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Don’t trust Keir Starmer on women-only spaces

What does he really believe? Credit: Getty

July 2, 2024 - 1:00pm

After five years of pondering “the woman question”, Sir Keir Starmer has finally settled on an answer: men should not enter female-only spaces, regardless of their identity. In a new interview with the Times, the Labour leader now claims he has “always said biological women’s spaces need to be protected”.

Undoubtedly, a volte face of this magnitude takes some serious lady balls. When calling for reform of the Gender Recognition Act in 2022, Starmer proudly proclaimed that “trans women are women”. The following year, he clarified that “99.9% of women don’t have a penis”. When his own MP Rosie Duffield stated that “only women have a cervix”, he insisted she was wrong to do so. He has since turned a blind eye to the sustained and at times criminal harassment the Canterbury candidate has faced from trans activists.

Moreover, for years the Labour Party has refused to meet with gender-critical groups such as Labour Women’s Declaration, Lesbian Labour and the Left-leaning Women’s Place UK. This reluctance brings to mind the words of Lord Cashman on learning that Duffield was withdrawing from a hustings due to trans activist threats: party apparatchiks are either “frit or lazy”.

Perhaps Starmer’s stance has been shifted by a recent poll which showed that 48% of those who voted for his party in the 2019 election support the Conservative manifesto pledge to amend the Equality Act to protect single-sex services. In contrast, only 20% of Labour voters oppose it.

This is because a huge grassroots campaign, led by pissed-off middle-aged women, has put sex-based rights on the electoral agenda. For the past few years, the question “what is a woman?” has been unavoidable for those seeking public office. The standard response of politicians on the Left has been to frame people’s genuine concerns as a culture war talking point, manufactured by the Right. But the public has stubbornly insisted that they do in fact care about the impact of gender self-identification on single-sex sports, prisons and hospital wards.

Many voters have not lost sight of the fact that it was under the last decade of Tory rule that institutions began to bow to trans lobby groups and reject sex in favour of gender self-identification. After all, the proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act was championed by the Conservative Maria Miller. The growth of the newly launched, single-issue Party of Women (POW) attests to an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the variously contemptuous and calculated approaches of the mainstream parties to women’s rights.

Ultimately, electoral support for the Labour Party is not a sign of Starmer’s success: it is emblematic of the Conservative Party’s failure. When he does get his feet under the desk at Downing Street, polls show it will be with the lowest net favourability rating of any incoming prime minister. The perception that Starmer is too scared of the trans lobby to stand up for women, or even just the gender-critical MPs within his party, has undoubtedly tarnished his image.

Our next prime minister would do well to remember that boarded-up shops on the high street and small boats on the shores do not make sex-based rights any less of an electoral issue. The “woman question” has now become a litmus test for politicians — an indication of whether they stand with the authoritarian activist class, or with ordinary voters. Women who have previously voted Labour may not be convinced by Starmer’s latest turn.


Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
10 days ago

In a new interview with the Times, the Labour leader now claims he has “always said biological women’s spaces need to be protected”.
He is aware that, as a politician, people record what he says, right?

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
10 days ago

‘biological women’.
What other kinds of women are there?

Carl Pollington
Carl Pollington
10 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Some would argue non-biological, but categorising them that way makes women sound like washing powder.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago

LOL

Giles Toman
Giles Toman
9 days ago

Non-bio women aren’t as good though.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
10 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

We’re having to add this distinction precisely because of those trans clowns

David Morley
David Morley
10 days ago

Are trans clowns really funny, or do they just identify as funny?

Andrew R
Andrew R
10 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

The lawyer’s trick of separating biology and gender, the latter being “a social construct”.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

That my dear is precisely the problem, when even supposedly intelligent people chant the mantra “transwomen are women” the qualifier “biological” has to be used to stop the lying slippery politicians from claiming later that TWAW.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 days ago

Would it not be clearer and more accurate to refer to “women” (what presumably Starmer refers to as “bioplogical women”) and “statutory women” ie men who are regarded in law as women having obtained a GRC under statute and presumably a third category of “self-proclaimed women” who are neither women nor statutory women but pretend women.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
10 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I know it’s a typo, but I kind of like the term “biopological women”.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
10 days ago

In anthropological terms, it could prove to be a more than useful distinction.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
9 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I agree, especially as lawyer Starmer’s prevarications appear to derive from a reluctance to make clear the difference between women and ‘women’ by legal fiat.

