Labour has pushed back a planned statement on the status of transgender people in the party until after May’s local elections – after threats of mass resignations from anti-transgender campaigners.
The UK’s Labour Party has faced a vicious battle over the past few months over the status of transgender women in the party.
After a surge in anti-trans rhetoric, a fringe group of women’s rights campaigners within the party led calls for transgender women to be banned from standing on Labour’s women-only shortlists for Parliament, which are used in a bid to boost the number of female MPs.
There has never been an openly trans MP, but vocal activists complain that women they refer to as “male-bodied transgenders” are taking away women’s places in politics.
The row was set to come to a head this month, as the party’s ruling National Executive Committee prepared to issue a policy statement rebuffing the activists’ demands and vowing to keep the party trans-inclusive.
However, after PinkNews reported that a group of ‘radical feminist’ campaigners were planning a mass resignation, the decision appears to have been pushed back.
A Labour spokesperson told the BBC today that the issue would not now be discussed by the NEC until June at the earliest – which is after the upcoming local elections.
A number of campaigners threatening resignation have already been suspended from the Labour Party over abusive conduct towards trans people.
The group claims that more than 200 women are prepared to resign from the party if it affirms trans women’s rights – a number that Jeremy Corbyn ally Matt Zarb-Cousin dismissed as a “rounding error” given the party’s 650,000 members.
Mr Zarb-Cousin, the Labour leader’s former spokesman, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “A self-identifying trans woman has never been disbarred from being on an All Women Shortlist, and I think that the consultation was about coming up with a form of words to clarify it.”
Of the people threatening to quit, he added: “It’s a rounding error. It’s not going to split the party. It’s a small minority of women who don’t believe in trans rights.”
Asked if Labour was “ducking” a decision, Mr Zarb-Cousin said: “The conversations I’ve had with the Leader’s Office suggests that’s not the case.
“They’re still consulting on it and consulting on what the form of words will be. There’s no actual plan, as far as I’m aware, to stop trans women self-identifying and being on an all-women shortlist.”
However, a seemingly-complete version of the statement was previously leaked ahead of being greenlit by the NEC’s equalities subcomittee.
The leaked copy makes clear that “the Labour Party continues to have an inclusive definition of women”, and explicitly affirms that “All Women Shortlists and women’s reserved places are open to self-defining women”.
It also warns that “transphobia and the abuse of members based on their trans identity will not be tolerated in the Labour Party”.
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It is unclear if this will now be re-drafted.
Jennifer James, the activist who fronted a crowdfunder to sue the Labour Party over the policy, previously lashed out at “secret squirrel beardy bro Momentum careerists” when the draft leaked.
In a public post on Mumsnet she again vowed legal action, saying: “The secret squirrel beardy bro Momentum careerists [have] been showing true colours. Bros don’t care about trans rights… they just want to use trans ppl as a human shield for sexism and abuse cos we won’t do as they say.”
A formal statement on behalf of her crowdfunding campaign later added: “Our solicitors have, today, sent our pre-action protocol and submissions letter to the Labour Party in respect of the definition of ‘woman’ for protected positions and all-women shortlists.
“Our solicitors are Bhogal Partners, and through them we have instructed Amanda Jones of Counsel, who is a tenant at Great James Street Chambers in London. The letter was drafted by Miss Jones after consultation with the solicitors and on instructions.
“We hope that the Labour Party will take our letter and concerns seriously, and consider the points raised in it carefully.”
James is currently suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of transphobic and abusive conduct.
Meanwhile, the group ‘Mayday4Women’, which openly refers to transgender women as men, is planning a mass resignation of Labour members from the party to protest the decision.
The group claims that “over 200 women” inside Labour are now planning to resign.