The Senedd is about to make the same mistakes as Nicola Sturgeon
History is repeating itself fast these days. You might think that no one in their right mind would choose to walk in Nicola Sturgeon’s shoes after Scotland’s First Minister staked her reputation on a reckless and unnecessary piece of legislation — and lost. None of the arguments for her gender reform bill make sense, but she now can’t appear in public without being asked about pronouns and sexual predators, giving one stumbling performance after another as she sinks deeper into incoherence.
The message for politicians elsewhere in the UK is surely to avoid Sturgeon’s mistakes at all costs: it would take a particularly obtuse bunch to ignore them. Step forward the Welsh Government, whose LGBTQ+ Action Plan, unveiled yesterday, could hardly be more beholden to gender ideology. It’s a riot of fashionable terms, throwing around nonsense about sex being ‘assigned at birth’ and ‘ace/aro’ identities with incautious abandon. It quotes a rise in recorded hate crime against transgender people, without acknowledging a Home Office warning that it shouldn’t be interpreted as evidence of an actual increase, rather than higher rates of reporting.
But the big giveaway, the sign that Welsh ministers have learnt nothing from their Scottish counterparts, is that they’re intent on making it easier for anyone who feels like it to change legal sex. The First Minister, Welsh Labour’s Mark Drakeford, told the Senedd last month that Wales should have a self-identification system similar to the one passed in the Scottish Parliament in December.
The proposal has been blocked by the UK Government, and this week Welsh ministers confirmed that they intend to ask Westminster to hand over powers so they can make their own gender recognition law. The UK Government is highly unlikely to agree — and Welsh ministers don’t even have the excuse that they’re in coalition with a bunch of intransigent Greens. It’s actually much worse: they’re doing this of their own volition.
Yesterday a Conservative Member of the Senedd, Laura Anne Jones, made a perfectly reasonable speech about the plan. She talked about the “clear risks” posed to women and girls by self-ID, and the importance of preserving single-sex spaces. The response from Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, used the kind of personal abuse and unsupported accusations we heard at Holyrood in December. Blythyn described Jones’s speech as “shameful”, but she didn’t stop there. “Your words have a dangerous impact, Laura Anne Jones, it harms people, the words that you say, the discrimination that comes out of your mouth,” she said with unconcealed contempt.
‘How did we get here?’ asks the preamble to the plan. It’s a good question, although not in the way the authors intend. How did we get into a situation where two of the UK’s devolved administrations treat female politicians who stand up for other women, including lesbians and victims of male violence, as pariahs? Making it easier for men to ‘identify’ as women has no benefits for the public at large, and is open to exploitation by sexual predators, as Sturgeon is being reminded on a daily basis.
Events in Wales and Scotland are a painful example of a politics mired in prejudice, incapable of critical thinking and contemptuous of dissent. Neither Holyrood nor the Senedd is listening to voters, who don’t like or want self-ID. But then half the electorate is female — and neither the SNP nor Welsh Labour seems to like women much at all.