Jo Swinson hits back at radio caller criticising ‘boys wearing skirts’ to school
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson hit back at a radio caller who attacked the party’s proposed inclusive school uniform policies.
Swinson took calls from listeners during a phone-in on LBC hosted by Nick Ferrari, who earlier this year said live on air that being gay was a “lifestyle choice”.
The angry caller, named Karen, said: “What is it with you and your party putting forward this gender-neutral, boys can go to schools wearing skirts? Why do you think that’s acceptable?
“I mean, we live in a free society right now. But what is going on with it? Do you think it’s right you’re allowing this to go through?”
In the Liberal Democrat manifesto, the party promised to require schools to introduce gender-neutral uniform policies.
Swinson responded: “It’s really about giving kids choice. What it came out of was we had a young member of the Lib Dems who came along to our conference – she was 14 at the time.
“She made the very good point that she was frustrated that she had to wear a skirt when she wanted to run around and play football and do handstands and all of those things that we’d all want our kids to have the freedom to do.
“Why should we be saying to girls or boys at school they have to wear this particular outfit?”
Asked by Ferrari whether she would allow her son to wear a dress to school, the Lib Dem leader added: “If they wanted to, then yes. My five-year-old has silver sparkly shoes.
“I might have technically bought them in the ‘girls’ section, but he really wanted the silver sparkly shoes, so he’s got silver trainers. The sky is still there.”
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Karen was not satisfied with Swinson’s response, and began on a rant about how giving children uniform choices would increase bullying in schools and that “gender-neutral” passports would allow people to identify as “an alien”.
Ferrari fuelled the fire, asking Swinson: “Do you not see the issue of national security if we don’t have someone’s gender on a passport?”
She replied: “I’m afraid I genuinely don’t.”
Swinson continued: “There’s a hang-up that people have about this. Some people don’t identify as male or female. It’s not a massive deal, get over it. It’s not stopping anyone else getting on with their lives.
“Can we just be respectful to one another and treat people as the individuals that they are, recognising that this group of people in our society already feels vulnerable and marginalised, already feels discriminated against and feels bullied and can be victims of violence.
“Let’s do these small things that show we are taking people seriously as the individuals that they are.”