Artillery Row

It’s our party and we’ll cry if we want to

Women face grim choices in the forthcoming election

Women with concerns over their rights are being pushed, pulled and spun around; sent reeling dizzily to the box office by the forthcoming General Election, disorientated and politically fragmented in a way I cannot remember we ever have been before. 

Long ago, in the saner days, before “gender identity ideology” scattered its endless seeds of misery amongst us, if you were a feminist you voted for a Party broadly on the Left, and never Tory. Unless you were one of the deluded Tories, who declared yourself a feminist, but overlooked austerity measures which were decimating the lives of women and their children, or adhered sharply to “family values” which denied their bodily autonomy.

In the present moment however, women starving for political recognition and overt protection of their sex-based rights, are perpetually wondering where the next meal is coming from, and it is rarely, infuriatingly, from Labour. We eke out a living on breadcrumbs of political euphoria from court win to court win, cheering each JK Rowling tweet, revelling in the demise of Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the exposure of the evils of the Tavistock, and proud to have a foot on the grass of TERF Island. Things can only get better, can’t they? 

Well, at this point we really don’t know — and they could get significantly worse. None of us can predict the result of the UK General Election, or beyond it what the result will actually translate into, regarding women’s rights. Some women are certain Labour will not honour the commitment to single-sex space and other rights attendant to the protected category of “sex” under the Equality Act 2010, which at varying times they have genuflected towards. Some, instead, are convinced that Labour will bring in gender self-identification under a reform of the “Gender Recognition Act 2004” which Labour also flirts with at will, and others feel very strongly that they can influence Labour not to do this by continuing to work from within the party system, putting pressure on them. 

Many women strongly distrust the Tories, who they feel are simply paying lip service to women’s rights on the trans issue as a desperate measure in times of sparse votes. The announcement this week that the Tories would commit to clarification of the Equality Act 2010 to reflect the protected category of “sex” accurately, received a mixed response from feminist and gender critical women. Some feel that even if the Tories are on the side of women regarding gender identity and the protections women need, that they are so appalling in their record of behaviour towards women in many other areas, that there can be no compromise over this single issue, and for them a Tory vote will never be palatable. Some however, welcomed the commitment and considered it in where they might cast their vote. Hannah Barnes, author of Time to Think, wrote about Badenoch’s proposals and suggested that the Tories and Labour were not so very far apart on the issue. 

Other parties are, of course, available, though it is inevitably a two-stallion race. I’d say horse, but of course the horses in the running are male. Starmer and Sunak are the ones we have to consider for their trustworthiness on feminist issues. Neither are looking particularly strong on women’s rights. Starmer was skewered by Good Morning Britain recently over his prolific, perfidious amendments to what he thinks on the issue. Tuesday’s Leader’s debate saw them ignore the issue altogether. Sunak hasn’t really been grilled on the details. He should be.

An alternative option could be the Green Party, but they seem to flippantly, even arrogantly, betray women in their statement that “The Green Party recognises that trans men are men and trans women are women. And that non-binary identities exist.” In Sheffield, they have suspended their fairly-selected Parliamentary Candidate Alison Teal for her views on women’s sex-based rights, after a campaign by Party members calling her “transphobic”. Another candidate Darren Johnson has been suspended from the party for criticising the Party’s dismissal of the Cass Report. It does not seem that women are safe in asking the Green Party for the protection of their rights, and whilst some women will prioritise environmental concerns, some will feel they cannot. 

The Liberal Democrats in their 2019 manifesto vowed “a complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary identities’. They have not been called upon to make their current position clear but there are clearly rabid ideologues amongst them, such as Hannah Kitching, the candidate for South Yorkshire Mayor in 2024 who responded to emails from constituents calling them “transphobic bigots”. The Lib Dems have not made a huge deal of “the woman question” and we have to wonder if they are hoping they will be a quiet alternative to women with a vote in their hands, and an anger in their hearts. 

The Reform Party have ensconced the repugnant Nigel Farage as leader. In the lead up to Brexit, Farage utilised feminist concerns such as FGM and Child Sexual Abuse. He swiftly dropped those political rucksacks full of women’s rights at the side of the road and they haven’t been seen by him since. Now he’s back. Will he make similar promises to women on the trans issue? Probably, because whilst he is an obnoxious, self-serving politician, he isn’t a stupid man and this issue is a valuable asset. Their draft policy is a confusing beast and has yet to wrestle with the woman question. 

The Social Democratic Party is unlikely to gain many votes, but they declare:

Transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect, in keeping with their acquired legal gender in most situations. However, these rights must be balanced against the need for natal females for safety and sporting fairness. Biological sex is real and politically significant.

