(Just to be clear – this is not an advert for any other party. We need to demand better from ALL our politicians)
For most of the last five years or so, if I’d said ‘you know that toxic issue in Labour’, people would have thought ‘ah yes, the left-right thing’ or ‘ah yes, the anti-semitism trick’, and I’d see them drawing breath ready to fire off their opinions about it but if I said ‘no, the sex-and-gender issue’, they’d visibly deflate, and go right off airing their opinions. Or they’d limit themselves to ‘oh, it’s so toxic’. Well yes, there is even a row going on about whether women with a certain opinion (go on, say it! After a few decades of being an adult human female, we tend to think sex matters – quite a lot – Say it!) … that opinion. There is a row going on around it as to whether women are being silenced or not. That is as far as the conversation has got.
Take a look at this, from the weekend papers…
“Labour passed the law that protects women on the basis of their sex and trans people from discrimination. We stand by it.”
This is the official excuse the Labour Party has presented for not welcoming Labour Women’s Declaration as part of the 2022 Labour Conference. A similar excuse is being given by councils and party branches up and down the country, when asked for an investigation or a debate.
It’s a toxic issue they say (true). It affects so many vulnerable people they say (true). The point they are fastidiously avoiding is that the reason it’s a toxic issue is that those with the power and the standing to demand a properly informed, national scale debate are ducking the issue and as a result, anyone who is in a vulnerable position (ie, many, many, women and girls, and trans people) continue to get bullied, harried and side-lined over a poorly understood issue. Very few people in positions of responsibility are attempting to address it, and this is facilitating a huge rise in both bullying and the neurotic belief that disagreement equals attack.
I can define it in two simple paragraphs – one for each side of the (non) debate – here you are:
Many women and some men believe that because sex makes a huge difference in our lives, you have to be very clear about how biological sex affects any item of policy or law that you draw up. It is not safe to fudge it, and gloss over the fact that each and every one of us is male or female. That objective, measurable difference is significant in most policy areas.
In opposition to that, many very well-funded organisations are amplifying a view that came out of some universities that sex does not matter, and that women should not be treated as a sex-class, because this messes up the notion that ‘transwomen are women’. They would rather legislation was drawn up around ‘gender’ or ‘gender identity’ – that is, a subjective view of how ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ your character and style are.
It shouldn’t be that difficult for intelligent people to find a way of solving that, should it? After all, transwomen existed long before Stonewall rolled out the ‘transwomen are women’ campaign. The Labour Women’s Declaration was drawn up in order to legitimise the necessary debate, because we could see that opening the issue up to discussion was the only way to put an end to the bullying, the rows, and the startlingly common scene of feminists being pushed out of political roles after being ‘accused of’ being gender-critical (ie, thinking sex matters at least as much as how you dress or what pronouns you prefer).
By refusing to facilitate LWD, Labour is still refusing that debate. They are saying don’t rock the boat, don’t mess with our careers by asking us to do controversial, political things. It is an attitude that leaves many of us wondering what political parties are for.
Read LWD’s statement on the matter here…
The problem is the same all over the world – successful careerists (mostly, but not all, men) see getting involved in arguments about sex as bad for their careers. They would rather tolerate the appalling, and ever-increasing, mistreatment of women in public and political life than mess up their agendas by addressing it in a realistic way. Just throw it a few stock phrases and carry on regardless.
Anyone who was in the Labour Party during the years I was, for the reasons I was, will be horrified by the second excuse the Labour Party gives for rejecting LWD – that the allocation of places at conference is a commercial, business matter. That is not how we used to see it. A visible presence at conference is an opportunity to present a political issue or point of view. That is as true now as it was when Labour was attempting to be a people’s party, with an active membership. The trouble is that now, the party is selling that opportunity to the highest bidder (supposedly) rather than attempting to give a platform to as many members’ issues and ideas as possible – but is it really about the price? If you go to conference this year, look out for the groups that interest you, and if they have no presence there, do ask them why. This needs following up.
How about a place in the listings?
Having been denied an exhibition stand, LWD now have a battle to get their fringe meeting in Liverpool on 26th Sept 2022 included in the Labour Conference listings. This also would help clarify the debate we need, because the current drivers of the campaign to silence women make much use of a mistaken perception that this is a left right issue, but the composition of most women’s rights meetings challenges that. LWD’s fringe event is to be chaired by Tonia Antoniazzi MP and speakers include Marsha De Cordova MP and Diana Johnson MP. In other words, the women calling for this debate represent left, right and centre. the event itself will further confirm that because women’s rights meetings consistently attract women with a wide range of political stances.
It is a women’s issue.
If the Labour Party refuses to give LWD this opportunity to talk to conference delegates, then I would say their attitude goes beyond ‘you are not good business’, and looks horribly like ‘carry on being slandered and bullied, it’s a useful sideshow’. In fact, sheer speculation this, but I wonder if they are also thinking ‘this is making lots of women leave, especially socialist, feminist members. We don’t like active members, especially socialist ones, and especially feminist ones, so that’s great news.’
Labour members: if you go to conference this year, check the listings for LWD. If they aren’t there, please challenge the party over this. It amounts to more than a refusal to deal with bullying and abuse, it is more than aiding and abetting bullying and abuse. It is one of the most efficient ways known of killing democracy and the freedom of speech and association that democracy requires. This issue is ill-understood because the powers that be are supressing debate. Is not to be tolerated.
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