining ‘Shared Socialist Values’

In early February of this year, Labour Women Leading put out this invitation through their networks: “We are inviting any sister who would like to be considered as a candidate for the [Labour Party National Women’s Committee CLP] slate to let us know…LWL is working with sisters from other Labour left organisations (the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance) to produce a united left slate.”

But it stipulated in its criteria for selection that, amongst other (reasonable) features, applicants should be guided by “shared socialist values”, including: “LGBTQ+ rights – we support the right of trans people to self identify”

How did the right of trans people to self-identify become the one thing that epitomises ‘LGBTQ+ rights’? What happened to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals? How did self-identification become a ‘shared socialist value’, of relevance to the selection process? How did such a concept, entirely divorced from the materialist basis of socialism, enter into a selection process for women to become part of the National Women’s Committee?  To regard support for self-identification of ‘gender’ as a requirement for selection appears to demand that any candidate must accept the anti-materialist notion that some inner, non-observable, sense of ‘gender’ is of more relevance to being female than actually being female.

How did this notion become a ‘shared socialist value’? It immediately excludes many actual socialist feminists from putting themselves forward for consideration to stand on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance slate. Additionally, it is entirely unexplained what LGBTQ+ rights actually means, apart from, apparently, the ‘right’ of anyone to ‘self-identify’ into a group in which material existence does not include them.

It later came to our attention, through discussions about this matter within our feminist networks, that other Alliance members had not sought to gate-keep their eligibility criteria in this way, but for some reason Labour Women Leading did.

The assumption that all members of Labour Women Leading’s own network accept that there is no conflict of rights to be discussed from a socialist perspective when it comes to Self ID is censorious and prohibitive. We do not agree that this issue has been decided on amongst socialists. Indeed we would argue – as socialists – that the current gender identity ideology is individualistic, unscientific and regressive and needs better scrutiny by those who position themselves on the left.

This apparent ‘orthodoxy’ seems to be policed by high profile individuals within established women’s organisations and networks in the Labour Party. How did they come to believe that they had the right to stipulate a belief in gender identity ideology as a criterion for selection to the left alliance slate?

Over recent weeks we have witnessed the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme crumbling. Finally, even mainstream media are saying what some of us have been saying for years, and now, all can see that Stonewall’s foundations have been replaced with “Queer theory”. We see high profile comrades doubling down instead of facing the reality. When will we hear high profile left voices speaking up against this so that we can have the conversations we so desperately need?

If you don’t speak out now then you will find you have submitted to neo-liberal forces without saying so much as a word to defend yesterday’s dreams of something better.

 

 

#SixWords-For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’

 

pregnancy & maternity rights
#SixWords – For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’

Call to Action

#SixWords – For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’. “Giving birth is not like chairing a meeting. It cannot be done by a person of either sex.”

It is beyond belief that it has taken governments 103 years to notice women in government may have babies. We are very pleased to see long overdue recognition of this fact in the Maternity Bill to be debated in the Commons this Thursday, 11th February 2020.

But it is unacceptable that the bill talks of ‘pregnant people’ and makes no mention of women at all. This is not a situation that will ever apply to male ministers, so why the obfuscation of language? Nor is it inclusive of those who might be adopting children – adopters are not included in the phrase ‘pregnant people’.

Please, as a matter of urgency,  email your MP ( even telephone your if you are able to) if you believe they are sympathetic. Ask them to propose and support amendment of the Bill’s wording to replace the word ‘person’ with ‘woman’. There is less than 48 hours before this bill is presented. See our example template letter below. Amend as you see fit.

Language matters. Sex matters. Women must not be erased. Share this post across your networks; it affects all women in all political parties.

Template Letter

Dear MP

I have serious concerns around the language used in the Ministerial Maternity Bill being rushed through this week.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0255/200255.pdf

I am pleased to see the House is giving female ministers some of the rights that other pregnant women have – but it is unacceptable that this draft bill undermines our language and removes sex-specific language for mothers, by referring to the mother as  a “person [who] is pregnant” and a “person [who] has given birth to a child”. The bill should be drafted in line with the Equality Act 2010, which talks about pregnancy and maternity using the ordinary language of “woman”, “she” and “her”.

