• MakeMoreNoise

Labour Losing Women at the Labour Party Women's Network Hustings

Updated: May 15, 2020


Labour leadership candidates were challenged once again last night on their respective stances on the clash between women's and trans rights, delivering soundbite friendly answers which failed to address women's concerns.


The leadership debate heated up in recent weeks after the female candidates signed a pledge from the hitherto unknown group Labour Campaign for Trans Rights. It inflamed many in the party who argued it had effectively created a hostile environment for feminists after it branded Women’s place UK a Hate Group and demanded that its members be expelled from the party. Keir Starmer has managed to avoid much of the ire; signing a less libellous pledge from LBGT+ Labour which nevertheless commits the party to the radical policy platform which follows after you declare that transwomen are women. None of the candidates signed the Labour Women’s Declaration which demanded the party uphold women’s sex based rights as set out in the equality act.


Lisa Nandy received a large portion of the criticism after she committed the Labour Party to reforms which would make it much easier for male rapists to self-identify into the female prison estate. Tensions flared up a couple of weeks ago at the Pink News and Diva Magazine Labour LGBT+ Hustings in Manchester after women who tried to ask some pertinent questions were attacked and abused as candidates tried to ignore the ugly scenes on the floor.


The Labour Women's Network Event was created in part to manage the concerns of feminists within the party. Did the event manage to do so? DJ Lippy transcribed their responses to the two gender critical questions permitted and added an editorial commentary reflecting the frustrations of many women in the Labour Movement.


 


‘The Labour Party says that it is the only party to consistently stand with women. I joined because I believe this to be the case. The commitments made in your manifesto such as creating a national women’s commission and appointing a commissioner for against violence against women and girls is commendable. The Labour manifesto also says that you will ensure that single-sex exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision. Please can each of you explain how you are going to do this?’


Lisa Marie


‘Frances’s question is how can you dismantle the idea that any statement made about their sex-based rights constitutes transphobia and how will you support women to talk about their sex-based rights free from intimidation and harassment and being labelled with perjorative terms such as transphobe or TERF?’


Question submitted before event


 

KEIR STARMER:


“Our party should, and does, stand with women; that is what we are about and that’s what we will be about under my leadership, and under the leadership of any of us in this panel [Even those who promise to expel women who demand we uphold their sex based rights?] We say this over and over and over again [It’s mad that none of us believe them]. And that means standing with women whether you are a woman or a man and that’s why the IWD theme is so important I think this year.


And when I was Director of Public Prosecutions I saw this first hand. You referenced violence against women and girls because what I saw working with my staff in relation to the response to violence against women and girls was set against the victims in a very very profound way [Yeah, almost like the establishment hates women, eh?] and it was staggering quite frankly. And we had massive cases of grooming in the North West of England where young girls were being passed around in the most awful of circumstances and used for sex [Children can’t consent to sex with adults it’s RAPE] and we started those massive prosecutions of those grooming cases and one of them landed on my desk and it became clear that we had previously not prosecuted the same defendants, so I said I want to understand why not. And when I looked into it what I saw was good faith decisions [Good faith decisions or sexist and classist decisions?] by police officers and prosecutors who were trying to assess the credibility of the young women concerned [CHILDREN KEIR, CHILDREN] is that they asked themselves, did these young women [CHILDREN] go straight to the police to report what had happened to them? And if the answer to that is to say: ‘No’, then they are not likely to be credible. Did these young women [CHILDREN] go back to the perpetrators? And if the answer to that is: ‘No, then they’re less likely to be credible. Etc, etc. There were all these myths and stereotypes about how people would respond, and my experience - and the experience of all the other prosecutors - was actually if you’ve been subject to sexual violence the likelihood is you’re not going to the police station at all, you’re not going quickly, erm, and you may well be going back to the perpetrator because a lot of this violence occurs within a relationship [A PAEDOPHILIC RELATIONSHIP]. And therefore spent 5 years of my time working with women’s groups, with women police officers and prosecutors to completely overhaul and change the approach to the way that we dealt with violence against women and girls. And it just got worse and worse and worse and when you got into the money that went into refuges there was a different story at every twist and turn and so I’ll say that to demonstrate that I’m standing with women has to mean something more than just a slogan on a platform [Like understanding what the definition of a woman actually is?] I think it’s important that all of us, especially me on this panel, demonstrate what I’ve done in the past so that people will know how I will lead this party when we go into the challenges that we’ve got. By the way where we have made progress in criminal justice there is a long long long way to go [defining the definition of woman would be a start, Keir.]

On the question of trans rights...


-AUDIENCE MEMBER: “It was a question about women's rights..”

-CHAIR: “Just a minute, thanks, he’s answering it.” (intermittent back and forth)

-KEIR STARMER: “I mean I’ll...I think the second question did mention trans rights..(unrecognisable words) transphobia but...but…”

-CHAIR: “Right I was very clear at the beginning that there would not be any heckling and the candidates are answering thank you.”


