Labour have suffered yet another PR disaster at their annual conference after Keir Starmer stated unequivocally that it was wrong to say “only women have a cervix”, once again illustrating the dangers of rashly playing identity politics
The question was posed during the Labour leader’s big party conference interview with Andrew Marr.
The BBC presenter enquired whether it was “transphobic” to say the female reproductive organ was unique to women, giving rise to quick condemnation from Starmer. “It is something that shouldn’t be said,” he answered before going on one of his trademark meandering and legalistic explanations to send viewers snoring.
The line of questioning stemmed from Labour MP, Rosie Duffield asserting last month that male-born trans people are not women because they do not have a cervix. She slammed the backlash as a “tedious Communist pile-on”.
The MP for historically Conservative Canturbury – Duffield only just held on in 2019, having won it by a whisker in 2017 – has been blacklisted in Labour circles for supposedly being transphobic and has received death threats, forcing her to avoid this week’s conference in Brighton.
The combination of Duffield’s comments and absence from the conference has caused a massive headache for the Labour leadership, which is struggling to be seen as both pro-trans as well as robustly in favour of women’s rights in the face of the disgusting abuse aimed at Ms Duffield.
Starmer refused to join Labour haters in condemning his colleague as transphobic but did censure her remarks.
“It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right,” Starmer insisted in the BBC’s Brighton studio.
“I spoke to Rosie earlier this week and told her conference is a safe place for her to come, and it is a safe place for her to come.
“We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.”
He added: “We need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities, and wherever we’ve got to on the law, we need to go further.”
The incident has highlighted in bold Labour’s electorally unfavourable position towards trans rights – Starmer unconvincingly described trans folk as “the most marginalised” community in modern Britain – when the party is desperate to improve its appeal with voters in the former red wall and comes on the back of deputy leader, Angela Rayner’s disastrous rant against Tory “scum”. Given the opportunity to apologise on television this morning, Rayner opted for the word “scummy” and did not apologise.
Rayner has supported Duffield over the trans row, which may not have helped matters.
She said: “What I have been shocked by, especially my female colleagues – and that’s Conservative female MPs as well – is the level of misogynist abuse they get.”
The row mirrors a feud within the Lib Dems that blew up earlier this year after female members voiced concerns that women’s rights and trans rights do not complement one another, provoking a backlash.
But no-one cares about the Lib-Dems.
The way things are going, we’ll soon be saying the same about Labour.