JK Rowling agrees to meet Labour, but sets conditions over labelling of ‘hate groups’

JK Rowling claimed that Labour has 'abandoned' women
JK Rowling claimed that Labour has 'abandoned' women - Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

JK Rowling has agreed to meet Labour on the condition that Angela Rayner apologises for endorsing a charter that described two organisations, Woman’s Place and the LGB Alliance, as “hate groups”.

At the weekend, the Harry Potter author claimed that Labour had “abandoned” women and she would “struggle to support” Sir Keir Starmer’s party at the general election because of its transgender stance.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, responded by offering her a meeting to provide “assurances” over the protection of women-only spaces.

Responding to Ms Reeves’ remarks, Ms Rowling said: “I’ll be happy to meet after Keep Prisons Single Sex, Lesbian Labour, Women’s Rights Network, Woman’s Place and the LGB Alliance have been given in-person meetings with the Labour leadership.

“I’d also like to know whether Angela Rayner still considers the last two organisations hate groups – asking on behalf of female survivors of domestic violence and gay people who don’t subscribe to gender identity ideology.”

‘Really happy to talk to JK Rowling’

When Ms Rayner stood to become Labour’s deputy leader in 2020, she backed a charter calling Woman’s Place UK, which campaigns for women-only rape refuges, and the LGB Alliance, set up in response to Stonewall’s stance on trans issues, “trans-exclusionist hate groups”.

Ms Rayner’s spokesman refused to apologise for her comments in April after the publication of the Cass Review into the treatment of children with gender issues.

The report concluded that much of the evidence for the use of medicine including puberty blockers was “shaky” and that such drugs should be treated with extreme caution.

The fresh row involving Rowling comes despite Sir Keir, the Labour leader, strengthening his position on transgender issues to agree with Sir Tony Blair that a woman has a vagina and a man has a penis.

Sir Keir said in 2021 it was “not right” for Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who has stressed the importance of biological sex, to say that only women have a cervix.

In an article for The Times on Saturday, Rowling said she had a “poor opinion” of Sir Keir’s character, claiming he was “dismissive and often offensive” in respect of women’s concerns about their sex-based rights.

On Monday, Ms Reeves said that she would be “really happy to talk to JK Rowling” to give the author “assurances” about the Equality Act.

“For me, those protections whether it is about prisons, refuges, changing spaces, that is really important to me, it is really important to the Labour Party that those single sex spaces based on biological sex are protected,” said the shadow chancellor. “And nothing in our plans goes contrary to that, nothing at all.”

‘Everyday injustices and indignities’

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told Times Radio he had been left “pretty depressed” by Ms Rowling’s comments, saying transgender women had been “beaten up by headlines”, while gender-critical campaigners felt “silenced”.

“When women like JK Rowling do speak up, I think it’s important we engage seriously with the arguments that she’s making, with the concerns that she has,” he said.

“And also we listen to what trans people are saying about the everyday injustices and indignities that they’re experiencing too, whether that’s hate crime or poor provision in public services.”

In its election manifesto, Labour has committed to making it easier for people to legally change gender, which has prompted Tory warnings about loopholes for sexual predators.

Sir Keir’s party would overhaul the existing process, which it claims is outdated, to replace the need to provide two years of proof before changing gender, with a cooling off period of the same timeframe.

Labour would also scrap a panel of doctors and lawyers that currently approves gender-recognition certificates, instead allowing one specialist doctor to sign off applications.