My open letter to Keir Starmer on women's right to speak our truth without fear of censure or abuse
A few months ago, in my @TheScotsman column, I wrote an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon asking her to reconsider her approach to women’s rights.
As a long time member of the Labour Party, I thought it only fair I afford Keir Starmer the same courtesy following his recent pronouncements on the matter
Dear Sir Keir,
I used to define myself by my membership of the Labour Party. Over four decades, it has been my higher education institution, my workplace, my social life and my spiritual home.
I cried when Neil Kinnock lost in 1987. I cried even more when he lost in 1992. I cried tears of intense joy when Tony Blair won in 1997, and was broken-hearted on 15 September 2015 when Jeremy Cobyn was elected leader.
I left for a few years. I couldn’t bear what Corbyn and his Momentum entryists were doing to my party, so it was with huge relief, and few more tears, that I rejoined in time to vote for you in last year’s leadership election.
I will be blunt. You’re not my type. Too buttoned-up and you lack the charisma and the political nous required of any successful party leader. But I was prepared to give you the benefit of my nagging doubts. You will grow into the job, I thought. How wrong I was.
You do not have what it takes to be the leader of party that introduced equal and maternity pay. The party of Jennie Lee, Barbara Castle and Mo Mowlam. The party that prided itself on standing up for working class women, whose values are rooted in equality. You made that clear on Sunday morning when you told Andrew Marr that it is “not right” for a woman to say that only women have a cervix.
In that moment you showed yourself for what you truly are, a man with no empathy, no politics and no understanding of the reality of women’s lives. And you compounded your ignorance by pronouncing that the trans community are the “most marginalised and abused of many, many communities”.
Really Sir Keir? More than 200 women were murdered in Britain last year. Fewer than one in 60 rape cases result in a suspect being charged. The sex pay gap is still far too high, fifty years after equal pay was introduced by Barbara Castle. Yet women are not allowed to speak of their reality in your Labour party.
We are dinosaurs “hoarding our rights,” according to your Justice shadow David Lammy.
Women who campaign to protect their sex-based rights are akin to the apartheid regime of South Africa, asserts your colleague Barry Gardiner.
And if “unrepentant transphobes” don’t respond to “education”, they should be expelled from the party, insists Nadia Whittome, one of your MPs.
Since it was formed more than 120 years ago the Labour Party has grappled with some of our country’s most challenging structural issues: from devolution to equal pay, comprehensive education to the creation of a national health service in the wake of a terrible global war.
Yet the party, first under Corbyn and now in your stewardship, has been unable a craft coherent policy that will improve the lives of trans people (between 200,000 and 500,000 people) while at the same time protecting women’s hard-won sex-based rights as set out in the 2010 Equality Act.
This is certainly a failure of your leadership, but your contempt for women, as shown in your recent comments, is much worse.
The Labour Women’s Declaration – of which I am proud to be a founding signatory - demands that women are able to campaign for our sex-based rights free from abuse, intimidation or censure.
Little did we think, when the Declaration was published in 2019, that the abuse, intimidation and censure would come from the leader of our party and his cadre of ambitious/loyal shadow ministers.
A long-time comrade – a man – messaged me yesterday to ask if I was re-considering my membership in light of your performance.
“Because I am,” he said, going on to explain that while he had clung on throughout Corbyn’s disastrous leadership, his capacity for cognitive dissonance didn’t extend to 1984 levels of NewSpeak on women’s biology.
I am not ready to give up my membership again. It is too precious to me, but Sir Keir, you have pushed this woman, and thousands of others, to the very limit of our endurance. But, in the words of our Red Queen, Barbara Castle:
I will fight for what I believe in until I drop dead. And that's what keeps you alive.
What keeps you alive Sir Keir?