Keir Starmer is (still) equivocating on women’s rights
The Labour leader's new gender policy is a fudge
It’s not as if we’ve been pushing at an open door. Women in the Labour Party have been trying to talk to Sir Keir Starmer for years about the need to protect women’s rights — and he hasn’t listened. Now, suddenly, he claims to have a “very, very clear position” on how to balance the rights of women and transgender people.
Really? I suppose he has at least tempered his enthusiasm for making it easier for people to change their legal gender, which he committed to a couple of years ago. But anyone who is aware of Labour’s ‘woman problem’ might be forgiven for thinking that what Starmer has come up with is at best unclear and at worst a fudge. What, for instance, does he propose to do about one of the core demands of women’s rights campaigners, which is to protect single-sex spaces in refuges, prisons and hospital wards?
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“We have made real and significant progress when it comes to women’s rights”, Starmer now says, “and we must not roll back or retreat from any of that, and one of them is safe spaces.” See what he did there? Not ‘single-sex spaces’, which means restricted to biological women. ‘Safe spaces’ is a wishy-washy phrase, often used by protesters who claim that the mere presence of women talking about our rights makes them feel ‘unsafe’.
The unequivocal phrase ‘single-sex spaces’ is evidently a step too far for Starmer, which means he still hasn’t committed to the basic principle of allowing women to access services that don’t admit men. It isn’t clear that his new position does anything to protect organisations running refuges for victims of domestic violence, which have faced repeated demands to admit male-bodied people who ‘identify’ as women.
Nor does it help women who currently have to share intimate spaces in prison with trans-identified males. If any establishment should be segregated by biological sex, it’s surely prisons, which house many women who are victims of male violence and terrified of being locked up with men. The Westminster Government has stopped the practice of allowing trans women to be housed in women’s prisons in England and Wales, but a number remain who were transferred before the new policy.
It would be easier to give Starmer credit for what appears to be a shift in policy, however small, if he were willing to talk to women in his own party. Since he became leader, however, he has shown himself endlessly willing to repeat the slogans of trans activists, but a great deal less accommodating when it comes to allowing feminists a hearing.
Labour has evidently learned one painful lesson from the debacle in Scotland, where the wildly misconceived Gender Recognition Reform Bill destroyed the credibility of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and prompted thousands to resign their membership of the SNP. Starmer now admits that “you don’t make changes that you can’t bring the public along with, which is why in Scotland they should reset the situation”.
I assume that advice applies to the Scottish Labour Party, most of whose MSPs supported the doomed bill — and to Wales, where a Labour administration is itching to introduce self-ID. If women are going to support the party at the next general election, we need Starmer to offer unequivocal support for single-sex spaces, even if he has to do it through gritted teeth.
The women of the UK should never forget that Labour in Scotland voted in favour of self iD and that Welsh Labour is gagging to introduce similar measures in their fiefdom. Labour is not women friendly and a few ambiguous shifts in emphasis from Sir Kier, of the uniquely favourable pension arrangement, will not make it so.
The “women of the UK” – or at least the fraction paying attention to this particular dungheap – will know that Starmer and his chums do not have a monopoly on promiscuous superficiality (to borrow a phrase from M. Baudrillard). The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed with the support of every Liberal and Green MSP, all Labour MSPs who voted, 54 out of 64 SNP MSPs – and the fact that only 2 of 31 Conservative MSPs voted for the Bill does not make them even remotely “women friendly”. Then there is the inconvenient truth that 46 of 58 female MSPs either voted for or did not oppose (hello, Kate Forbes!) the Bill, making the women of the Scottish Parliament not particularly ” women friendly”. So much to remember. Where does one start, Jeremy?
It’s perfectly clear to anyone who’s been watching Starmer that even if he were to suddenly start coming out with the right phrases recommended by the author that his teeth would be gritted more assiduously than the M62* on a freezing January night.
Rather than imploring him to make what would obviously be a ‘concession’ to women, simply assume the following: that once in office, he’d use it as a safe space in which to backtrack on anything he’s uttered beforehand.
*The M62 for those not familiar with the UK road network reaches the highest point of any motorway and is prone to being closed in severe weather.
