JK Rowling comments on Labour's transgender rights stance 'sad and depressing', says Wes Streeting

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

JK Rowling’s attacks on Labour’s transgender rights stance are “disappointing”, the shadow health secretary said today.

Wes Streeting said he was left feeling “sad” after the Harry Potter author criticised his party for “abandoning” women.

Rowling, a former Labour Party donor, told the Times she would struggle to vote for Sir Keir Starmer because she had a "poor opinion" of his character.

Mr Streeting told LBC: “I was really sad and disappointed to read what she said because, firstly, I have a lot of respect for her both in terms of what she's done on children's literacy, but also violence against women and girls.

“She's an outstanding campaigner in that area. Secondly, I do feel like the Labour Party has been listening.

“I feel like we've been learning, reflecting, and our position is in a much better place than it was.

“But clearly there's more to do, so I sort of take her criticism on the chin and the way in which we want to move forward on this issue is to try and bring people together, to see some of the challenges as problems to be solved, rather than divisions to be exploited.

“And I genuinely think we can find a way forward in which women's rights, voices, spaces are protected as they should be, and trans people in our country can live with dignity, and freedom and respect too.”

Labour has said it will make it easier for people to legally transition by removing the need for them to prove they have lived as their preferred gender for two years.

Under current rules anyone wishing to have their new gender legally recognised must obtain a recognition certificate.

They are required to submit proof that they have changed genders, which can include official documents such as bills and passports.

Rowling's comments come after Sir Keir appeared to shift his position on transgender rights during a BBC Question Time election special last week.

The Labour leader has previously said "99.9 per cent of women" do not have a penis. In 2021 he criticised Labour MP Rosie Duffield and said she was "not right" to suggest that "only women have a cervix".

But last week he said he agreed with former Labour leader Sir Tony Blair's position on the issue, saying "biologically, a woman is with a vagina and a man is with a penis".

Challenged on his previous comments, he added that the debate at the time had become “very toxic, very divided, very hard line”.

Rowling said: "The impression given by Starmer at Thursday's debate was that there had been something unkind, something toxic, something hard line in Rosie's words, even though almost identical words had sounded perfectly reasonable when spoken by Tony Blair."

She added: “As long as Labour remains dismissive and often offensive towards women fighting to retain the rights their foremothers thought were won for all time, I’ll struggle to support them.

“The women who wouldn’t wheesht [be quiet] didn’t leave Labour. Labour abandoned them.”