October 20, 2022 - 1:00pm

Sir Keir Starmer strikes again. At the very moment when the government is falling apart, and thousands of women desperately want to vote Labour, he has reminded us that we can’t trust him or his party. It’s not just that he made an appearance last night at an awards ceremony organised by Pink News, an organ despised by many feminists for its relentless promotion of misogynist gender ideology. That was bad enough, but Starmer also took the opportunity to make a series of wild promises to the adoring audience, including one on ‘hate crime’ that constitutes a direct threat to free expression.

Hate crime legislation is already a problem, allowing individuals to make complaints to the police about things that aren’t even crimes — being ‘misgendered’, for instance. The fastest-growing area of complaints is ‘transgender identity’, which rose by 56% in the year to March 2022. There is ample reason to worry about how the existing law is being used but Starmer wants to double down, saying “it’s time for tougher hate crime laws so every LGBT+ crime is treated as an aggravated offence.” It went down a storm with his audience, but raises the prospect of law-abiding people facing an aggravated sentence for a social media post that uses the ‘wrong’ pronouns.

Starmer made other baleful commitments at the awards. He no longer talks about self-ID because we know exactly what that means — stripping away safeguards, weak as they are, that make it harder for predatory men to claim to be women. Now the Labour frontbench talks about ‘modernising’ the Gender Recognition Act, which sounds like a minor technical change. Those of us who recall what Starmer said in 2021, when he committed Labour to reforming the GRA “to include self-identification for trans people”, don’t believe it for a moment. Last night he used the new formula without spelling out what it means, but it looks as though Labour intends to allow individuals to get a gender recognition certificate without having a medical diagnosis of dysphoria. 

At the same time, Starmer threw a sop to women, saying he would “uphold the Equality Act,” including its provision for single-sex spaces. Though some Labour supporters have welcomed this part of his speech, they’re clutching at straws. You can’t uphold the right to single-sex spaces while also allowing any sexual predator to acquire a legal document that says he must be treated as a woman, even though he has a male body. Refuges and services that refuse access to trans women might win a case in court, but the prospect of fighting a costly legal action will make it easier to just give in.

For some time now, feminists in the Labour Party hoped that Starmer was quietly rowing back on the nonsense he’s come out with in the past, such as claiming that some women have a penis. Some even thought that ‘modernisation’ of the GRA might be dropped from the party’s manifesto. We can hope no longer. Last night, Starmer told us who he was and exactly what he intends to do. In a tragedy for Left-leaning women and the country, it is now clear that Labour has been fully captured by gender extremists. A Starmer government will look after the interests of trans activists, not women.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.