by Joan Smith
Monday, 11
July 2022
Reaction
13:35

Starmer stays silent on womens’ rights

This morning's speech was yet another wasted opportunity for Labour
by Joan Smith
Credit: Getty

Sir Keir Starmer looked and sounded confident this morning as he mocked candidates for the Conservative leadership. “They’re behaving like they’ve just arrived from the moon,” he said, accusing them of voting for tax increases they now claim to oppose. It was an open goal for Starmer, who’s been on a high since being cleared by Durham police of breaching lockdown regulations.

His speech, delivered just up the road in Gateshead, was mainly about economic policy and the drastic impact of soaring inflation on people’s finances. But he couldn’t resist boasting about how he has changed the Labour party since he became leader in 2020. Labour was stuck in opposition, he said, licking its wounds after four defeats. “That’s why we had to root out the antisemitism which had infected our party,” he declared.

What Starmer didn’t acknowledge — and the absence of contrition was notable — was that he has allowed the antisemitism crisis to be replaced by a profoundly hostile atmosphere to women. 

Up and down the country, Labour activists and councillors who believe in biological sex feel they have to keep quiet or risk a torrent of abuse from trans activists. Two feminist organisations have been told they can’t have stands at this year’s party conference. A brave band of Labour MPs who have stood up for women’s legal rights have been bullied and abused. 

Some of us have been urging Starmer to take a stand against misogyny in the party for well over a year. I first wrote to him in February last year and I challenged him face to face in May over his failure to act or even respond. Other members of the party have done the same, only to be met with a silence that’s very much in contrast with the decisive action Starmer has taken on antisemitism. “I am tired of divisive politics,” he said this morning, without offering even a glimmer of hope to all the women in Labour who have been harassed by gender extremists. 

Today’s speech was an opportunity – and he wasted it. Starmer could have made a brave, simple statement that Labour under his leadership respects the right to free speech, and that includes expressing the belief that sex is immutable. But he didn’t, something that feels like a deliberate choice, given that the issue of biological sex soared to the top of the agenda as soon as the Tory leadership candidates began to declare themselves. 

Starmer’s hope, I suspect, is that he can leave the subject to the Conservatives. But it’s a dreadful miscalculation, both on grounds of principle — failing to address bullying in the party looks weak — and in terms of the next election. There was nothing in today’s speech to suggest that Starmer or anyone else in a senior position has begun to grasp the scale of the task they face in persuading women to come back to Labour. 

The omission is even more glaring after Maya Forstater’s historic victory at an employment tribunal last week. It has now been established that it is against the law for employers to discriminate against people who express the kind of views about biological sex that have seen women such as the domestic abuse campaigner, Karen Ingala Smith, refused membership of the party. 

Indeed it may be the case that signing pledges to expel women for alleged ‘transphobia’, as several of the candidates did during the last Labour leadership contest, would now open the way for another investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It looks as though the next leader of the Conservative party will be someone with robust views on the reality of biological sex. Starmer may feel he did a good job by saying nothing today but his opponents are smart enough to make it an issue. And when the Leader of the Opposition struggles to answer a question about whether some women have a penis, it won’t be the Tories who sound as though they’re been living on the moon.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
J Morgan
J Morgan
2 months ago

I will not even consider voting for Labour while they pretend not to know what a woman is.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago
Reply to  J Morgan

It’s the same over here in America re. the Democrat party. If they can’t get that basic fact right, what on earth can they be trusted with? I almost believe they are trying to lose voters on purpose. For what purpose I can’t even begin to imagine.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

It’s playing into the hands of the lunatics to talk about ‘belief in biological sex’, as though this were some abstruse theological proposition. It’s about grasp of reality, not belief.
Also, I don’t see Starmer’s stance as evidence of misogyny, more one of cowardice.

0 0
0 0
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

‘Belief’ was the legal basis for Maya’s appeal under the 2010 Equality Act.
Jeremy Corbyn was not anti-Semitic, but he failed to stamp hard enough on comments of his supporters who were. Joan Smith makes exactly this point about Keir Starmer’s failure to show intolerance of misogyny; it is cowardice.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 months ago
Reply to  0 0

Cowardice born of the desire always to bend with the cultural breeze of the moment to gain and hold power. A.k.a. virtue-signaling.

