If Keir actually listened to women, I’d have more time for his morally superior ‘feminist’ posturing

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer does not appear to have acted in favour of the advancement – or retainment – of women's rights - Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe

In 2009, I was at a Labour bash and seated next to a prominent spin doctor. There was much talk of fishing and football, the usual cockiness that assumes these are the overriding concerns of the entire world.

I mentioned that the Mums in the school playground – and I live in a very Labour area – were talking about how much they liked David Cameron and that Labour, led at the time by Gordon Brown, should be worried.

“The mums in the school playground?” scoffed the spin doctor. “Well yes,” I said. “Amazingly, women have the vote too.” It didn’t go down well, so I got my coat.

The laddishness around the party and its leader wasn’t new. It was there under Tony Blair, through the Brown years, and more recently when Jeremy Corbyn – “the absolute boy” – was in charge. As for the Ed Miliband era, it’s all a blur to be honest.

Now we have Sir Keir Starmer, a man who claims not to dream but is passionate about Arsenal. How very novel. Of course he is taking his lead on women’s rights not from an actual woman but Blair himself, who daringly thinks that women have vaginas and men have penises.

Who knew?

Until now, Starmer hasn’t appeared sure. Nor have half of his shadow Cabinet, who have regurgitated a lot of regressive nonsense about gender identity, believing it to be fashionable.

In supporting those who claim to be the most marginalised, they have alienated many Labour voting women. The automatons repeat “trans people exist” over and over. This is not in question is it?

The point is that women’s rights to single sex spaces, services and sports would be watered down by the party’s proposed reforms to the gender recognition process.

All the while, Starmer waffles on about “toxic debate”, despite having refused to meet those in his own party who are concerned about the erosion of hard-won gains.

Had he bothered to listen to the voices of concern emanating from Mumsnet, or condemned  the groups of masked men who have threatened women’s meetings, I might have more time for his telling us that Labour’s record on women’s rights speaks for itself.

But the fact is, it doesn’t. The party has never elected a woman leader and today, only about 11 per cent of its senior staff are women.

Instead Labour points to its representation in parliament as evidence of its commitment to the issue.

All women shortlists brought in by Blair in 1997 certainly ushered in a much more balanced parliament. And things shifted – a bit, and for the better – when Blair appointed five women and 17 men to his cabinet. In 1992, Major’s cabinet included just two women.

But representation doesn’t necessarily shift policy. We saw as much when Joan Ruddock was made Minister for Women shortly after Labour’s landslide victory nearly two decades ago – a role that was unpaid – and Harriet Harman announced benefit cuts for single mothers.

In recent years, the Corbyn era saw the macho posturing of the Labour-backing unions come back with a vengeance. Dozens of female MPs complained of misogynistic abuse and in some cases anti-semitism under his leadership.

And while Starmer himself may have been ruthless in stamping out the abuse of Jewish members, he failed to step in to stop the abuse of Rosie Duffield over her stance on sex and gender.

I am under no illusion about the Tories’ own record. Austerity hit women and children the hardest. We had two more female prime ministers – a win for equality, if only one that proved women can be equally as useless as men.

The problem with Labour people though is that they see themselves as anti-sexist, not to mention morally superior, and think they should be considered upstanding feminists even though they actually do nothing to advance the cause of women’s rights.

It’s not good enough – the party’s senior figures have repeatedly failed to listen to women expressing genuinely held-concerns about retaining our hard-won rights.

Belatedly, some of them are now coming to. A few even appear to know where babies come from.

But while a small group now appear to be conscious of which way the wind is blowing, there will still be an internal struggle, long after they have taken power, between those who have signed up to gender ideology and those who have refused the faith. That is anyone who thinks for themselves. The others will have to be deprogrammed.

You cannot triangulate biology and no one needed JK Rowling to keep on spelling it out but thank god she has. I expected anyone who cared about children to fully accept the Cass Report, but I was wrong.

There still exist the headbangers who desperately need to hold on to the idea that hormones and the mutilation of teenage bodies is radical.

All this makes me wonder if I will ever be able to trust Starmer or his party on women’s rights.

Well… How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.