The mess Labour has got itself into

Joan Smith on Keir Starmer’s Message to the Estonians:

Employing the forensic skills that made him a QC, he homed in on the most significant issue of the day: “Trans women are women”, he declared. “And that is not just my view — that is actually the law”.

The Estonians may have thought they had bigger things to worry about, what with Putin having his tantrum right next door, but Starmer knew better.

To be cruelly frank, women are being gaslighted. Labour’s leaders say they believe in single-sex spaces, but what does that mean when they also insist that trans women are no different from natal women? Starmer’s own position is a statement of the law as he would like it to be, rather than as it actually is, as the barrister Naomi Cunningham pointed out at the weekend. Cunningham’s area of expertise is the interaction between the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and the 2010 Equality Act, both of which were cited by Starmer during his interview in Estonia. Asked whether the law says that trans women are women, her admirably concise answer was: “No.”

It is true that the GRA can change some people’s legal sex, but it obviously doesn’t change biological sex; it can say they should be treated as women for most legal purposes, but allows that a trans woman can be refused access to a female-only space if there’s a good reason.

Mind you, the idea that there’s such a thing as a “legal sex” that is different from a biological sex is pretty absurd in itself.

This goes to the heart of the mess Labour has got itself into. Starmer and his colleagues have confused a polite fiction — “trans women are women” — with reality. A piece of legislation that was passed almost two decades ago to make the lives of transgender people easier is now being used in a way that was never intended, making safeguarding of vulnerable women and girls difficult if not impossible.

And along with that, and as a result of it, creating a new and dedicated wave of misogyny that’s steadily wiping out all the gains we had made.

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