Who speaks, who listens, and who is heard?

Who speaks, who listens, and who is heard?

The extract above is from a statement by Ruby Cox, a former councillor in Hastings, who has been asked and asked, for months, for her version of something that happened to her but, after all this time, will anyone want to hear?

I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people and secondly, demoralise them. – Tony Benn

Three years ago, I chose not to continue as a Labour Party officer, largely because as a woman determined to help women speak and be heard on the sex and gender issue, the flack I was receiving was likely to get in the way of election campaigning. Yes, it was read as me being controversial.

At that time, someone in a local LGBTQ+ organisation, like many across the country in similar roles, was prone to taking offence at women discussing their rights, and declaring women who so much as mentioned the topic ’unfit for office.’ This only happened if those women were active in the Labour Party, the council or their unions. Just like many other instances up and down the country, ‘hate speech’ or ‘anti-trans sentiments’ are implied, but evidence is rarely forthcoming. Such declarations are the ‘starting pistol’, and those women continue to find themselves slandered and harried by various people popping up repeating vague accusations until the victims give up on holding political office.

Of course these days, you know me, and many other women as feminists who talk and write A LOT about this particular issue, but back then, the ‘blacklisted’ women were usually condemned merely for asking a question too many, or for sharing one of the guides to that GRA consultation that women’s groups were putting out (you were supposed to share the Stonewall, pro-self-ID one, not the women’s group ones, that encouraged questioning).

If women's rights are anti-trans then trans rights are anti-trans

Those who work so hard to silence and marginalise women who want to discuss the conflict between women’s legal rights and the current demands under the banner ‘trans rights’ constantly insist there is no conflict. If that is the case, why do they work so hard to get rid of any women who ever gave the slightest hint they wanted to discuss it?

Most recently (four years on from the first cries of ‘not fit for office’ in Hastings) it happened to former councillor Ruby Cox, when the news got around that she was to be our Deputy Mayor. She was subjected to a social media and press-release campaign of misinformation, and finally denounced publicly from the stage at last summer’s Pride. As far as I know, neither Pride, nor the current accuser, Cllr Claire Carr have produced any evidence for their accusations, so we can only guess, backed up by the direction yells of triumph came from when Cox lost her seat in May, that the ‘not fit for office’ declaration was the first source.  Certainly Carr’s claim of ‘social media posts with an anti-trans sentiment’ appears to stem from Hastings Pride’s claim about ‘legacy social media posts’ (still no evidence produced).

So extreme did Carr’s campaign become that her behaviour was the subject of a council Standards Committee hearing. You can see the results on the HBC website here…

Hastings Online - HBC web logo
Link to the Standards Committee Hearing report on HBC website

And now, at last, a little more information, from the Hastings Independent Press including at long last, confirmation of the identities of ‘Councillor X’ and ‘Councillor Y’:

Hastings Independent Article: CllrCarr@ the dissenting party
Link to the digital edition of HIP You can read this article on page three

Silencing, intimidation and more silencing

Councillor Carr has been saying (amongst other things) that she has been silenced but the main problem, it seems to me, is that Ruby Cox was told by council officers and by the then council leader, to say nothing in her own defence – before, during and, astonishingly, after the conclusion of that hearing. She was subjected to the unenviable task of going through the council elections in May unable to talk about, or even respond to direct questions about, the smear campaign Green Party candidates and others had subjected her to, based on Carr’s, and the LGBTQ+ organisations’ (STILL to this day, unevidenced) accusations.

It is not surprising Cox lost her seat in those elections. It speaks much of her efficacy as a local councillor, deputy mayor and Older People’s Champion, and the courage she showed in going out campaigning with all this hanging over her, that she only lost by 35 votes.

The blame for the mistreatment of Ruby Cox lies squarely with Cllr Carr and her chums in the local LGBTQ+ organisations. The blame for the loss of her seat though, I would lay with every single councillor and council officer who saw what happened to Cox and did not support her, and on the then leaders of the Labour Party and HBC who did not say one word to let the town know that there is no evidence of any wrong-doing by Cox. And when I say councillors, I include Cllr Hilton who rushed to embrace Carr, and the other Green candidates who contributed to the slating of the local Labour Party, and who kept the rumours going right through their supposedly ‘clean and positive’ election campaign.

Is the Council Standards Committee dysfunctional?

