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 Letter to Labour Women MPs

Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group have written to all female Labour MPs asking them to show support to Rosie Duffield and Jenny Marra. We are offering them the opportunity to meet with us, to discuss any questions they may have about the evidence and arguments we are putting forward about the threat to women’s rights from the proposals for sex ‘self-ID’ in law, policy and practice.

We are aware that lobbying organisations such as Stonewall (who have campaigned for the removal of the single-sex exemptions) and LGBT+ Labour have had extensive contact with Labour MPs. We are asking for women Labour MPs to also listen to the voices of ordinary women in the Labour Party who do not have the privileged access of lobby groups to the workings of the party.

We are asking them to stand up for women, especially those working at the grassroots of the Labour Party.

Read our letter and brief in the PDFs below.

Labour Women’s Declaration Letter to Women MPs

Labour Women’s Declaration GRA reform Briefing 30th Aug 2020

Statement on Women and Equalities Questions, 22 July 2020

Today, the last day of this sitting before the summer recess, there were questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss. It had previously been said that a statement would come before the recess, responding to the GRA consultation. This did not happen, but questions alluded to that and related issues. Ms Truss’s key responses were as follows:

As the Prime Minister said, we will respond to the consultation over the summer. Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.

I have been clear that the Government are committed to tackling the abhorrent practice of so-called gay-conversion therapy in the UK. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier this week, this practice has no place in civilised society. Our action will be determined by research looking at how best to define conversion therapy, the scale of the issue, where it is happening and who it is happening to. When that research is complete, I will bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy, making sure that our measures are effective so that no innocent people have to endure such tortuous practices.

We are as disappointed as some of those hoping for specific changes to the Gender Recognition Act that the Minister for Women and Equalities is still not coming out with a clear statement about the Conservative government’s intentions regarding the proposed reform. That this has been delayed to some unspecified time during the recess does not inspire confidence. However, we are pleased that Ms Truss has explained that there is to be no roll-back on trans rights, despite the implication from certain quarters that not making a change to self-ID constitutes a roll-back.

Any reform to the GRA must rely on evidence of need and have comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment for proposed changes. The impact of such reform on women’s and on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights must be fully assessed, including clarification of the interactions between the EA2010 and the GRA.

We are also concerned that nothing further has been said about strengthening the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act, nor about protecting children and young people under 18 from making decisions about potentially life-changing treatment.

We are pleased that research is to be conducted regarding the prevalence and definition of gay conversion therapy, before any moves to present legislative or other proposals. We also note that this statement from Ms Truss referred quite explicitly to gay conversion therapy and not so-called ‘gender identity conversion therapy’.

We await the forthcoming statement.

Labour Women Speak #2

Labour Women Speak is a series of articles giving Labour women members and supporters the opportunity to share their views on why they speak up about sex and gender issues.

Delyth Rennie is a former social worker and children’s guardian. Delyth is a member of the Labour Party. Here she describes how and why she felt compelled to speak up about sex and gender.

I’m an unashamedly Second Wave feminist, whilst acknowledging there were/are undoubtedly a lot of issues to address within that feminism.

I worked in social care for 30 years; 23 of those years as a qualified social worker including 10 years as a children’s guardian. I now work in hospitality. Whilst working as a social worker/guardian, I had NO IDEA about gender ideology or the attack on women’s rights.

On leaving social work, I joined Twitter, but wasn’t particularly active. Anyway, I had a question about female specific mountain bikes. Somehow I responded to a cycling journalist and as a result a female American mountain biker replied to me. She said female specific bikes were ‘horseshit’ and I’d retorted that what was horseshit was not being able to get a bike to fit (I’m a small WOMAN!). There was some to-ing and fro-ing and she offered advice about bikes. On reflection, I perhaps should have questioned more robustly her antipathy to FEMALE specific bikes, but the notion of bikes to fit ‘people’ rather than ‘pinking and shrinking’ seemed to make some sense. (Still no good for me at 5′ 0″ tall. I had to get a woman specific bike!)

Consequently, I followed her on Twitter and liked her sweary tweets, BUT then! She tweeted something like “Rachel you’re a woman and these bastards can f*ck off”. Attached was picture of Rachel McKinnon (who I understand has since changed name). I wondered what on earth was going on. Having hitherto been oblivious, it’s fair to say the penny didn’t just drop – a ton of loose change banged me on the head repeatedly! DUH! My awakening was the realisation that a man could identify as a woman and apparently participate in women’s sport. British cycling seemed just fine with this!!! (McKinnon is Canadian, but has participated in Masters cycling events in the UK).

Although I really didn’t know much about the debate, I quickly learnt if you question gender ideology, if you think there is ANY discussion to be had, you’re called bigot, fascist, racist!!? (I was upset when first added to ‘Nazis on Twitter’ lists, but soon got over it when I saw the illustrious company I was in). It didn’t matter that you were a left wing feminist – to some you were the definition of a ‘transphobic bigot’.

I’d naively thought gender ID was about respecting pronouns really (and like so many women, wanted to be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’). As I engaged with it more, I realised it required total and utter capitulation; that the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ was meant literally, hence a penis on a transwoman is considered a biologically female penis. And lesbians who wouldn’t have sex with a biological male who identifies as trans are therefore ‘transphobic’. The homophobia (or rather lesbophobia) as well as the misogyny at the heart of gender ideology truly dawned on me.

The journey continued and I had my ’15 minutes of fame’ when I asked Alice Roberts (TV presenter and Professor) a question on Twitter (the Humanist Society, of which she is president had ignored my letter). She responded and it went crazy!

Imagine my astonishment when I felt compelled to reply to a professor for public engagement in science: “Goodness. Each person can write their own biology? Post modern biology. Wow. Sex – female, large gametes; male – small gametes.”

My ‘pinned tweet’ is part of that discussion. I think my frustration and disbelief at the lack of scientific rigour on display became even more evident as Professor Roberts starting invoking ‘compassion’, imploring feminists not to be ‘mean’. It reads: “Mean & nasty is prioritising gender identity over my sex-based protections which are disappearing. Mean is transactivists calling us ‘terfs’ [and] Nazis. Wishing us dead in ‘grease fires’ or ‘throat punched’. Biology is not bigotry. It’s not difficult.”

Oh – and she blocked me and a lot of others who took part in the conversation. (At no point was I, or anyone else I noticed participating, rude or abusive). The age of disenlightenment indeed. (This exchange can be found on twitter via my pinned tweet should you wish to look).

I am now extremely concerned about the implications for ‘gender non-conforming’ and other vulnerable children. The sexism and homophobia inherent in the ‘transing’ of children is horrifying and I remain bewildered that so many grown-ups in the room cheer this on, complicit in the most extreme form of conversion therapy. It is also concerning that those directly involved in child safeguarding (especially social work and teaching) either remain silent for fear of losing their jobs/being disciplined/branded as transphobic, or are actually actively involved in promoting this reactionary ideology.