Labour is dismissing women’s concerns

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer

If proof were needed of how out of touch Labour is with public opinion, it is the party’s vacillating policies on the issue of gender and trans rights. It has the temerity to accuse the Tories of launching a “culture war” by raising these matters, yet if Sir Keir Starmer becomes prime minister next week, the supposed rights of a tiny group of people could trump those of the great majority, especially women and children.

At the weekend, the author JK Rowling, once a generous Labour donor, said she would struggle to support the party so long as it “remains dismissive and often offensive towards women fighting to retain [their] rights”.

But such criticism is often shrugged off by Labour Party leaders with denials and false claims to be full-throated supporters of women’s rights, even when it is evident that they are not. Sir Keir has not even robustly defended one of his own candidates, Rosie Duffield, who has been threatened by activists for arguing in favour of women-only spaces.

Ms Rowling has acted with great courage and can use her celebrity to stand up to the zealots. But Labour’s pusillanimity on this subject is encouraging the activists. There is confusion over what Labour would do about Government guidance banning schools from promoting gender ideology. Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, declined to say at the weekend if it would be withdrawn. “There are trans people within society and their existence should be recognised,” she said.

But no-one is suggesting it should not be. What is at issue here is clarity. Sir Keir was asked the same question on Monday and replied: “I’m not in favour of ideology being taught in our schools on gender ... We need to complete the consultation process and make sure that there is guidance that is age appropriate.”

Labour also plans to outlaw so-called “conversion therapy” to prevent young people from being coerced away from gender reassignment. At the same time, the party says it will implement the recommendations of the Cass review into the influence of transgender treatments like puberty blockers and the need to ensure children who want to socially transition get appropriate help.

There is too much in this approach that is confusing or half-formed. Every parent and woman who shares Ms Rowling’s anxieties should follow her lead, and think long and hard before installing Labour in power.