Should Muslim parents be allowed to challenge LGBT lessons?

We saw two different worlds, or at least two different value systems, collide in the High Court in Birmingham this week. On one side there was Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, the headmistress of Anderton Park, a little primary school in Sparkhill, a largely Pakistani bit of the city; on the other, two men who represent Muslim parents there. You may well have heard about the case. It has turned into one of those totemic issues: tolerant Britain vs backward religious people. At issue is the question of whether and how children should be taught about gay relationships — and whether and how parents who don’t like it should be allowed to protest

Meet the top cop who wants to police your pronouns

What is the purpose of the police? Maybe your answer has something to do with “preventing crime” or “arresting criminals”. Or maybe you think it’s the job of officers of the law to tell us how to behave, to police our conduct, and to make sure we all speak to each other nicely. In which case, the copper for you is Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke of Cheshire Police. DCC Cooke has rather a big job in Cheshire, where there were more than 30,000 violent crimes in the year to August 2019 and the monthly rate of violent crime is up by more than 50 per cent in the last

The curious reaction to a niqab-wearing homophobe

Are we allowed to criticise the niqab yet? This question crossed my mind as I watched that viral clip of a niqab-clad woman hurling homophobic invective at a Pride marcher in Walthamstow in London. Surely now it will become acceptable to raise questions about this medieval garment (banned in several Muslim countries) and about the views and attitudes of those who wear it? On one level, the footage of the niqab-wearering lady spouting anti-gay hate wasn’t very surprising. Shocking, yes, but not surprising. It’s not as if someone who covers themselves from head to toe in archaic black cloth (which, as Qanta Ahmed has said, is not in the least

Why I’m sick of Pride

Anyone else sick of the Pride flag? It’s everywhere. It flutters from virtually every building in central London. Town halls across the country are emblazoned with it. Every bank, corporation, supermarket and celebrity Twitter account has had a rainbow makeover. There are Pride-themed sandwiches, beer bottles, cakes. Jon Snow has even worn Pride-coloured socks. You could be forgiven for thinking we’ve been conquered by a foreign army that has proceeded to stick its flag in every nook, cranny and orifice of the nation. It’s Pride Month, of course. And the reason it’s a whole month is because we are at the fiftieth anniversary of the New York Stonewall Riots of

The Spectator Podcast: the Brexit party, drugs, and fake lesbians

As the two main parties reel from their local election performances today, are we at the beginning of a golden age for smaller parties? James Forsyth evaluates the chances of the Brexit party – Nigel Farage’s new electoral outfit – in this week’s cover piece. The conclusion isn’t pretty for the Conservative party: the Brexit party is slicker than Ukip ever was, and two out of five Tory councillors are considering voting for them in the upcoming European elections. The party has also managed to perform better than Change UK, who seemed to have peaked at their launch a few months ago, demonstrating – James argues – the sheer anger

Bad blood | 4 April 2019

The Phlebotomist by Ella Road explores the future of genetics. Suppose a simple blood test were able to tell us how long we will live and what disease will kill us. If the tests were compulsory and the results publicly available, a new hierarchy based on life expectancy would emerge. Citizens facing chronic illness or early death would struggle to find jobs and spouses. The scientists who administer the tests would come under pressure to falsify the results. And alpha citizens with high-grade DNA would be murdered, and their blood harvested to create fake genetic identities. This gruesome, ingenious and all-too-believable scenario is presented through a squeaky-clean romance between two

Mummy porn

What can parents do about the avalanche of pornography available to their children on tablet, phone and laptop? This question was the starting point for a documentary series that began on Wednesday — and the answer proved unexpected. Having gathered five mothers together and shown them a hair-raising selection of online filth, the programme blithely declared that the best way for these women to ‘make a change’ was ‘by making their own mum-approved porn film’, which they’d then screen for their families and friends. If this premise struck anyone involved in Mums Make Porn (Channel 4, obviously) as at all questionable, they didn’t mention it. Instead, the programme simply went

Disappointed of north London

Disobedience is an adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel about forbidden, lesbian love in orthodox Jewish north London, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams and I so wanted to root for the film and its characters. Go for it, women! Smash the patriarchy that says you must always be the object of sexual desire and never the subject! I’ll put you up, if needs be. I have a spare bedroom and it’s all yours! But while this should be a searing, Brokeback Mountain-style drama about love, longing and repression it just plods along, often clumsily. I didn’t root or not root as in the end it was impossible to much care.

Baby love | 25 October 2018

Stories by Nina Raine is a bun-in-the-oven comedy with a complex back narrative. Anna, in her mid-thirties, had a boyfriend 12 years younger than her but the relationship died just as Anna was ready to sprog. Aged 38, and desperately broody, she needs to get preggers pronto. We join her on a Sperm Quest. Though Anna could easily arrange a casual bareback fling, she insists on divulging her goal to her prospective lovers before they drop their Y-fronts and deliver the oats. The action opens as a family drama with Anna’s Dad (Stephen Boxer) pottering around the kitchen, drink in hand, making sarky comments about Anna’s sex life while she

Christine and the Queens: Chris

Grade: B– Ooh goody — a parade to rain on! You wouldn’t believe the hyperbole expended by the rock critics on this middle-class French lass, real name Héloïse Letissier. Or maybe, being used to such mass gullibility, you would. ‘Bogglingly intelligent’ and ‘a thrillingly uncompromising artist, playing with ideas of gender, identity and individuality to pop-bright melodies’, for example. Her first album in English, Chaleur humaine, was similarly bestrewn with pop-hack ejaculate, to the extent that it resembled a plasterer’s radio. Why? Oh, check out the back story. Very gender fluid. Leftie. French. Channelling early 1980s electro pop and dance. And here she is with her hair cropped and calling

Ever the trail-blazer

This is the story of the ‘other’ Harvey Milk. We all know about Harvey the San Francisco politician who was tragically assassinated less than a year after he became one of the first openly gay candidates elected to public office in the US. But now, thanks to Lillian Faderman, we also know about Harvey the secular Jew, who renounced his faith but remained influenced and inspired by liberal Jewish values. The grandson of Lithuanian immigrants to the US, Harvey was, for many years, more out as a Jew than as a gay man. We also discover the restless, wandering Harvey, who moved from state to state, man to man and

Why can’t lefties tolerate a transsexual conservative?