Fiona English
Fiona English
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I think we are all uncomfortable with using the term ‘belief’ when it comes to biological fact – it’s a bit like saying ‘I believe the earth is a sphere,’ or ‘I believe that water is wet,’. However, as 00 says, this was the legal basis for Maya’s appeal and subsequent win. Starmer is, of course, a coward who’s been dazzled, like so many of them, by glitter and rainbows and a huggy pile-on of love in contrast to the vicious pile-ons of hate that so many women, including his own MPs, experience.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
2 months ago

Great article from Suzanne Moore in The Spectator today – Labour really is primarily a Party of white , middle class virtue signallers nowadays

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

And she, more than anyone else, caused this to happen. Kinda ironic, eh?

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 months ago

More virtue-signaling in response to issues Starmer is told are critical to his power base. Like taking the knee to BLM in a staged photo opp, and claiming it is hurtful “to say a man cannot have a uterus,” he bends with the cultural breeze of the moment.

Truth be told, Labour has never been welcoming to women in its leadership, despite all its efforts to brand itself over the decades as a champion of women’s rights. 2-0 is the score for women PM’s Vs the Tories. And its regular spewing of bile whenever Priti Patel’s name is mentioned is further proof of inherent and contradictory sexism and racism.

Nick Beard
Nick Beard
2 months ago

Labour, yet again, demonstrates the Lysenkoist tendency that afflicts it. Sex in humans is binary and immutable. This is fact.

That Maya Forstater had to defend it as her belief simply reflects employment law, not the underlying facts at hand.

Labour cannot be trusted on anything if it can’t even acknowledge such fundamental biological facts.

John Michael Robson
John Michael Robson
2 months ago

I’ve heard it said so many times that Mr Starmer isn’t a proper Labour man and having given him plenty of time to prove those voices wrong I’ve come to agree with them. A good, old-fashioned, Labour lad would surely know when it’s time to stick the boot in and leave Mr Johnson on the ground. That expression doesn’t mean you have to be unkind; it’s simply a way to say that you should know when the moment has come to deliver the decisive blow for your cause. There’s also the very significant fact that sitting on fences doesn’t project too well in the magical land of make believe known as politics.

I don’t really care if someone doesn’t know what a woman is, but what matters the most, to me, is knowing if they can mean the things they say. The blindingly obvious thing about Mr Starmer is that being in his shoes doesn’t look good when he comes across as not even caring if some people have a pair of shoes to wear at all. I can’t see him taking up the banner and marching for the people, and currently I just can’t imagine the people would want him to.

When politicians are speaking in public and they accuse eachother of not having any morals, they are effectively exposing themselves as not really knowing how morals really work. They should have a much better understanding of the concept. Ethics, is a broad and wide-spread philosophy concerning issues and ideas about what’s generally considered to be good or bad, right or wrong, beneficial or non-beneficial, acceptable or not acceptable. They should be thought of as a general guide, as objectively as possible; and adjusted for society, from time to time, through discussion and debate between people everywhere.

However, morals on the other hand, are purely subjective and only apply to the individual’s sense of wellbeing. If something makes you feel good, adds to or increases your own sense of wellbeing it’s morally right (for you) and if something makes you feel bad, takes away from or decreases your sense of wellbeing it’s morally wrong (for you). And further to that, what’s ‘adding to’ for one person may be ‘taking away from’ for another, so they are; thus, resoundingly subjective. That’s why you can’t follow someone else’s morals entirely; you’ll eventually come to a point where you don’t feel the same as that person.

What we need right now is someone with a little more credibility, but there seems to be a national shortage of that commodity, and I’m left as many others are with a sense of incredulity in abundance. When a replacement’s found for Mr Johnson I hope it’s not for show in order to ‘keep the team together’ as such so they can carry on. That would be a deception too far, and it would probably ruin any trust in any politician anywhere.