I sincerely hope that the HIP article has broken the spell on this particular bout of silence. The claim of Green candidates during the election that the issue of Cllr Carr’s behaviour was ‘sub judice’ does not appear to hold water and indeed, although it was – and is – Carr who complains of being silenced, they never felt obliged to refrain from criticising Cox.

Although results of the hearing have been published, with the conclusion that Carr used her position as a councillor to disadvantage Cox in the community, and attempted to bully Cox, only now can we can be clear. It is confirmed who the ‘anonymised’ minutes refer to.

Sadly though, despite the ‘training’ that Carr was supposed to have had after that hearing, she has now followed up her desertion of the Labour Party and her slander campaign against Cox by rejecting the Green Group’s very first decision during the decidedly tricky negotiations of our new coalition council, and she has declared herself ‘unrepentant’ over her treatment of Cox. The HIP article ends with a quote from her, in which she slanders ‘people with gender critical views’, calling their opinions ‘attacks on “the trans non-binary community”.’

In case any such person is reading this, I suppose my opinions qualify for the rather odd phrase so it’s on me to give a summary…

Text panel

… along with my assurance that whatever people like Carr say, there is absolutely no reason why people who hold ‘gender critical’ views should think of attacking anyone. It is the nature of ‘gender’ that is contested.

Please note, there is not even any evidence that those are Cox’s views. She has never been outspoken on this issue, and did not discuss it in any detail with anyone until those Green candidates started making demands of her in the run up to the elections, and took offence because she said she thought the issue needed reflection and discussion rather than public statements made under duress.

If you missed it, I summarised what happened then in this blog post…

Ballot Box
Link to article ‘To speak or not to speak?’

To go back to Carr’s more general accusation: people with ‘gender critical views’ don’t ‘hate’ any groups or categories of people – they might hate the bullying, silencing, slandering, manipulation and lying that prevents their views being listened to, and I guess the tide of all those things going on can make them (us – me) sound pretty angry sometimes. Personally, I can cope with anger without attacking individuals, and I can cope with plain old disagreement.

Personally, I think the kids who’ve gone for ‘non-binary’ are just trying to declare themselves as not interested in all the gender-stereotypes being shoved at them by mainstream society on the one hand, and the gender-identity campaigners on the other.

Personally, I do not even exclusively blame so called ‘trans activists’ for what is happening to women in politics. I blame the so-very-English fear of confrontation that allows councillors and Labour Party officers to watch their colleagues being bullied and sidelined without commenting. Oh, no doubt they feel anguish – but they’d rather feel anguished and ashamed than stand up and defend bullied colleagues. That is why they are still in office, and people like Ruby Cox are not. That makes me very angry.

It is hard to imagine the kind of mind-set that sees a disagreement on policy or ideology or on what is or is not good medical practice, as a reason to try and hound someone from office. It is bizarre to treat any disagreement of views as ‘an attack’ that requires an ad hominem retaliation but sadly, that attitude is all too common in politics, and one that Green Group leader Julia Hilton presumably agrees with, judging by her support for Carr’s campaign against Cox. It is an attitude that is likely to make the functioning of the council’s new coalition quite difficult.

Meanwhile

I understand the council Standards Committee is already looking into another case – an incident on the Stade during a refugee event a few weeks ago.

bystander’s video of Cllr Maya Evans (speaking) and Cllrs Edwards (heckling) and Patmore (looking on), with added commentary by I don’t know who

What now?

I hope it won’t become yet another example of women being required not to talk about how they are treated, but the utter silence from the council on the issue does rather suggest the great, dark blanket of ‘ongoing Standards Committee’ has fallen over it.

I hope above all that a local journalist can be found to follow up both these cases, and take up the issue of whether the council Standards Committee is fit for purpose, or whether it always has the effect of silencing victims, and leaving abusers to continue their work of stopping ‘troublesome’ women from talking.

For HBC to let things go on as they are would, I believe, be a serious failure not only of local democracy, but of natural justice.

I would like to point out to them all that there is still a wrong to be righted. HBC’s Standards Committee has itself confirmed that Ruby Cox’s standing in the community has been damaged. She may no longer be a councillor, but she still has a life to lead in Hastings, and there are still people shunning her because they’ve heard rumours of ‘transphobia’. It is beholden on the council to see that someone make a public statement setting the record straight, and confirming her good character.

For our society at large, we have some serious work to do to build respect for women, and increase some people’s ability to let women speak, and some other people’s to cope with what they seem to see as the unendurable trauma of being disagreed with, especially by women.

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Cheers,

Kay

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