S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
9 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

There’s a reason for “biological women”.
It includes men who have made biological changes. It’s in the Blair interview that Starmer agreed with and Hoon confirmed it on GB News.
I cannot stress enough – Starmer has not changed his position on this, only the words he is using to express it.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
6 days ago
Reply to  S Wilkinson

You mean men who have made cosmetic changes? Their biology doesnt change just because they take cross sex hormones. As a patholigist friend told me “on the slab, biology will out no matter the external changes. You cant change the infrastructure, it remains the sex you were born as”. As for having a “female brain”, why do the activists screaming for change all still behave as the males they are. Behaviour remains the same. Psychology 101.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 days ago

Even Trump would be embarrassed by emitting a porker of this magnitude. Not so the Great Obfuscator.

Shelagh Graham
Shelagh Graham
10 days ago

It’s not only the jeopardising of women’s safe spaces. To my mind, the much more pressing issue is the medicalisation of confused children. Gender non-conformity is not something that needs immediate drug or surgical intervention but the classifying of talking therapies as evil, inhumane conversion therapy has removed a valuable pathway to happiness and safety for those affected.

David Morley
David Morley
10 days ago
Reply to  Shelagh Graham

Yes, this is far more concerning. It’s far from clear that the recent uptick in girls identifying as trans isn’t a sociological phenomena rather than a biological one.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Of course it is. My neighbour’s son went through a phase of wearing a dress and eyeliner. Now he’s back down the pub in jeans and a beanie. Social media turbocharges fashion victimhood.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Does he listen to Nirvana by any chance?

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
10 days ago

Anyone who is committed to a thoroughly class-based analysis does have to question both the treatment of J.K. Rowling as a particular authority on gender issues, and the Labour Party’s offer to meet her. We all know why those things are. But we should make them say it.

Yet only Rowling is in a position to take on the exclusion from the publishing industry of authors who, whatever the subject matter of their work, did not toe the line on gender self-identification. And does she still hold a United States visa? The people who issued those would not see the funny side of an endorsement of the Communist Party.

Nor is that the only side to see. Like several other regular contributors on these matters including Josephine Bartosch, Rowling bears more than a passing resemblance to the middle-aged, middle-class women who are conspicuous at trans events. Young men tend to be sceptical of this as much as of #MeToo, as well as tending to be very left-wing economically, and strongly anti-war internationally; all those things are connected.

But behind a small number of mostly older male transvestites march hordes of young women, a large minority but still a minority of whom think that they are men. Alongside those young women march a goodly number of their academic instructors and administrators of the same sex, as such instructors and administrators do now tend to be. Whether she likes it or not, Judith Butler is a woman. By some distance, she is the most cited female academic in the world. And who is citing her? Humanities academia is ever more heavily female.

It is the Conservative Government that is presiding over gender self-identification day in and day out. The whole of the public sector and its vast network of contractors now simply presuppose it. It has come to be treated as already the law only since 2015. Go back to 2010, and the concept itself was unheard of. This has happened entirely under the Conservatives, and without anything so vulgar as a Commons Division. How about one? Labour is right that the spousal veto has been rendered obsolete by same-sex marriage, which the Conservative Party has presented for a decade as the founding event of its present form.

In December 2022, there was a rare television depiction of Margaret Thatcher. In Prince Andrew: The Musical, she was played by one Baga Chipz, a drag queen. Of course. Gender self-identification is the inexorable logic of the self-made man or the self-made woman, and a figure comparable to Thatcher, emerging in the Britain of the 2020s, would be assumed to be a transwoman, just as Thatcher herself emerged in the Britain of everything from Danny La Rue and D**k Emery to David Bowie and The Rocky Horror Show. In a generation’s time, everyone will be saying that Tony Blair had always been as androgynous as Thatcher. Leo Abse wrote eye-opening books on both.

