Penny Mordaunt accused of ‘throwing trans people under the bus’ after hitting back at critics

Penny Mordaunt has been accused of ‘throwing trans people under the bus’ after a midnight Twitter thread posted hours before launching her Tory leadership bid.

The Portsmouth North MP sought to address her position on trans rights after criticism from right-wingers who claim her preview comments on the issue threaten her chances of replacing Boris Johnson.

While serving as equalities minister in 2018, Ms Mordaunt said “trans women are women and trans men are men” and pledged to do more so that “LGBT people can thrive in the UK”.

On Saturday, as speculation mounted about her potential leadership bid, Campaign group Conservatives for Women branded the MP “a committed warrior for the trans lobby”, adding her apparently supportive views “raise questions over her judgment”.

In response, Ms Mordaunt took to social media the same night to answer a question written out in large capital letters: “Do I know what a woman is?”

“I am biologically a woman,” she wrote. “If I have a hysterectomy or mastectomy, I am still a woman. And I am legally a woman..

“Some people born male and who have been through the gender recognition process are also legally female. That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me.”

The thread went on to list her “track record” of work on “gender equality”, including launching an inquiry into a surge in girls referred to trans services and changing maternity legislation to use female - instead of gender netural - terms.

In the same thread she criticised what she called ‘the trans orthodoxy’ and praised Sharron Davies, who has faced accusations of ‘transphobia’ after she came out against trans athletes competing in women’s sporting events.

“Some want to damage my reputation for whatever reason,” the MP wrote. “They want to depict me as ‘woke’’’”

“I’ve fought for women’s rights all my life. I would NEVER do anything to undermine them. I will continue to protect them.

“And those that purport to be champions of women while misrepresenting and undermining them might like to think again.”

The thread met with backlash from LGBT supporters on Twitter and claims her attempt to draw a line under the issue had backfired.

Author and activist Christine Burns MBE wrote: “A study of QTs to Penny Mordaunt’s desperate anti-trans tweet indicates that she’s pleased very few.

“She’s not pleased anyone who wants to hear about actual issues. And she’s not pleased the transphobes who just recall what she’s said before. She’s actually REDUCED her support.”

Political commentator Owen Jones added: “Penny Mordaunt has gone from rightly comparing transphobia to the old anti-gay moral panic to throwing trans people under a bus to advance her own career.”

Penny Mordaunt has listed her ‘track record on gender equality’ amid right-wing criticism (REUTERS)
Penny Mordaunt has listed her ‘track record on gender equality’ amid right-wing criticism (REUTERS)

Other Tory leadership hopefuls were asked about their views on trans rights on Sunday.

Tom Tugendhat, asked if he believed trans women are women, and trans men and men, said the question showed why the debate had to “move on” from a “sledgehammer” approach.

He said: “It’s really easy to make division where we need unity. A woman is an adult human female, but that doesn’t mean in any way that trans woman have any less respect of any fewer rights.”

Mr Tugendhat added: “We must never take away what it means to be a biological women, but we must respect people who are in a different gender identity.”

Asked the same question Grant Shapps told Sky News: “If there is a Shapps administration, I will not be spending most of my time on these kinds of issues.

“I think we owe everybody love and respect. There’s clearly a biological basis upon your birth. But when people want [to] transition gender, that is their choice. They’ll always have support from me.”