I am a conservative. I believe everyone in society does best when government takes a light touch. I believe in low taxes, less regulation, the rule of law, national sovereignty, strong borders, individual liberty, personal responsibility, meritocracy, tolerance to people’s differences, and traditional family values. I am also a transsexual woman. But those on the left regard me as a Judas. And they do so because I don’t fit conveniently into their insatiable and pathological need to stereotype everyone. To them, the very notion that a trans woman – because we are “different” and a “minority group” – could be anything other than a Mao-quoting, Che-Guevara-T-shirt-wearing, red-flag-waving socialist is sacrilegious. They

The limits of Stonewall’s tolerance | 31 July 2018

‘Acceptance without exception’ is the aspirational slogan emblazoned across the website, merchandise and literature of Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT charity.  The problem is that there are exceptions. Those who are not accepted include those who refuse to believe that a person can change their sex simply by saying: ‘I identify as.’ The fractious nature of the LGBT alliance – and Stonewall’s intolerance for dissenting voices within the community – is becoming increasingly clear. At this year’s London Pride, a group of protestors from ‘Get the ‘L’ Out’ made their feelings known by marching to the front of the parade with banners, including one reading ‘Transactivism Erases Lesbians.’ The actions of

Meet the man standing to be a Labour party women’s officer

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Except in the Labour Party, when it’s surprisingly easy. Just ask David Lewis. David, 45, is a member of the Labour Party. After several years of supporting the party, he became a full member last year having been “inspired” by Jeremy Corbyn. Tomorrow, David will be a candidate for election as an office-holder in his Constituency Labour Party in Basingstoke. He is standing for election as women’s officer, a post that Labour rules say can only be held by a woman. David is standing for that post because he is a woman. On Wednesdays, at least. When we spoke yesterday, he put it

The silencing of the lesbians

Even I’m a bit surprised by this and I’m writing it, but this is an article about lesbians. I’m writing about lesbians because some of them believe they are currently the subject of political failure. They believe that the people, organisations and institutions that are supposed to speak and stand up for them and their interests are not doing so. I think those concerns are reasonable and should be addressed. A political system that’s supposed to represent the views of everyone in it really isn’t working for the women I’m talking about here. This is, of course, about gender and the debate around gender and sex. Quite a lot of

Why is the BBC preaching to the Commonwealth on gay rights?

There’s a curiously two-faced aspect to the British take on the Commonwealth, wouldn’t you say? On the one hand, there’s justifiable contrition about the treatment of the elderly Windrush generation and a general feeling that the Commonwealth leaders assembled for this week’s summit might be justified in taking Britain to task for its cavalier approach to postwar Caribbean immigrants. On the other, when Commonwealth countries get uppity and show signs of not conforming to the social norms of this country, why, they get very short shrift indeed. There was an ugly little interview this morning on the Today programme which expressed precisely this ambivalence. Homosexual acts are illegal in Trinidad,

Now that’s what I call music

One of the members of the government’s HS2 Growth Taskforce is remembering the first time he went to a gay club. ‘There was a club in Coventry that was only open on a Sunday night, at the Quadrant, and a mate of mine said, “There’s a DJ there who plays some fantastic music that I know you’ve never heard, so why don’t we go down?” It was a gay club, or a queer’s club as it was known then. I loved it. Oh, I loved it. I couldn’t believe that blokes were dancing with each other. The music was awesome.’ A few years later, in the early 1980s, he ‘lived

Worse for wear

Erté was destined for the imperial navy. Failing that, the army. His father and uncle had been navy men. There were painters and sculptors on his mother’s side, but they were thought very frivolous. Romain de Tirtoff (‘Erté’ came from the French pronunciation of his initials) was born in 1892 at the St Petersburg Naval School where his father Pyotr was inspector. When he was a little boy, his aunt bought him a set of wooden soldiers. Instinctively, he hated war, violence and, above all, uniforms. He burst into tears and threw the box out of the window. What he liked best was to play with his mother’s old perfume

Letters | 2 November 2017

Equality of outcome Sir: Rod Liddle exposes some deep flaws in the way children are prepared to play their part in adulthood (‘The kids aren’t all right’, 28 October). But one in particular merits further analysis. He is right to say that teachers’ imperative is to raise the D grade students at GCSE to a C, as a school is judged on the number of A-C grade passes it secures. So all the best teachers and all the extra resources are focused on the D grade children. An A grade student who could, with a bit of help, achieve an A* and thus begin their journey to Cambridge is ignored,

Identity issues

It was always going to be difficult for Theresa May’s government to secure a legacy beyond Brexit. With the negotiations running into difficulty, it becomes all the harder. Ministers must avoid, however, resorting to well-meant gestures which open the government to ridicule. Take, for instance, the revelation that Britain has insisted on the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights making reference to pregnant transgendered people — although it now denies that it objected to the term ‘pregnant women’. The purpose of the relevant clause is deeply serious — to dissuade malignant regimes from subjecting pregnant women to the death penalty. Britain’s approach, by contrast, has an air of