Still in thrall to one the two most androgynous figures ever to have emerged in British public life, who destroyed the stockades of working-class male employment while creating a new ruling elite of middle-class woman funded and empowered by the State, the Right produces almost none of its own gender critics, and of course ignores the absolute soundness of the Morning Star and of Counterfire on gender self-identification, or the fact that both the Alba Party, and the Workers Party of Britain, have been founded in no small measure because of this issue. Instead, a platform is given to ostensible refugees from a Left from which their economic views had often suggested a dislocation, and their foreign policy views even more so, long before anyone remotely mainstream had ever suggested that human beings could change sex, or that biological sex did not exist.

Knowing their new audience and that it paid a lot better than their old one, and manifesting the fact that centrism and right-wing populism were con tricks to sell exactly the same economic and foreign policies to different audiences by pretending to wage a culture war, the permitted voices of gender criticism joined gleefully in the takedown of Jeremy Corbyn, broadly hint that they think that Alex Salmond was a rapist, simply call Julian Assange a rapist in so many words, therefore never miss an opportunity to brand George Galloway “a rape apologist”, and parrot the #IBelieveHer case for the genocide of Gaza, a case that several of them have made for every previous neoconservative war, and most of them for at least one.

Those of a certain age have dusted down the file of lurid allegations that they deployed against white working-class men during the Satanic panic of the Thatcher years, and which have been levelled, practically word for word, against every designated enemy since. They join gleefully in the same treatment of racialised communities in Britain, who are today’s Enemy Within, which is why that status will very soon be enjoyed again by the working class in general and by working-class men in particular, insofar as that has ever ceased to be the case. Keir Starmer’s remarks about Bangladeshis should be understood in that light, as should the failure of Hope Not Hate to condemn them.

In the meantime, and speaking of Hope Not Hate, people whose intersection of sex, class and generation matches the gender critics’ perfectly, and who are usually the same colour as well, expel pro-ceasefire students, send in thugs to give them a beating, connive to revoke their visas, and so on. All while driving out or keeping down the gender critics, and while marching with those who threatened them with extreme violence. Those centrist mums and centrist aunties need to have a word with their own peers.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

These ramblings are semi-coherent, but insofar as one can make any sense of them, they are quite appalling. Oh, so the Morning Star is sound on gender identification is it? Shame it wasn’t sound on Stalinism or the gulag or the millions killed by communism, which I’m presuming is an ideology you support. This is self-aggrandising nonsense, typical of Stalinists, who so often have cynically claim credit for political battles others carry out

The fight back against woke excesses on gender self-identification has on many other issues, has been led by moderate former left wingers, some centrists and many on the Right, not by the “Morning Star”, whose readership would be insufficient in numbers to make much difference anyway

And this extraordinary sentence even creates a slight wokista out of me: “Still in thrall to one the two most androgynous figures ever to have emerged in British public life, who destroyed the stockades of working-class male employment while creating a new ruling elite of middle-class woman funded and empowered by the State”. So these two political leaders were some kind of dubious trans people devoted to destroying the working class?! What ludicrous claptrap!

Still I suppose it’s honest of you to tacitly accept, and even be proud of, that Marxist Leninism was extremely patriarchal and even macho in its political and cultural manifestations, as it was quite obvious to anybody encountering its goons and apologists.

By the way, referring to Israel – Gaza, which has nothing to do with the subject, except that idiot progressives are on the wrong side of both issues, could we occasionally have the slightest scintilla of honestly by Israel’s critics? For example, a recognition that there WAS Indeed a ceasefire on the 6th of October 2023 which was broken by only one side, Hamas (probably with the intention of derailing further normalisation negotiations between Israel and several Arab States).

Of course in response to this point, then is often a very quick segue into – “ah it’s part of a wider conflict going back to 1948” (in fact well before that – we could talk about the anti-jewish pogroms in 1929).

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
9 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

They have everything to do with each other. The likes of Hope Not Hate are vigorous enforcers of both. In the last Parliament, most Labour MPs and at least more than half of Conservatives were signed up to both, a situation that is not going to change today. The university administrators who are driving gender-critical feminists out of academia are the same ones who are sending in goons against pro-Palestinian students. And so on.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
6 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

You mention spousal veto and same sex marriage! A woman who marries a man is heterosexual, in the main, and is not “into women” therefore does not give consent to be married to “a woman”, nor does a lesbian in a same sex marriage with a woman, give her consent to be martied to “a man”. Therefore the two are completely separate. If trans people have rights to change their status, then women (and the few men involved) need the right to say “I am not married to this “woman/man” and I want my marriage annulled, no matter what the trans lobby or government tells them. This is why the “veto” is so important. You cannot force a woman to stay in a marriage to someone who is a different gender to the one she consented to marry. That takes women’s rights back to the days when men had all the say as to whether or not a marriage could be annulled. Anyone who thinks this is okay is simply misogynistic and hates the fact that women, as adult human females, have rights.as human beings.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
10 days ago

“When his own MP Rosie Duffield stated that “only women have a cervix”, he insisted she was wrong to do so.”