KEIR STARMER


“And I think it’s really important that we recognise that trans rights are human rights [Cos women’s rights mean more than just sloganeering from a platform, eh Keir?] and that they’ve been abused and vilified for a very very long time [Unlike those girls in Rotherham, eh Keir?] and we the Labour Party stand by and with people vilified and abused in that way. We do. I mean the Gender Recognition Act was a big, I believe, step in the right direction, but I don’t think it does go far enough. Other countries have gone further; we need to go further. But if we do need to go further we need to go further in the right circumstances. This just gets so heated and becomes such a political football that nobody could find a way forward [Maybe that’s because you’d first have to acknowledge that Self ID de facto eliminates women’s sex-based protections?]. We need to deal with that. As with the Equalities Act . Erm, I am a big fan of the Equalities Act. It’s based on the Human Rights Act, erm, and the Human Rights Act is something I have spent 20 or 30 years devising and then using as an instrument to promote equality and to deal with discrimination [WITHOUT UNDER STANDING WHAT A WOMAN IS KEIR??] so the principles at the heart of the Equalities Act I hold very very dear. Because they’re the principles that have been in place for decades about how we solve the difficult questions of equality and discrimination. And I think that maybe a route through this but we won’t find a route through this if we don’t conduct the debate in a much much better way. We are doing nobody a service by the way that we are dealing with this debate.” [By ‘dealing’ we assume he means sidelining, ignoring and denying there is even a REAL conflict of rights here?].


 

LISA NANDY:


“Can I say thank you for starting this question by going to Keir because Becky and Emily and I have been asked a lot about this issue in the campaign and it is deeply frustrating that we seem to think that when we are talking about women's rights and women’s safety that this is only an issue for women? [Nothing to do with you signing that pledge promising to expel feminists from the party, no?]


I was born a Manc because my parents moved to Manchester in the 70’s so that my dad could take up a job as Deputy Director of the Equal Opportunities Commission when it was first set up and he was one of the co-authors of the second Equal Pay Act and he taught me that this was not a fight for women alone actually this is a fight for everyone who believes in a decent society, and I was really glad to hear what Keir said in response to the question. I think we’ve got ourselves into a really bad place on this issue in the party where we are just pitting one group of rights against another both of whom it should be possible to meet, both of whom it should be possible to stand up for.


I used to work for the charity Centrepoint before I came into Parliament. We spent a lot of time working out policies and practises that would keep young people, particularly young women who had often experienced domestic violence or prostitution, from harm in our hostels, keeping them safe and protecting those safe spaces. I know from the fights that my mum had always fought that there’s a generation of women who fought very very hard to establish safe spaces for women and I believe that this really matters. [So I am going to try and expel them from the Labour movement!]


I know because I represent a constituency, Wigan, with one of the highest domestic violence rates in the country, that it’s not just that women are often under threat of harm and need safe spaces it’s that for a lot of those women they will always feel the need for safe spaces, so they matter. [Safe spaces away from WHOM?] I want you to know that and I want you to know therefore when I say, ‘transmen are men and ‘transwomen are women and they have rights’ that should be understood and should be respected, and the Labour Party, I believe, will always stand up for them I do not see these things as mutually exclusive. And I will not allow two groups of people who deserve our help and support and solidarity to be pitted against one another in this way. This debate needs far more light. [Why did you take such an extremist and aggressive stance by signing that trans pledge then Nandy?]


In my constituency I’ve got a young person who is going through the Gender Recognition Act process at the moment and watching what she and her family have had to go through is one of the things that has driven me on [Nothing to do with that homophobic leaflet you wrote at uni then, eh Nandy?] despite the amount of anger and hatred and abuse [Read: Reasonable criticism] that I’ve had for standing up on this issue is because it’s given me a very small taste of what her and her family have had to put up with over the last few years during this lengthy, awful process [Erm, Self ID doesn’t actually change this though…]. There’s no support. The waiting times are horrendous. The stigma is terrible. It’s not a psychological condition to be trans and we shouldn’t stigmatise people as such [Why are you so concerned that they’re not getting proper medical support then?] and that’s why I don’t agree actually that the Gender Recognition Act was a step forward because I think it was something that was meant to provide support [nothing to do with delaying same sex marriage then?] and help and in fact has become one of the problems for trans people. One of the reasons that they’re stigmatised and bullied and discriminated against and why we’ve now got a situation in which we should be ashamed of in this country where trans people’s suicide rates are sky high [CITATION NEEDED] when mental health is at rock bottom. [So this isn’t the fault of the Tory government slashing budgets for mental health provision or driving people on disability support to suicide, no it’s the fault of...TERFs. Of course!]


I think we will look back on this time with astonishment that we allowed his to happen in this country. It reminds me of when I was growing up in the 1980s when AIDS had become a real issue and the government was running advertising campaigns about it and the the level of discrimination against gay men and lesbians was horrendous it just wasn’t understood and people said it was a choice. And it was disgraceful and we’ve got to do far far better than this. So I want to make sure that we stand up for both and that we do both. And there is a wider point here in this party about the level of debate that we’ve been able to have in the last few years. Whether it’s on this issue, whether it’s on Brexit, whether it’s on Israel/Palestine. I have sat in too many meetings watching too factions on either side of the argument going from 0-60 in just a couple of minutes and I’ve watched people’s faces in the audience over and over again as most people have just shut down and shut off because they can’t find a way into that angry polarising binary debate. I will not accept it and the leadership that I intend to bring to this party is as much about the level of political debate that we need to preserve in this country as it is about anything else. God help us! Look at what the Tories are doing to our political debate. Look what people like Nigel Farage have done introducing this poison into our public life we have to do better. We must do better. We will do better.”