The Drafting Guidance policy to use gender-neutral language should not mean erasing all language about the sexes where only one sex is involved, as in the case of maternity arrangements. Sex-specific language should and must be used in the bill.

The explanatory notes also need to be corrected, as they refer to female ministers throughout using the awkward plural indeterminate “they”. For example: “The Minister on Leave would be able to access papers they were able to access in their previous rôle”.

It is concerning that such action to change language, a strategy used by Stonewall, and other promoters of gender identity ideology, seems in line with the plan for covert changes outlined in a policy paper written by IGLYO (see links below my signature).

It is the responsibility of The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Government Legal Office to draft clear, coherent, accessible law and to help the government to govern well, within the rule of law. Please discuss rectifying this with the ministers presenting the Bill, so that the Drafting Guidance properly allows for sex-specific language where the person concerned can be defined by their sex – as is the case for a woman who is pregnant or a mother.

For a full background, please read this article: 

https://mforstater.medium.com/pregnant-people-in-parliament-62adaa521c2d

Yours sincerely,

[Name and address – you must add your address so your MP knows you live in her/his constituency]

1) IGLYO, Dentons and Thomson Reuters paper:   

https://www.iglyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/IGLYO_v3-1.pdf

2) https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-document-that-reveals-the-remarkable-tactics-of-trans-lobbyists

 

LWD Response to NEC Statement On Women’s Representation

With Women’s Conference deadlines announced and delegations soon to be made, with Scottish Labour MSP selections looming, women members all over the country will be seeking advice from the official Labour Party site. Labour Women’s Declaration working group is dismayed by the NEC out of date statement on All Women Shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women. https://labour.org.uk/about/how-we-work/nec-statement-women-shortlists-womens-officers-minimum-quotas-women/ It is the text of the NEC statement from 22nd May 2018. 

It is true that Labour had (past tense) a proud record of championing for women. This derived from a materialist understanding of women’s disadvantages within this culture, of the way discrimination works and how socialisation results in women’s and girls’ much lower expectations and ambitions.

The inclusion of self-identified transwomen makes a mockery of all the reasons behind these policies. It destroys affirmative action for women if any male person identifying as female is included in a group whose experience of discrimination is specific and different from that of trans-identifying people. This version of the policy has never been discussed or agreed democratically in the Party. To say that the Party will ‘deal with’ anyone subverting the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women is absurd when it is the Party itself which is subverting that intention.

We do not accept the claim that such policies are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Equality Act 2010, which quite explicitly speaks of the exceptions permitting single-sex provision as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Given the aim of building the Party’s empowerment of women in Party rôles and as MPs, it is not hard to see why the exceptions should be used.

We entirely agree that discussions should never take the form of abuse or intimidation. Sadly, the Labour Party has been entirely unwilling to act on any of the hundreds of abusive and intimidatory responses, in meetings and in online Labour forums, towards those who assert the need for women’s rights to be upheld.

The final part of the statement referring to reform not only of the Gender Recognition Act but of the Equality Act 2010 is misleading. It is not Labour Party policy. The 2019 manifesto stated the intention to “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.” It was that commitment that helped us to ensure that women did not leave Labour, seeing this as a clear commitment to our rights. 

How is it possible to prevent the subversion of All Women Shortlists and have a policy that anyone can self-identify as a woman? When did it become Labour Party policy to reform the Equality Act 2010, which already protects trans people on the basis of sex as well as for gender reassignment and protects women on the basis of sex? The 2019 manifesto commitment was for the single-sex exceptions in the EA2010 to be “understood and fully enforced in service provision”. We don’t need reform, we need clarity and proper implementation of current law. 

What is the NEC playing at? Surely this is out of date information (published in May 2018) and since superceded by the 2019 Manifesto. It should have been amended and not feature on the Labour Party website as a statement of current policy. It most certainly should not be foregrounded with the current Leader’s photo as some sort of ironic ‘Welcome’ statement, aimed at undermining women’s rights. In a week where Scottish Labour is producing  zipped lists that are important for female representation in politics, it is important that old policy does not remain on the official Labour Party website. We demand that the website is updated to reflect 2019 Manifesto. 

 

 

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.