October 15, 2021 - 1:30pm

Stephen Nolan’s new ten-part BBC podcast documentary on the influence of Stonewall ploughs rich journalistic soil, its length justified by its findings.

It is frequently jaw dropping — you will hear how the Scottish government paid Stonewall to lobby itself, how the BBC’s supposedly impartial LGBT correspondent was moonlighting for Stonewall, and how whistleblowing medical professionals with serious concerns were frozen out by campaigns of intimidation. You could write a brick of a book about what Nolan has turned up but here are some immediate observations.

  • From 2015, when Stonewall decided to add advocacy for transgender people to its remit, it instantly took on board the ideology of ‘gender identity’ rather than biological sex as the determining factor in the difference between men and women. This is a fringe ideology from American academic ‘queer theory’. It obviously has enormous implications for both gay people and wider society, particularly regarding women’s rights, but there appears to have been no thought paid to it at all by Stonewall. They even redefined ‘gay’ to mean attraction to a person of either sex with the same ‘identity’. This bizarre set of ideas, not recognised in law, were simply adopted without question, propagated into institutions such as the NHS, and given credence by Stonewall’s previous good reputation.
  • The behaviour of Ofcom, who used their reporting decisions on viewer complaints (I think probably the right ones but nonetheless) to get higher up on Stonewall’s equality index, and tried to cover up having done so, is reprehensible. This is the place where heads really should roll.
  • The BBC and Stonewall refused to be interviewed by Nolan, or even to answer specific questions from him, and rejected his FOI requests on spurious grounds. This high-handed attitude is very concerning. It’s to the credit of the BBC that it has broadcast Nolan’s investigation, but the lack of transparency from a publicly funded body is deeply shady. What don’t they want the public to know? Why the secrecy?
  • The intimidation of people who dispute gender identity ideology from extremist activists has frozen debate, as people are afraid to speak out against Stonewall for fear of losing their livelihoods. The equation of people acknowledging the facts of biological sex (ie the entirety of the human race for all recorded time until 2015) with anti-Semites (as made by Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley) is a prime example of Stonewall’s ridiculous bullying hyperbole, which has no place in public life.
  • Stonewall’s only public response to Nolan since it appeared has been a profoundly unserious tweet with a hand-clapping emoji stating ‘We make 👏 no 👏 apology 👏 for working towards a better world for LGBTQ+ people.’ In other words, ‘We make no apology for something nobody is accusing us of doing.’ This is like being charged with murder and replying ‘How dare you accuse me of stealing that loaf of bread!’ It’s a transparent attempt to dodge the actual meat of Nolan, responding to criticism of itself as an attack on gay and trans people — this, despite the fact that its loudest, most concerned critics are gay and trans people.

There now surely has to be a full public inquiry with the power to compel the whole truth in detail from government, Stonewall and the BBC, and to protect democracy from unaccountable lobby groups.

Meanwhile, listen to the podcast — there’s so much more in it.

Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.