Keir Starmer signals Labour transgender stance climbdown

Sir Keir Starmer - Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Sir Keir Starmer - Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Sir Keir Starmer signalled a climbdown on Labour’s transgender stance on Thursday as he said lessons have to be learned from Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon resigned as First Minister last month after her radical approach to trans rights cost her the support of her SNP colleagues.

A law drawn up by Ms Sturgeon but blocked by the UK Government would have allowed anyone over the age of 16 to self-identify their gender without a medical certificate.

Sir Keir had previously vowed to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow trans people to self-identify, but appeared to back away from the pledge during a press conference in Stoke-on-Trent.

Sir Keir told reporters: “I think that if we reflect on what’s happened in Scotland, the lesson I take from that is that if you’re going to make reforms, you have to carry the public with you.

“And I think that’s a very important message, and I think that’s why it’s clear that in Scotland there should be a reset of the situation.”

In a message to the LGBT website Pink News for Pride in 2021, Sir Keir said his priority was “forming the next government so we can introduce legislation and change society so that, whoever you are, you can live a happy and fulfilled life”. He said: “We are committed to updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people.”

Sir Keir initially remained silent on Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals, but in January revealed he thought 16-year-olds were too young to legally change their gender.

While vowing to remove “indignities” from the current system, he acknowledged that for “99.9 per cent of women the issue is biological”.

Labour has previously appeared to come unstuck on transgender issues, with a number of leading figures in the party giving different answers about what a woman is.

In May last year, Sir Keir refused to say whether a woman could have a penis, only to eventually admit that “biology matters”.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, has suggested that children as young as 13 should be “taken seriously” if they want to change gender.

Sir Keir’s party has been criticised by Rosie Duffield, one of its MPs, over the lack of support she said she had been given after expressing her gender-critical views.

Ms Duffield likened being in Labour to an abusive relationship after she was “shouted down” by fellow backbenchers during a debate on Ms Sturgeon’s laws.