Artillery Row

Better late than never

The BBC finally drop Stonewall

It is always interesting to read between the lines and to consider the things which are not said. Today — November 10th 2021 — the BBC issued a statement about it’s “step back” from the Diversity Champions Programme and the end of its participation in Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index”

These are the rather ingenious creations of an aggressive political lobby group, to not merely ensure it had a seat at the table in various organisations of power and influence, but also to claim payment for sitting there; by selling organisations recognition as “Stonewall Champions”. Whether these schemes were value for money was called into question by the Reindorf Review into Essex University’s unlawful “no platforming” of two female academics for their “gender critical views”, and a finding that Stonewall had advised on the law that it wished existed, rather than the law as it actually is.

Unease has been trickling down for a while now. Equalities Minister Liz Truss urged Government Departments to leave the Stonewall schemes in May 2021 after its CEO Nancy Kelley likened “gender critical” beliefs to anti Semitism.

But the BBC clung on, until the storming podcast series from the Nolan Report finally blew the doors off in a detailed and excoriating expose that revealed just how dangerous it is for any lobby group to wield this much, unelected power.

But look at the delicate language of the statement from the BBC.

Along with many other UK employers, the BBC has participated in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme to support our objective to create a fully inclusive workplace. However, over time our participation in the Programme has led some to question whether the BBC can be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active role.

After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions Programme and will also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

Being a part of the Diversity Champions Programme has never required the BBC to support the campaigns of Stonewall, nor its policy positions. As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards — these are clearly set out and published in our Editorial Guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Our journalists continue, as ever, to report a full range of perspectives on stories.

To suggest that all the BBC needs to do is lightly “step back” from “some questions” and to claim it was never influenced by its close ties with Stonewall is disingenuous. Take for example the approach of Woman’s Hour.  In May 2021 when Maya Forstater secured a historic victory at the EAT to recognise that actually it was not offensive in a democracy for women to believe that sex was real and it mattered, Woman’s Hour were cogitating over their burning issue of the day — a TV presenter who shared her husbands bathwater.

One wonders what evidence some will ever accept to agree that such a position is untenable

Forstater was offered the chance of an interview — but only if she won and only if she didn’t talk to anyone else. Forstater turned them down. The situation has since greatly improved with both Raquel Rosario Sanchez and Kathleen Stock interviewed in some depth. 

 Or even worse, and as revealed by the Nolan Report, that the BBC had allowed its children’s programming to promote directly to primary school children, some of the most dubious aspects of “gender ideology” — that 100s and 100s of genders exist. The BBC refused to engage directly when asked questions about this involvement by Nolan and his team. 

But I give the BBC credit; later has to be better than never. At least now it appears to making efforts to be true to its founding values and principles of journalistic independence; most notably in its recent rejection of calls to pull from its website an article about lesbians coerced into sex by trans women.

But it should not have taken this long. It should not have needed thousands of angry and frightened individuals to transform themselves into political campaigners, to demand a remedy for what was an appalling situation. It’s great news that organisations like the BBC have accepted that they cannot claim impartiality while paying money to a lobby group to be rewarded for doing what the lobby group tells them to do. But there are sadly many other organisations, including police forces, who still consider themselves “Stonewall Champions”. Stonewall will not be transparent about this; its membership lists are now private.

Of course gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans people — all of us! — deserve a workplace environment where we are not harassed, abused or bullied because of our sexual preferences, our preferred pronouns or the clothes we want to wear. But to secure “diversity and inclusion” in the workplace can never be achieved if it is at the expense of the rights and freedoms of others. The BBC will continue to work with Stonewall from time to time — as is perfectly proper. Many organisations benefit from “buying in” expertise from outside groups. But no organisation can survive embedding within its structures any political campaigning group that seeks significant change to the law based on an ideology of “gender identity” that many reject. 

One wonders what evidence some will ever accept to agree that such a position is untenable. We will just have to keep on trying to find out.

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