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Keir Starmer should apologise to women

It will be hard to restore trust after years of denigration

Artillery Row

After seven long years of fighting hard on a platform of policies that can only be described as inherently anti-women’s rights, the Labour Party U-turned this week. By finally agreeing to ditch their previous commitments which advocated for policies that would allow men to legally self-identify as women, they now begin the political process every party adopts of expecting voters to move on and, of course, feel grateful.

Let me be clear: Labour’s U Turn is a victory, but it is a victory that is entirely due to the work of grassroots feminist activist groups and individual women. I personally want to thank each and every woman who held Labour to account. The many women who left the party in protest, and all those who defiantly stayed, are the heroes of the hour.

It’ll be a while before I am in any way grateful to the Labour leadership for finally coming to their senses. I’m not ready to gloss over the last seven years, even if the Party’s new marketing campaign on this issue dictates that we do exactly that.

Starmer has spent the last few years gleefully ignoring women

The leadership swiftly got to work on the new policy spin. On 28 July, BBC interviewer Nicky Campbell was asking Sir Keir Starmer about the new approach to the Gender reform debate. Campbell commented on how difficult the “penis question” was for Labour politicians, then was further prompted by a listener to ask Starmer what a woman is. Sir Keir, incredulous that he had to respond to such a ridiculously obvious question, rolled his eyes as he stated: “firstly a woman is an adult female, so let’s clear that one up … ”

Well, I am glad you cleared that one up, buddy … because that’s not what you’ve been saying for quite a few years. You and your leadership team have been positively heroic in going out of your way to avoid saying that women are adult human females altogether. On a personal level you’ve done remarkably well, Keir — managing to proffer a plethora of stupid responses and patronising platitudes, lecturing journalists about the debate being managed incorrectly if you are ever asked “the woman question”. In fact, only a few months ago you claimed at least 0.1 per cent of women actually have a penis, so spare me your incredulity at having to give such a simple answer to a simple question. You have spent the last few years in confused perpetuity, gleefully ignoring and condescending the droves of women who have advocated the exact facts you spout now.

Having finally moved past (and glossed over) the denigration, smearing and direct targeting of women, it feels as if we had arrived proudly and loudly in the middle of a Fast Show sketch — the one where the woman has all the ideas, but the men ignore her. They then promptly steal those ideas, leaving the woman to ask, “Can any of you actually hear me?

The real-life scenario of a woman from within the Labour Party, screaming, “can any of you actually hear me” comes in the shape of the indomitable Rosie Duffield. Duffield has been the one Labour MP who has consistently and very publicly defended women’s rights from within the party. She has done so at great cost.

I asked Rosie whether the Labour leadership team had reached out now that Starmer and his team are publicly defending the position she has advocated for years. Given Rosie’s knowledge of the debate and her contacts with the many women who trust her on the topic, I would have thought she’d be a great asset to the leadership in regaining the trust so many women have lost because of the Labour Party’s stance and tactics.

Rosie told me:

I don’t know who suddenly decided that Labour’s official policy must change to being against self-identification, but for the last three or more years, women members, women’s rights groups and the few politicians who have spoken up, have been left out of any meaningful discussions with the Party. Women have routinely been ignored, sidelined, and not invited in. I imagine the latest polling has alerted some of those on the inside to the fact that unpopular policies like a “no-questions-asked self-ID system”, needed to change before a General Election. What a shame that the last few years have seen such muddled, embarrassing, ill-informed attempts at a sort of hybrid policy. Women MPs know some things, we could have saved the Leader’s office an awful lot of time.

I have a novel idea — whilst Keir and his team are in the business of adopting the same policies that they have called women bigots for holding in the last few years — I’d add another simple word to their spin campaign: “Sorry.”

Keir and his team need to say sorry to women and mean it

The blatant misogyny of largely left-wing men has been displayed in all its glory in this debate in the UK. That behaviour won’t be forgotten easily. Women keep receipts.

My message to Sir Keir and his team is clear. You got this one badly wrong, for so long, and you really should admit that. Believe me, it is going to take a lot to gain the trust back from many female voters. A simple U-turn will not suffice.

You need to say sorry to women and mean it. Say sorry for ignoring women. Say sorry for enabling the sinister and aggressive targeting of women. Say sorry for expelling women from the party. Say sorry for throwing women’s rights under the bus in return for a few misogynistic back slaps and a glittery pronoun badge.

The thing is that all politicians still need women, and not just for our votes. The work has only just begun on discovering the many legally dubious policies that have been implemented because politicians from all parties, both local and national, have enabled gender identity ideology to move ahead of and against the law. It is largely women who will continue to unpick those policies, because it is our rights and our daughters’ rights that are routinely destroyed by them.

The gesture of giving at least Rosie Duffield an apology would be truly symbolic to all the women who have railed against the misogyny in this debate for so long.

If Labour stopped pretending the last few years of cruelty towards women haven’t happened, women might begin to respect the party again. It just might repair a little bit of the major damage that has been caused. I can’t guarantee it, and to be honest I would expect a great many women would tell them to stick their apology up the proverbial — but it’s about integrity and bravery now.

Of course, I don’t think any of this is going to happen. The political left has always been misogynistic — they’ve always been just one bro-coded champagne socialist away from a Fast Show sketch. Thankfully there are enough women on the left and still within the Labour Party who shine and fight. More power to them — they achieved greatness this week. Sir Keir was merely the poster boy mouthpiece of their gloriousness.

Update: In between the filing and publication of this article, Labour frontbencher Wes Streeting, apologised to Rosie Duffield. Such is the power of women’s achievements and Rosie’s tenacity in this debate, it seems some men in the Labour Party are aware of the need to make reparations. One apology isn’t enough but given the positive response on twitter from women to Streeting’s apology, Sir Keir might want to sit up and consider apologising to women on behalf of the whole party. Let’s see if it that takes another seven years, shall we?  

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