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Labour’s lead in the polls is commanding. Last week I suggested an incoming Labour government will mine the meritocratic white heat of technology rhetoric of Harold Wilson and borrow from the patriotic aesthetics of modernist mid-1960s Britain. The electorate is weary of Tory chaos and there will be a widespread acceptance, I think, of higher taxes to pay for masses more infrastructure, some of which will work and some which will cost a lot of money and not work. While I’m for low taxes and entrepreneurial aspiration, the Truss fiasco blew all that up.
So, Labour is on course for power. The party’s revival could strengthen the Union, and ensure its survival by making the separatist SNP irrelevant if Keir Starmer resists the temptation to let Gordon Brown have yet another go at “improving” the constitution.
Labour needs to look out, though.
Reading Janice Turner in The Times on Saturday morning, it hit me that the extreme end of the trans movement is a serious threat to Labour prospects if Sunak does well and the gap between the two major parties narrows. The actor Eddie Izzard is attempting to stand for Labour in a Sheffield seat. He explained recently that he moves between “boy and girl” when he dresses, based on how he feels. Slip off his heels, and he’s in high earning Hollywood actor male mode.
To say the least, this is is a casual and presumptuous way to talk about these matters when sex-based rights are at stake, relating to single sex spaces, maternity services or women’s prisons. A Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, now faces calls for deselection. Trans campaigners hate that she said Izzard is not biologically a woman. He isn’t. If you want an embarrassing pause and a non-answer when interviewing a member of the Labour shadow cabinet, ask them what a woman is.
Izzard’s involvement is a warning light for Labour. The comedian has already been political kryptonite to the pro-European cause and voting reform. When he’s on your side it’s a sell signal, a sign you’re going to lose.
This will baffle trans campaigners. If you’re blithely ultra-liberal or perhaps young and seeking to identify with causes that make you feel as though you’re part of the social justice arc of history, the trans movement at its most noisy makes perfect sense. Other demands for social reform were opposed, weren’t they? This is just the same again? Stuffy people, old straights, have trouble adjusting to change.
No, what’s different this time is that the demands for change cut across hard-fought rights secured not that long ago by half the population – that is women.
In Scotland this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon got into severe difficulties when attempting to introduce changes on gender recognition. For now, the law requires medical consultation before transition. All that will be scrapped in favour of legal self-recognition. Brave campaigners led by J.K. Rowling are resisting.
It should be feasible to accommodate all this within the law, respectfully. A small number of people do want to change gender and should be accommodated, as long as there is proper medical care. Worryingly, the number of those wanting to do so is increasing as schools and medical services are often reluctant to suggest there might be other factors at play when people are going through the difficult business of growing up.
Labour has said it wants to “modernise” the process of gender recognition. What does this mean? Does Starmer seek to replicate Sturgeon’s reckless reforms?
This might be thought of as a low salience subject. Mortgages, the economy, inflation, energy and the NHS and social care will likely dominate the next election. Most voters are unfamiliar with the details, although I notice on Twitter it’s always mansplaining ultra-liberal men explaining why this will never take off as an issue. I wonder. We’ve seen in the last decade the potential for subjects once considered fringe to disrupt and reorder politics.
Parties standing candidates don’t need to win any seats to cause havoc. They simply need to take 5-10% of the vote to introduce doubt, shave the majorities of incumbents or hand victory to another party in a close contest.
To Sunak’s right, on that basis populist forces are organising around Nigel Farage seeking to form a new movement to resist higher immigration.
It is not hard to envisage something similar happening, targeted at Labour and the SNP, on women’s rights between now and the next election. The growing movement in favour of women’s status and rights features some of the country’s greatest communicators, academics and organisers. They are cross-party, and of no party, and able to access considerable funds.
Imagine a national campaign next year, with adverts and digital know how, asking MPs to sign a pledge rejecting the extreme trans ideology and committing to keep the law broadly as is, with a full public inquiry into medical care following the shocking scandals at the Tavistock clinic in London. Sign the pledge, otherwise the women’s rights campaign will run a candidate in those seats.
Labour is exposed here.
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