Why Labor is losing women

After the Lionesses’ victory at Euro 2022 just over a week ago, the cheers had barely died down when the political piggyback game began. And for once, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer was on the ball, quickly tweeting in support of the England women footballers: “Lionesses, you have inspired a generation of women and girls. My daughter and her friends have strong and successful role models in sports thanks to you.

But coming from a man who has struggled to define what a woman is, this talk about inspiring women seems flaccid. Starmer leads a party that has committed to gender self-identification, which would abolish single-sex spaces for women. He said nothing in defending the right of girls to succeed in single-sex sports teams. He has also not resisted the bullying of trans activists in his party, who push him to adopt an extreme gender ideology and silence women who oppose it. It’s no wonder, then, that thousands of women have jumped on the hashtag #LabourLosingWomen to express their anger and disappointment over the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, for progressive voters who are put off by the excuse that gender doesn’t matter, the other left-leaning parties are no better. A few weeks ago, Liberal Democrat CEO Mike Dixon was so disgusted by the prospect of giving the LGB Alliance – a gay rights charity that opposes extreme gender ideology – a stand at the party conference, that he publicly claimed there had been an ‘administrative error’ before he canceled his booking. Similarly, those tempted to go green will have been quickly put off by the actions of Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who demanded the expulsion of party leadership candidate Shahrar Ali for his gender views.

Yet, outside the claustrophobic world of leftist politics, it is slowly becoming acceptable to acknowledge biological reality again. Indeed, Conservative leadership candidates have seized on the trans issue by its furry balls of glitter, stripping them of political capital in the process. Favorite Liz Truss was known for putting the boot into LGBT giant Stonewall in her role as Equalities Minister. And although ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak was late to the gender-critical party, he kicked off his campaign by pledging to publish a manifesto for women’s gender rights.

And although she may be out of the running this time, former equality minister Kemi Badenoch wrote a powerful piece in The temperature last month, following the closure of the Tavistock Clinic and its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). She wrote of her horror at learning that thousands of young patients were being prescribed experimental drugs and that trans lobby groups allegedly influenced clinic practices. Badenoch’s article reminded ministers of their duty to “deal with vested interests who profit from scandals such as the Tavistock”.

Savvy Tory MPs have acknowledged there are votes to be honest about biology, whether it’s an issue of women’s rights, child welfare or freedom of speech. And that now ubiquitous question of ‘What is a woman?’ can tell you a lot about whether a politician deserves your vote, because any politician who claims to not understand the difference between the sexes is either disturbingly gullible or a coward.

On this front, Labor MPs are lagging behind. For example, shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry recently tried to publicly reprimand actor Frances Barber for asking if a man could have a cervix. Thornberry said: “My cousin is a trans man. I guess he has a cervix. I didn’t ask – it’s none of my business. Interestingly, neither Thornberry nor his Awakened colleagues found time to comment on the GIDS scandal. Similarly, Allison Bailey’s recent court victory, which shone a light on the workings of Stonewall and represented a victory for workers’ rights, was ignored by Labor heavyweights.

But the pressure is mounting. Since 2018, gender-sensitive groups with links to the Labor Party, including Lesbian Labour, Labor Women’s Declaration (LWD) and Woman’s Place, have lobbied for a place in the party. In late July, it was reported that LWD had been denied a booth at the party’s annual conference in September. In response, MPs Tonia Antoniazzi, Feryal Clark, Marsha de Cordova, Rosie Duffield, Julie Elliott, Mary Glindon, Diana Johnson and Steve McCabe signed a letter pleading for their inclusion. Two years ago, even eight MPs signing such a letter would have been unthinkable.

Understandably, LWD is frustrated with the pace of progress, complaining that “although messaging has improved slightly in recent months, [Labour] still finds itself far behind the curve on the details of the issues. Without a solid, evidence-based discussion, it’s hard to see how Labor will come to a defensible position on women’s rights. There seems to be no prospect of such a discussion happening anytime soon. Leaders must make it clear that the silence of women must end.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why so many feminists continue to feel any loyalty to the mainstream left. A left that, roughly speaking, sees them as obsolete old hags at best and dangerous fascists at worst. It is remarkable that so many women are physically harassed by those they would otherwise consider peers. And the fact that the Labor leadership has not given them a whiff of solidarity is telling. He speaks not only of his contempt for the insight and commitment of gender-sensitive women, most of whom are experienced political activists, but also of the insular, myopic worldview of the left.

In a few years, Labor’s Holocaust denial rhetoric will be as anachronistic and embarrassing as its members who still cling to a political model that was torn down with the Berlin Wall. The gender debate is ongoing and the conversation is moving forward. Now is the time for Labor and the left to catch up.

Joe Bartosch is a journalist who campaigns for the rights of women and girls.

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