THE first politician to look a complete fool on Mumsnet was Penny Mordaunt. She was Minister for Women and Equalities at the time of the debacle early last year. During a Mumsnet webchat, she couldn’t answer even basic questions put to her by users. According to the Independent, ‘Questions that Mordaunt wouldn’t or couldn’t answer started with . . . what is a woman, can humans change sex, and in what circumstances is it necessary to distinguish between males and females?’ The minister ‘evaded questions on whether the NHS should be treating children with experimental “puberty blocker” drugs, and why schools have no guidance on how to safeguard children facing gender issues’. The Independent wondered whether Mordaunt’s was ‘the worst Mumsnet performance ever’.
Well, it may have been for a quite a while. Then the Labour Party’s leadership contest began.
Contender Rebecca Long Bailey didn’t wait to go on Mumsnet before telling us that ‘trans-women are women’ and that ‘self ID’ should be the law.
But Jess Phillips waded in where fools so gladly tread. A few weeks ago, she confirmed to Mumsnetters her view that ‘trans women are women’. Furious responses included: ‘Maybe a lot of your constituents don’t know what the hell is going on with the GRA [Gender Recognition Act] but they soon will do when the rights of a tiny minority of men supersede the rights of half the population i.e. women.’
Next it was the turn of Keir Starmer. He appeared on a Mumsnet webchat earlier this week. He was asked by a mother about adolescents who experience Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). She pointed out that many of these adolescents ‘are autistic or have suffered from trauma or have serious mental health issues’. She asked: ‘What will you do to raise awareness of this issue and ensure a proper investigation is carried out?’ Starmer responded: ‘Thanks . . . for this question and for sharing your family’s experience. I’m acutely aware of the anxiety and distress that this causes to individuals and families. This has to be seen as a human rights issue and we need to ensure that this debate is conducted respectfully and calmly, and with the best interests of children at heart.’ That was it. He ignored the question about raising awareness and whether he could do something to ensure that a proper investigation is carried out.
Later he confirmed: ‘I do believe we need to update the Gender Recognition Act.’ After a bit of pushback from frustrated members, Mumsnet moderators closed discussion on this issue. In a follow-up, one Mumsnet user wrote on her blog: ‘When the children’s safeguarding scandal that is brewing finally bursts out of its barrel and starts sticking to a whole load of people, and when the harms that are being perpetrated in the name of gender politics are firmly attributed to politicians and their shadowy advisers, I do not want to hear from Penny Mordaunt and Keir Starmer that they didn’t know.’
Back to the Labour leadership. Perhaps Lisa Nandy takes the concerns of so many mothers for our nation’s children more seriously? Sadly, she seems to sit firmly in the emerging tradition of indifference. In September last year, Nandy appeared on an Any Questions programme broadcast from Wales. The panel included David Davies (Conservative MP), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru MP) and Minette Batters (president of the National Farmers’ Union). An audience member asked: ‘Does the panel agree that trans women are women, trans men are men, and that non-binary people are valid and worthy of recognition in the law?’ Saville Roberts: ‘Yes of course’. Minette Batters: ‘Yes absolutely’. The only man, the Conservative, paused to reflect upon the concerns of women. Davies said: ‘Everyone is valid in the eyes of the law; nobody should face discrimination or verbal abuse of any sort, but I would have concerns about allowing somebody who is physically male into areas like prison wards or hospital wards where women expect a measure of privacy, and I think most people would agree with that.’ Lisa Nandy? If you listen, you’ll hear that she seems to find Davies’s concerns amusing. She says, laughing: ‘What Liz said and Minette said are not what David said.’ She called for more understanding and more education and more support. That was it. You can listen here (last five minutes).
So there we have it. Is there a single Labour MP who is willing to articulate the concerns of so many of us over the concept of gender identity and its impact on our more vulnerable children and on the safety and privacy of women? At least the Conservatives have one MP who seems willing to do so.