JK Rowling accuses Sir Keir Starmer of ‘abandoning women’

JK Rowling has also attacked Sir Keir for failing to defend Rosie Duffield, the gender-critical Labour MP
JK Rowling has also attacked Sir Keir for failing to defend Rosie Duffield, the gender-critical Labour MP - Samir Hussein/WireImage

JK Rowling has accused Sir Keir Starmer of “abandoning women” who are concerned about gender ideology.

The Harry Potter author accused the Labour leader of having a “dismissive and often offensive” attitude to feminists in a dramatic intervention into the general election.

“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,” she said.

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

Writing in an article for The Times, Ms Rowling also attacked Sir Keir for failing to defend Rosie Duffield, the gender-critical Labour MP who was investigated by her own party and has received death threats for her gender-critical views.

“Rosie has received literally no support from Starmer over the threats and abuse, some of which has originated from within the Labour Party itself, and has had a severe, measurable impact on her life,” said Ms Rowling.

JK Rowling with Rosie Duffield, Labour candidate for Canterbury
JK Rowling with Rosie Duffield, Labour candidate for Canterbury - Instagram

Ms Rowling’s intervention came after Sir Keir Starmer was accused of misogyny by women’s rights groups, who said he had only changed his views on gender after listening to a man.

On Thursday night’s BBC Question Time, the Labour leader was asked whether he agreed with Rosie Duffield, Labour candidate, on the issue of sex and gender.

Ms Duffield has long argued that spaces for biological women need to be protected, and that trans women should not be viewed as the same as biological women.

He replied that he now believed the same as Sir Tony Blair, that men had penises and women vaginas.

Ms Duffield, the Labour candidate for Canterbury who was previously investigated by the party over her gender-critical views, tweeted sarcastically: “From now on, I shall be submitting my every comment and thought (particularly those mainstream views which most people agree with) to the former Labour prime minister so that it may officially be de-toxified.”

Sir Keir has been criticised over his comments by women’s rights groups Fair Play for Women, the Women’s Rights Network and Sex Matters.

‘Still has a woman problem’

Heather Binning, founder of the Women’s Rights Network, said: “Last night on Question Time, Keir Starmer was asked about comments he had previously made about Rosie Duffield’s position on sex and gender.

“It was telling he chose to respond by saying he agreed with Tony Blair – a man. He could have said that despite his attempt to avoid a clear definition of ‘woman’ three years ago he of course understands the immutability of sex and the need to protect single-sex spaces.

“The Labour Party isn’t alone in demonstrating that it still has a woman problem when it comes to the topic of sex and gender. Starmer should show some leadership: clarity on the importance of sex protects women and girls, which is surely not a vote loser.”

In 2021 Sir Keir claimed it was “not right” to say that only women have a cervix amid a row involving Ms Duffield.

In April 2023, the Labour leader then said that “99.9 per cent of women… haven’t got a penis”.

Three months later, he changed his stance again, and said a woman is “an adult female”.

On Question Time, Sir Keir said: “On the biology, I agree with what Tony Blair said in relation to men having penises and women having vaginas.”

‘We lost sight of people’

However, in a seeming criticism of activists who do not believe in trans ideology, he added: “I was worried by the way in which the debate was being conducted: it got very toxic… and we lost sight of people in that.”

Dr Nicola Williams, director of Fair Play For Women, said in response: “The way Keir Starmer has dismissed women’s sex-based rights as ‘toxic’ and his failure to grasp the real-world harm done by defining ‘woman’ as an identity instead of a material reality, are a type of misogyny we increasingly see on the Left of politics.

“They mean I couldn’t possibly vote for Labour. If he fails to understand that women’s rights depend on understanding what it means to be a woman then what else does he fail to understand?

“If he is too cowardly to stand up to trans activists who prioritise the demands of trans-identifying men ahead of the needs of women, he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister.”

Helen Joyce, director of advocacy at Sex Matters, said: “Protecting women in both everyday situations such as changing rooms and in specialist settings such as prisons and hospitals means recognising that there are just two sexes, and that no one can change sex.

“Politicians of all parties have been confused and misled by the rhetoric of the trans lobby, which insists that how people identify matters more than their biology. Whoever forms the next government cannot keep ducking this issue.”

On Friday, the Labour leader killed off Nicola Sturgeon’s gender self-ID law after he pledged that a UK government veto will remain in force if he becomes prime minister.

On a visit to Scotland, the Labour leader was explicit that there would be no change in position from No 10 under his premiership, leaving no prospect of the legislation coming into force.