Health Secretary Steve Barclay (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The Tories are listening to women, but why?

Labour have handed the Conservatives an electoral weapon

Artillery Row

This week, Steve Barclay MP, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, captured the headlines of nearly every mainstream news publication. Many misleadingly claimed that “trans women” will be “banned” from female NHS wards. The word “banned” is designed to elicit sympathy for trans-identifying men, who demand to be housed on female wards during their in-patient hospital care. There is a heavily implied accusation of the cruelty of denying them this right.

Of course, there is no “ban” on their hospital treatment. Those men will receive the same NHS care as everyone else; they will simply return to receiving it on a single-sex ward so that the safety, privacy and dignity of women can be respected. Barclay has declared he will rectify the unfair and unsafe situations created by allowing men to self-identify as women in NHS female wards.

The policy claims wigs also carry magical sex-affirming powers

In 2019 NHS England issued its policy document “Delivering Same-Sex Accommodation”. Many women’s rights campaigners were rightly outraged at the inclusion of “Annex B: Delivering same-sex accommodation for trans people and gender variant children”, where sex was rendered utterly meaningless. The document states clearly that if upon entering hospital care, a man says that he is a woman, then the female ward must immediately regard his magic words as the ultimate command. Some of the more offensive parts of Annex B are:

… it is enough if they are undergoing a personal process of changing gender. In addition, good practice requires that clinical responses be patient-centred, respectful and flexible towards all transgender people whether they live continuously or temporarily in a gender role that does not conform to their natal sex.

If a man identifies as a woman “temporarily” — perhaps just for the duration of his hospital stay — then his wishes will triumph over the women there who may not believe him. They might feel deeply unsettled or even traumatised by his presence. A policy masquerading as “respectful” is quite the opposite for women at their most vulnerable.

There seems to be little balance of safety requirements, or any evaluation at all of the needs of women, with almost total capitulation to gender identity presentation. “Trans people should be accommodated according to their presentation: the way they dress, and the name and pronouns they currently use.”

One of the most ludicrous parts of Annex B comes with the claim where if a patient is unconscious when admitted, they should be allocated to the ward which most closely corresponds to the way that they are dressed:

If, on admission, it is impossible to ask the view of the person because he or she is unconscious or incapacitated then, in the first instance, inferences should be drawn from presentation and mode of dress. No investigation as to the genital sex of the person should be undertaken unless this is specifically necessary to carry out treatment.

This is ideological insanity. A man on a stag event perhaps, who is wearing a dress and wig then falls and bumps his head, could be placed on a ward with women. This is not the limit of the mind-twisting attempts to comply with the demands of gender ideology. Wigs become of deeper significance in the policy because it is claimed they also carry magical sex-affirming powers:

… immediately post-operatively, or whilst unconscious for any reason, those trans women who usually wear wigs, are unlikely to wear them in these circumstances, and may be “read” incorrectly as men. Extra care is therefore required so that their privacy and dignity as women are appropriately ensured.

Steve Barclay has simply decided it is prudent to listen to the women who have been shouting about the blatant unfairness, if not downright stupidity, of this policy guidance for years. In meetings, conferences, podcasts and news articles, women have repeatedly pointed at this document and railed against its blatant obstruction of the rights of women to single-sex healthcare. We are overjoyed that the minister will commit to reversing this documented travesty.

For years women have pleaded and pressured Labour leaders

However, many find a bitter aftertaste lingers that it is a Tory who has finally been brave enough to say what is — and should always have been — clear: that men do not belong in a hospital bed next to women, and only women have a cervix. For years women have begged and pleaded and pressured Labour leaders who simply refused to listen to our views on single-sex spaces and single-sex healthcare provision, including language use about our bodies. Tory leaders, by comparison, seem ever keener to take a position on gender identity that closely aligns with feminist women, and women’s rights campaigners more widely, on this issue. They are running towards us with open hands, if not arms.

If the aim is to halt the gender juggernaut in its tracks, who cares if it is a Tory who throws himself in front of it? To some extent, there is a feeling of “by any means necessary” in many of us. Some of us would never vote Tory, and won’t as a result of this, but are nevertheless glad that they are making moves that protect women. We also think that they will disadvantage women, particularly poor women, in a host of other traditional Tory ways. We aren’t politically wet behind the ears, and we have elephantine memories of the losses for women and children over the past 13 years of political rule.

Why have the Tories suddenly found such a strong commitment to women’s rights in this area, though? They are wise enough to know that when women are organising strongly, when the courts are listening and when public anger is growing, the ground is shifting. They feel there may be a safe place to stand and gather votes. Tories are flailing about hopelessly in their efforts to climb back up the polls towards the Labour Party. They are eating each other up at conference, making blunder after blunder, defending corrupt act after devastating mistake, haunted by Boris, embarrassed by Truss, and hurtling towards defeat at the next general election.

Any port in a storm, as they say, and that port for the Conservative Party is women’s rights. We have what they need, and they are not too stupid to stand under our umbrellas if we open them.

The Labour Party must march over and take this weapon out of the hands of the Tories before the next election if they want to be absolutely certain of winning it. They cannot do that by continuing to ignore dissenting women across party lines; they can only do it by listening harder and acting faster than they ever have before. If not, who knows how powerful that weapon might be when pointed at a public that is becoming increasingly aware of the insidious creep of trans activism and how it has embedded itself deeply and cruelly in social policy areas, such as those of the NHS.

Women aren’t going to lose our voices. There is a good chance that whoever lends an ear will win.

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