August is the traditional silly season, but the Labour party risks descending into a farce from which it might struggle to recover when real politics resumes in September. In the absence of any direction from the party leadership, the transgender thought police have led the party down a rabbit hole. Last week, Spectator readers may recall the appalling attack on Rosie Duffield MP for claiming – quite rightly – that 'only women have a cervix'. Now, the madness has continued.
This week’s episode involves LGBT+ Labour. Not to be confused with the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights (LCTR) that appeared in February, LGBT+ Labour has a long history of campaigning inside the Labour party and alongside the Labour party for gay rights.
Do bear with me: the distinction between the groups is important. When the LCTR published its list of pledges that called for expulsions from the party, Keir Starmer was careful not to add his signature to those of Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Angela Rayner. Perhaps as a QC and former director of public prosecutions, Starmer sensed the need to distance himself from what looked like the work of a bunch of juvenile students.
But the transgender movement has grown so strong in his party that it could not go unappeased, and Starmer signed an alternative statement composed by the apparently more grown up LGBT+ Labour. As he explained on Facebook: 'These pledges and LGBT+ Labour have my full support'.
He may have been reassured by the faces of his colleagues smiling back at him from the LGBT+ Labour website. The group enjoys the patronage of no fewer than 20 Labour MPs and eight peers. These are not the new intake who marked their support for trans rights with the 'jiggle on the stairs' in Parliament back in February; this group includes party grandees – and privy councillors – including Lords Mandelson and Adonis.
But on Monday evening, from behind that veneer of respectability, LGBT+ Labour issued an ominous statement on the Duffield affair, calling for the Labour party to take 'measurable action on this situation'.
Duffield's crime? As well as making a comment (with which most people would undoubtedly agree) on women's biological makeup, the Labour MP also shared 'a Spectator article that referred to the ‘transgender thought police’ and described the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights as 'authoritarian...petulant youngsters''.
'It is clear', said the LGBT+ Labour statement, that 'this has contributed towards a situation where our party has become a space where trans and non-binary members do not feel as safe and protected as they should'. The statement said the organisation had 'spent the last few days reaching out to Rosie Duffield and her office to attempt to initiate steps towards an apology and reparations.'
Labour MPs thinking of retweeting this article should tread very carefully indeed.
Women are right to be concerned when attitudes like these are not just condoned, but are celebrated. Yet for taking her courageous stand, Duffield faced an onslaught. Perhaps inevitably, last night she issued a carefully worded apology: 'I am sorry for any offence my own recent use of language on this issue may have caused'.
But why should Duffield apologise or indeed be forced to make 'reparations'? Last week I called this a war on women; I did not expect to be so prescient. This week, it seems the defeated party will have to stump up damages.
Salman Rushdie once said that nobody has the right to not be offended, but that was before transgender activism weaponised the taking of offence. This is a battle that nobody can fight alone, and other Labour MPs need to step up to the mark and offer Duffield public support. Otherwise we risk women’s rights becoming a partisan issue as equally courageous Conservatives such as Jackie Doyle-Price remain resolute.
The biggest irony is that the Spectator article that Duffield shared was my piece. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am both trans and a member of the Labour party. While LGBT+ Labour were calling on Labour MPs, to show 'full solidarity and support' for the trans community, they were simultaneously condemning one of those MPs for sharing a piece written by a party member from that very community.
LGBT+ Labour are now writing to Keir Starmer to ask for a response. I hope he does respond and he tells them to grow up. If not him, then maybe some of those 28 patrons from the parliamentary Labour party might have words? Because the longer this goes on, the less likely it is that the Red Wall will ever be rebuilt. Voters on the doorstep know that only women have cervixes, despite attempts to re-educate them. The Labour party needs a more credible approach to trans rights, and one that does not compromise the rights of women, if it hopes to regain their trust.