I’ll admit that I don’t like Starmer and I am not going to defend him on this issue or practically any other. But I think you might misdiagnose the issue with Starmer. He isn’t particularly woke, not particularly anything, not particularly pro trans rights or anti women-only spaces. To paraphrase Lord Palmerston:
Starmer has no eternal views and no perpetual values, only his interest in being PM is eternal and perpetual
His strategy is to say whatever the moment and immediate political calculation demands in the party or the country that inches him toward No10. He doesn’t want to do anything in particular when he gets there either. Or rather he’ll do what he finds easiest at the time.
On his route so far, he has appeared on video as an arch Republican and then waxed lyrical about the monarch, he has engaged in Corbynista Cosplay, and then chucked magic Grandpa under a bus. And while the Trans lobby appears to him to be popular in the party then he is happy enough to pretend he’s forgotten O Level biology.
Whether that makes him better or worse. Worse in my opinion. I think it better to get the diagnosis of the disease correct.
I rather think your reply supports my comment than your claim that i’ve ‘misdiagnosed’ Starmer.
Events in Wales & Scotland are a painful example of politics mired in prejudice, incapable of critical thinking and contemptuous of dissent. Neither Holyrood nor the Senedd is listening to voters, who don’t want self-ID. But then half of the electorate is female – and neither the SNP nor Welsh Labour seems to like women at all.
The above is the last paragraph of Joan Smith’s article on UnHerd in February this year. It seems to me that ALL politicians have a problem with this concept. It seems that politicians want the votes of a group – but which group?
I have a theory. In the UK today there are about 15 million old people and the number is increasing fast. The number of young people is going down just as quickly. People in government seem to be catering for an idea of — this is what young people will want; if we have policies like this it will please young people; we need to have policies like this to keep up with the times; old people won’t vote; old people are almost dead anyway.
This is similar to the BBC’s idea of having a panel of under-30s having approval of future programmes. On the BBC, tried and tested programmes with millions of viewers/listeners are ditched for a vague notion of what young people will want in the future. Also, a church near to me has ditched hymn books to be replaced by screens in the aisles – without approval from the congregation who are all old people. Apparently, young people (who never go to church) will prefer screens.
So the Welsh Labour politicians have been discussing for months now, the idea of new legislation for THEORETICAL females of the future, focussing the already thin NHS onto mental illness because that WILL be the big thing with young people, not building new roads nor improving power supplies because the new generation want to live rough (presumably). But they ignore the wishes of their voters now. As does Keir Starmer.
To me, this is an unofficial disenfranchisement of over-70s. By ignoring millions of people they are trying to sideline their votes.
I think you’re setting that age bar too high!
I see it as the disenfranchisement of anyone over 45.
Re the BBC – I wonder if there are any figures on the age of licence fee payers because I’d wager that the demographic least likely to pay the licence fee is the one they appear to be focussing on.
Starmer is the (less flashier) UK version of Trudeau. Claims to be a feminist but will throw women under the bus to achieve his goals-power
Anything Starmer says about women’s rights is indeed “very, very clear” – it’s entirely meaningless whilst he maintains his position that “transwomen are women”.
Until he u-turns on that nothing else he says makes any difference at all; it’s all more weasel words just like “safe spaces” is.
“We need new and better ways to pull the wool over women’s eyes” is not the argument this fool thinks it is.
It is clear the Starmer is happy to terrify women and to see women attacked and worse – rather than say male bodied people should not be allowed in women refuges, wards etc.
Is Starmer an Identity Marxist?
I am pleased to see this columnist interrogating the language manipulation of pronouncements, for example, the term “safe spaces”.
Keir Starmer is living, walking, tedious, droning, but neon lit shining testament to the extreme end of the dangers of social mobility…… Ah … Starmer…. the ladies are withdrawing… bring the port and cigars…..
Sometimes this seems a bit like the eugenics movement of the late 1800s. The best people should do the deciding: that means politicians and the Arts; elite; the rest of us are the ones who should be stopped from breeding different ideas.
Geoff Norcott does a great Starmer impersonation.
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