Labour ‘must fix its trans stance to win the next election’

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer

Labour must fix its stance on transgender issues to win the next election, Sir Keir Starmer has been told.

Senior figures within the party believe there is a need to clarify its policies on the issue and bring them closer in line with where the public is.

Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to transgender rights - which has been blamed for not only costing her SNP support but also a mass exodus of more than 40 per cent of party members - has crystallised the importance of the issue, according to Labour insiders.

“In many respects she was the most successful politician of our generation and yet she was brought down by the GRA [Gender Recognition Act]. The public were in a different place to the politicians,” said a Labour party source.

Ms Sturgeon's highly controversial gender reform Bill, which proposed allowing anyone over the age of 16 to legally change their sex without consulting a doctor, was vetoed in Westminster.

The First Minister announced her resignation last month after she admitted she had become a “polarising figure”.

Figures within Labour believe their policies must not fall into a similar trap whereby “in trying to do good for a very small minority group, you inadvertently offend an awful lot of women who feel their place in society is being eliminated. You have to balance the needs of different groups”.

Trans pledge could be quietly ditched

Sir Keir, Labour’s leader, has previously pledged to change the law to allow trans people to self-declare their gender.

In 2021, he promised the LGBT community that he would take similar action to Scotland on the GRA in England and Wales if elected. But it is felt that this policy could be quietly dropped between now and the next election.

Labour MPs are concerned that the party needs to “come up with an answer” to the trans question that “secures women's rights”.

Labour is trying to position itself as the party of the centre-ground of British politics. It has identified middle-aged, suburban women as a target demographic to win over ahead of the general election.

Labour strategists have studied polling that shows how a gender gap in voting has emerged since 2010, whereby women are on average more likely to vote Labour.

But the polling notes that Labour’s advantage is “specifically among women under 50”, while the Tories lead in women over 50.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, and Anneliese Dodds, the shadow women and equalities minister, have been leading the party’s efforts to appeal to this group of older women with a series of policies on issues ranging from coping with menopause in the workplace to breast cancer waiting lists.

Ms Dodds recently gave a keynote address at the Women’s Institute, the first Labour figure to speak there since Sir Tony Blair’s infamous address over two decades ago that resulted in a slow handclapping from the audience.

Writing in The Telegraph, she said Sir Keir will deliver for “mid-life” women who have been “overlooked for too long”.

Labour's appeal to the Red Wall

Labour is also looking to toughen its stance on other social issues such as immigration and climate change to make sure their policies appeal to another key voter group - those in the Red Wall.

This could include repackaging its pitch on net zero to make it less about “tree-hugging” and Extinction Rebellion and more about how to keep energy bills down.

“There has been a drift towards [policies dictated by] urban graduates and their sensibilities to the world,” said a Labour source.

“It is very dismissive of people living a different life in different parts of the country. People feel ignored at best and at worst, sneered at. We have to respect things that matter to people.”

It comes as a network of Labour activists and staffers prepares to relaunch itself next month as a think tank that will produce monthly reports on how the party can appeal to its target voters.

The organisation, called Labour Together, aims to come up with a raft of policy recommendations that reposition the party as “socially to the Right and economically to the Left”.

Josh Simons, its director, said: “We now have a leader who is already bringing Labour closer to where the voters are.”

He added that unlike during the Jeremy Corbyn era, Labour is no longer seen as a “patronising bunch of liberal Londoners who know nothing about people's lives”.