Maybe he was thinking of all those men who David Lammy thinks grow a cervix as a result of taking HRT?

This has reminded me of a story about some of the posher members of Thatcher’s cabinet needing to have mortgages explained to them. They were so used to hereditary wealth, it had never occurred to them that people need to borrow money to own property.

Now we have the prospect of the next Foreign Secretary needing to have basic biology explained to him.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 days ago

… And basic everything else as well.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
9 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Including why Henry VII cannot possibly follow Henry VIII.

william langdale
william langdale
10 days ago

Remember,that when you refuse to agree with,submit to or propagate totalitarian,intolerant,scientifically illiterate ideological zealotry then it is you who are waging a “culture war”.

David Morley
David Morley
10 days ago

Moreover, for years the Labour Party has refused to meet with gender-critical groups such as Labour Women’s Declaration, Lesbian Labour and the Left-leaning Women’s Place UK.

I confess, my own heart would sink at the prospect of meeting groups with names like that.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
6 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

But you are happy for them to meet and decide policy with Stonewall, Mermaids, and other trans lobby groups? Shows how far your hatred of women who can think for themselves goes. I do hope that the women in your life can think for and make decisions for thenselves, otherwise they are doomed to the servitude to a misogynist.

David Morley
David Morley
10 days ago

Our next prime minister would do well to remember that boarded-up shops on the high street and small boats on the shores do not make sex-based rights any less of an electoral issue. 

Sad if true. The last thing I want to hear is that the prime minister has put the housing crisis on hold, the health crisis on hold, the problem of increasing inequality on hold, the prospect of war on hold, immigration and child poverty on hold – because some bloke in a frock just walked into the ladies loos!

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
9 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

That is the very opposite of what the article says. Read it again.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

The safety of all women (XX sex chromosome only ones) and children isn’t a major concern then? That says a lot.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 days ago

Shouldn’t that just be “Don’t trust Keir Starmer”?

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
9 days ago

Don’t trust the appalling creature on anything.

S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
9 days ago

Why have so many people – including the author it would seem – fallen for this seeming change of stance?
There is a reason why Starmer has started to refer to “biological women”. If anybody had read the rest of the Blair interview which he agreed with they would see this. Geoff Hoon confirmed it on GB News.
Starmer includes men who have taken the odd bit of oestrogen or had any cosmetic ‘feminisation’ surgery in his “biological” definition because they have made “biological” changes. And in the Equality Act the protected characteristic also applies to any man who declares that he “intends” to take such steps.
As confirmation of this planned betrayal, Stonewall have (quietly last week) removed crossdressers from its definition of ‘trans’ as people have become aware of the sexual motivations of autogynephiles.
If Starmer’s words were not duplicitous Stonewall would be shouting from the rooftops. Instead they have a new campaign selling their schemes to businesses. They are also pushing a hate crime recording app, no doubt to provide Labour with the ‘proof’ they need for changes to the law to protect the ‘poor, oppressed trans folx’.

Mark Morrison
Mark Morrison
9 days ago

A very good article highlighting Starmer / Labour’s expedient and pusillanimous approach to this whole issue. Starmer scares me as I – like no doubt many others – recall his (when DPP) instructing the police to automatically treat as credible the claims of alleged historical victims during the ‘Nick Paedophile Accusations’ episode (post Jimmy Savile etc). The GRC debate is anyway a (presumably by Labour?) smokescreen as men (and, of course, women!) are able – further the 2010 Equality Act – to claim ‘Gender Reassignment’ protected status on a whim and thereby agitate for access to female-only spaces and events. If this part of the 2010 EA is not addressed then updating the (2004) Gender Recognition Act (which stipulates the conditions required to undergo a legal change in gender / be granted a Gender Recognition Certificate etc) is, at best, window dressing.