 

REBECCA LONG-BAILEY:


“The good thing about this leadership campaign is that we often find ourselves agreeing with everything that each other said. [Democracy flourishing in the Labour movement, eh?] now that’s a good sign for the future and erm it has become a very complex and upsetting issue within the party and there should never ever be any contradiction between the rights of trans people in our party standing up for trans people and the rights and the safety of women. We need to make sure that we maintain both. And, in terms of the arguments that have been discussed within the leadership campaign, it’s been the issue of trans people and the dehumanising process that they have to go through to identify as a trans man or a trans woman, often undergoing psychiatric assessment as well as quite a degrading process overall and that’s why I’m committed to pushing forward with the argument and trying self-ID in law and to make the process more human, more respectful in the way that you would expect the Labour Party to do, but that has never been at the expense of standing up for women's rights. It’s never been at the expense of amending the Equalities Act - which I stand up for to the hilt.”


AUDIENCE MEMBER: (inaudible interruption)

CHAIR: No sorry I was very clear you judge who you find the arguments

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The candidates are not answering the questions I’m sorry to interrupt

CHAIR: No. Sorry, if you cannot sit quietly I will ask you to leave. I was wholly clear about that at the beginning. People will judge the answers but the answers will be heard.

REBECCA LONG-BAILEY:


“It’s right for us to be compassionate about this in the party and as the candidates have said we’ve got to do it in a respectful and comradely manner [COMPLY] and I know you feel passionately about this and you’re not being disrespectful that’s totally fine. But in terms of the Equalities Act I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t want to amend the single-sex exemption and I know I need to explain that to people because quite often in this debate that’s what’s become quite confusing to people. Service providers now can prove that they need to have a single-sex exemption to protect, potentially, women that have been abused, undergoing domestic violence and they need to be in an environment where they feel totally safe and secure.”


AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Women in prison…”

REBECCA LONG-BAILEY:


“And women in prison as well, exactly, and that’s the thing about this the sensible way to respond to this is saying that women in prison everything should be assessed on a case-by-case basis [So those single sex exemptions are meaningless then?] No one put into prison should be at risk nevermind women at risk. [Don’t put rapists into women's prisons then by deciding claims on a case-by-case basis!] and that’s why we need to uphold the principles of the Equalities Act on this [by totally and utterly ignoring them!] but that not completely separate to standing up for the rights of trans people which you would expect a Labour Party to do. There’s too much tribalism in the party we do get passionate and it’s right that we do. It’s right that we have discussions and we disagree with each other because that’s healthy and we are a broad church and that’s a positive thing. It’s positive because having that wide breadth of opinion within the party actually makes us the most electable force [yeah putting rapists into women's prisons is sure to win back the Red Wall] and the transformational force that the country has ever seen. But it only achieves that if we have our arguments in private. We’re respectful and once we agree a resolution we unite [COMPLY] behind that resolution and we campaign together to make sure that we elect a Labour government and we haven’t seen that over the last four years unfortunately we’ve seen in-fighting and it has to stop because nobody votes for a divided party.”


 

Once again the concerns of women were totally ignored in favour of soundbites and pre-prepared propaganda that patronised the intelligence and integrity of many people within the party asking relevant questions. We caught up with the woman who asked the initial question and here was her response.



LISA-MARIE:


The question posed was very specifically worded to elicit an answer to an important question that women within the Party have been asking for months. ‘The Labour manifesto also says that you will ensure that single-sex exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision. Please can each of you explain how you are going to do this?’


Yet again not one of the candidates answered the question. This is not good enough and Women deserve more from their elected representatives.


 

If you want to meet women who share you concerns regarding the Labour Party's stance on women's rights you can attend this rally on Monday 9th March in London.


By DJ Lippy


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APPENDIX


LABOUR WOMENS DECLARATION


We are signing this declaration in a personal capacity. We are Labour Party supporters, members, activists, trade unionists and include nationally and locally elected representatives and officers.


The Labour Party and trades union movement has a proud history of struggle against the exploitation of women. It has stood for the rights of women in work and public life and for the safeguarding of girls. We, the undersigned, declare that:


1. Women and girls are subject to discrimination and oppression on the basis of their sex.

2. Women have the right to freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly (Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights).

3. Women have the right to discuss policies which affect them, without being abused, harassed or intimidated.

4. Women have the right to maintain their sex-based protections, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.

5. Women have the right to participate in single-sex sports, to ensure fairness and safety at all levels of competition.

6. Women have the right to organise themselves, as a sex, across a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities.

7. We condemn all attempts to undermine or limit the rights of women to self-organise and call on the Labour Party and the trades union movement to actively support these essential freedoms.

 

LGBT+ LABOUR PLEDGE


 

LABOUR CAMPAIGN FOR TRANS RIGHTS


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