This sounds largely concurrent with many of the things feminist women have been asking politicians to commit to as a minimum. However, the SDP will also, reading between the lines, pop women back in the kitchen, with their claim to “support traditional family life where possible” and they will give tax benefits to “couples raising children together”. They also state that  “married families will be given preference in council house and social housing allocation”. The SDP are keen to bind women to men and make them produce children, so they very clearly know what a woman is, but also wish to reinforce her stereotypical function as mother and wife. Feminists voting for these fellas should expect to find a frilly apron held out for them on their return. The air fryer won’t clean itself dear. 

The Scottish National Party currently has 43 MPs in Westminster. The party states:

At Westminster, SNP MPs will also press the UK government to match the Scottish Government’s commitment to legislation within this parliament. In addition to reforming gender recognition law, SNP MPs will push the UK government to allow non-binary people to record their gender as “X” on passports and all other UK-wide records and identity documents.

They also call for an amendment to the Equality Act to “ensure that all trans and non-binary people are covered by discrimination protections.” Of course, they already are but we know that this actually means stripping some of the protections for women under the same Act. Women may be lucky to have the vocal MP Joanna Cherry to vote for, but if not the picture looks bleak.

In Wales there are 3 Plaid Cymru MPs. They have previously used the training of the notorious Gendered Intelligence. They support reform of the GRA to introduce a “streamlined medical process” and “uphold trans people’s right to continue to access services and facilities in line with their gender identity.” In other words they will be in favour of giving men access to women’s single-sex services, for which there is direct provision to exclude such men already within the Act. 

With this in mind, women must stop dictating how other women should vote

On some ballot forms women might find the recently established “Party Of Women”, led by Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who will offer a limited selection of candidates as a newly-formed single issue party, campaigning exclusively on Gender Critical Issues. Some have bemoaned how this will split the vote in areas where feminist Labour candidates are standing, but the fact is that we are in a political democracy and this is a legitimately formed party; as such Mrs Keen-Minshull is entitled to field candidates where she sees fit. Some feminists have questioned her motives, asking whether a vote for her is a vote for some of the views she has recently expressed on discriminatory practise, but women must be allowed to vote freely without being infantilised or harangued for doing so. 

This is an election where women, and crucially where they will place their votes, is an electoral focus seldom seen in recent decades. We seem important for once, even if we are an asset to be exploited rather than genuinely provided for. 

With this in mind, women must stop dictating how other women should vote. When you vote, you choose. You cannot choose for other women. If you want to persuade them to vote as you do, then use persuasive language and techniques; brow beating them is ineffective and unappealing. I have seen a lot of downright bossy language lately and women don’t like being bossed about generally, we have taken too much of that from men on both the Left and Right; they don’t want self-satisfied party devotees guilt-tripping them all the way to the polling-station pencil. 

Many of the women who are making difficult choices are clever, independent women who would once have faithfully voted Labour, even knowing some flaws around women’s rights existed, but in favour of the overall good, i.e the protection of the most vulnerable in society.  Now simply can’t. 

The Tories could have brought forward all these potential policies whilst in government

This is a time like no other, when women feel the power in our fingertips to overturn a devastating assault on our sex-based rights. Women know it could be four more years before they can effectively make themselves heard by politicians; politicians who have previously been deaf to sensible female pleas and may become so again. Some think it will be possible to get Labour in power and then work on them, and others wonder whether women will have any more influence than they have had thus far, fearing women will then be utterly toothless in our efforts. We may have shown the misogynist suits in Labour that they did not need to capitulate one bit to our demands in order to win. They are cocky, complacent and could potentially become more so. 

It is also true that Labour refused to listen to women and thus the Tories pounced like the slimy opportunists they have ever been. The Tories could have brought forward all these potential policies whilst in government; they could have changed the laws in favour of women and the fact is that they did not. They saved it until utterly certain they were sinking and this was a float they could try to remain alive on. As Jane Clare Jones said recently:

It seems entirely appropriate to be cynical about why the Tories didn’t get it together to clarify the Equality Act while in office and have now dangled this promise under women’s noses going into an election they will almost certainly lose. 

Some women are finding the only choice they have, if they vote at all, is to spoil their ballot and many are declaring they will do so. This is devastating given the extreme measures suffragette women had to go to secure it for them, including imprisonment, force feeding and public beatings, but this choice must also be understood sympathetically in the current climate. 

Amongst the many things women may want from the political party they vote for, some also want a vote which protects their right to survive and thrive safely in society, with attendant sex-based rights which ensure they do, and many women feel none of the parties are offering this. 

We must watch all of the parties and their candidates closely over the coming weeks, put pressure where we feel we must, ask questions that drag the disingenuous depths from them and expose them when they prevaricate.

But on July 4th women will be making their feelings known, whatever they may be, and no Party should be either ignoring us, or taking us for granted. 

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover