Whether it's scum-gate, party democracy, membership expulsions or the minimum wage you'd think Labour had had enough splits this conference. But to add to that (growing) list of disputes is the issue of transgender rights in the wake of Rosie Duffield's decision not to attend conference, as first reported by Mr S.
Tensions have played out within the Parliamentary Labour Party and in the wider conference too, between those supporters of transgender rights and gender critics whom the former label TERFs – or trans-exclusionary radical feminists. A transgender woman was stopped on Sunday trying to enter a ladies' toilet, leading to an ugly and distressing stand-off. On the conference floor this afternoon one Labour delegate received shouts of 'shame!' and boos after she told the hall that she stands with Duffield and the right to express her views.
And tonight a planned event in Brighton by Labour Women’s Declaration featuring Tonia Antoniazzi – the Private Parliamentary Secretary to shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves – will not announce its location until the last moment for fear, they say, of aggressive picketing. Mr S understands that trans rights supporters have already begun trying to organise a counter-protest.
— Stephen Daisley (@JournoStephen) September 25, 2021
Secret venues and private security.For a women's meeting.In the Labour Party.In 2021. pic.twitter.com/F0hBQbaADl
But there were no signs of disagreements at today's LGBT+ Labour panel where frontbenchers Angela Rayner and Anneliese Dodds threw their weight behind trans activists. In a warmly-received speech Rayner told attendees 'I have always been your ally, I will always be your ally' declaring 'I stand with Stonewall' and concluding that 'women’s rights are not in conflict with trans rights – our struggle is your struggle.'
Dodds backed up her deputy leader, attacking the government for 'accusations that ministers were creating a hostile environment for LGBT+ people' while senior backbencher Angela Eagle told attendees that 'Stonewall need to be defended – they're under massive attack' adding 'we're not going back in the kitchen, we're not going back in the closet.' Duffield herself was not mentioned by name but Alex Beverley, the chair of LGBT+ Labour, said that:
“I think it is important to remember that there is one very high profile person but there are many elected officials across the country who are behaving in a conduct that is not appropriate in the Labour party and it needs to be dealt with, with a clear code of conduct and a new complaints process which I hope will improve that for the entirety of the LGBT+ membership.
Looks like this is one row which will not be going away for Labour MPs anytime soon.
UPDATE: Mr S went along to Antoniazzi’s event tonight where two dozen trans rights activists were indeed protesting outside the venue. Inside the Gower MP told attendees: ‘I would not be here speaking to you tonight if I didn’t have 20 or more Labour MPs supporting me.’ Looks like it might not just be Duffield after all.