Lining up to condemn

They have another scalp.

Damian Barr is leading a charge of writers, including one former Booker prize winner, who are calling on the Booker Foundation to remove the allegedly “homophobic” peer Emma Nicholson from her position as vice-president.

Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, who voted against the same-sex marriage bill in 2013, is the widow of the late former chairman of Booker, Sir Michael Caine, who helped establish the prize. She is currently a vice-president of the Booker Foundation, and a former trustee of the prize.

Barr, a novelist, memoirist and host of the Literary Salon, learned of her association with the prize earlier this week, after Munroe Bergdorf, the model and transgender activist, said she was referring Nicholson to the Parliamentary Standards Conduct Commissioner over Nicholson’s posts on social media about the trans community. The peer also drew fire earlier this month over her views on same-sex marriage.

What “posts on social media about the trans community”? The issue is whether or not men can become women by saying words, not gossip about some mythical entity called “the trans community.”

Also, Munroe Bergdorf? That’s who’s leading the charge?

Barr immediately challenged the Booker on Twitter, writing that “as a gay writer I feel very concerned that a person who is actively and publicly propagating homophobic views holds a position of such power & prestige in your rightly esteemed organisation”.

As major writers including the Booker prizewinner Marlon James and the bestselling novelist Sarah Perry lined up to condemn Nicholson’s position with the Booker prize, the foundation released a statement on Tuesday in which its trustees said that “the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender issues are her own personal views”.

“Baroness Nicholson has herself recently said that she retired as a trustee of the foundation in 2009,” the statement continued, “and was then made an honorary vice-president. She has no role in the governance or operations of the foundation. She is not involved in selecting the judges nor in choosing the books that are longlisted, shortlisted and win.”

Doesn’t matter. The point is to punish her. The point is to hold her up for everyone to throw things at her. The point is to wound, to shame, to bully, to sideline, to ostracize, to monster.

Barr had a tantrum about the statement, calling it shocking.

Nicholson, who now sits in the Lords as a Conservative peer, told the Guardian she would “very much regret any move to remove me from an organisation I have been associated with for so many years” and rejected the accusation of homophobia.

“I did indeed vote against same-sex marriage in 2013,” she said. “I have not yet learned from my critics how I am offending by perceived homophobia. In other words, they have offered no evidence.”

I disagree with the vote, but I don’t think it establishes homophobia.

Former winner Marlon James, who took the prize in 2015 for A Brief History of Seven Killings, also slammed the Booker’s response. “While we’re at it, as a Booker prize winner myself, lets talk about your shitty response to having a hate monger on your board,” he said on Facebook. “It’s not enough to distance yourself from her views, you have to distance yourself from her and condemn HER. There’s certain kind of supposed liberal/moderate who still thinks that speech calling for my erasure deserves as much rights as speech call for my survival. Don’t be those people.”

See? “You have to distance yourself from her and condemn HER.” Kill the witch.

The Guardian understands that members of the Booker’s advisory board are unhappy with the current situation and response. A spokesperson for the prize said that “the trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation will be reviewing the situation again today”.

And they did, and they’ve now done the deed. The shits.

Statement on behalf of the Booker Prize Foundation:

We, the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, met today and wish to reiterate that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender people are her own personal opinions.

The issues are complex, but our principles are clear.  We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.

They don’t deplore misogyny though. Lucky for them! Makes it easy to punish a woman for not agreeing with every claim of trans ideology.

Literature is open, plural and questioning. We believe every author’s work should be approached by readers in the same spirit. Integrity is central to both Booker Prizes, whose judging process is conducted at all times in keeping with these values.

Upon her retirement from the Board in 2009, Baroness Nicholson was made an honorary vice president, a role that gave her no say in the governance or operations of the Foundation or prizes. In recent days there has been some confusion about the nature of honorary titles used by the Foundation. Too many believe that these titles in some way symbolise the prizes. That is not the case.

We have today decided that these titles and roles should, with immediate effect, cease to exist. Those holding them have been informed and thanked for their longstanding interest.


The absolute shits.

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