This morning saw a profound breakthrough in the trans debate. I say that on the basis of an interview Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s CEO, did with the BBC’s Emma Barnett on Woman’s Hour.
What’s important is not really anything that Kelley said, though some of that was indeed interesting and I’ll come to it in a second. What matters is that the interview took place at all, since that constitutes a significant shift in the way Stonewall does its work.
Stonewall’s instinct has been to largely avoid mainstream media and other political debates about its work on trans issues that is now its primary focus. Kelley has given a handful of interviews since she took over the charity last year, but Stonewall’s presence on the airwaves remains more of an exception than a norm.
These tactics appeared to follow the model set out in a still-remarkable document that I wrote about for The Spectator two ago, a trans lobbying manual that advised campaigners to avoid media scrutiny of their plans:
Avoid excessive press coverage and exposure: another technique which has been used to great effect is the limitation of press coverage and exposure. In certain countries, like the UK, information on legal gender recognition reforms has been misinterpreted in the mainstream media, and opposition has arisen as a result.
When I wrote about that document, which was assembled with the support of the law firm Dentons, I suggested that lobbying in private could mean short-term success and long-term failure, because policies made without full debate would lack legitimacy: walls built on sand.
The setbacks Stonewall has faced in recent months bear that out. Its ejection from various public bodies and growing media scrutiny, most recently by Stephen Nolan of the BBC, are the inevitable consequences of winning your political battles without even trying to win the arguments.