Tony Blair says he’d refuse to sign trans rights pledge and warns Labour not to get involved in a ‘culture war’

Emma Powys Maurice February 20, 2020
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Tony Blair

Tony Blair has urged Labour not to put trans rights at the centre of its platform (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/Getty)

Tony Blair has said that he would refuse to sign a trans rights pledge while warning Labour not to get involved in the “cul-de-sac of identity politics”.

The 12-point pledge by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights aims to challenge the growing anti-trans rhetoric in the party. It has been backed by Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, but not Kier Starmer.

The pledge states that “there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights” and calls for supporters of “trans-exclusionist hate groups” to be expelled from Labour.

Asked whether he himself would sign this pledge, Blair replied: “I wouldn’t. I think there are all sorts of difficult issues that need to be resolved.”

The former Labour prime minister was speaking at King’s College London to mark the 120th anniversary of Labour’s foundation.

In a speech about the future of the party, he encouraged leadership candidates to take a stand for “things that are right” – including transgender rights as an example – while simultaneously warning them not to get involved in the “culture war” that the issue is embedded in.

“You have got to distinguish between the advocacy of certain things that are right – and you can say that whether it’s gay rights or transgender rights or whatever it is – and launching yourself politically into a kind of culture war with the right,” he said.

“If you go ‘transgender rights are our big thing’ and the right say ‘immigration control is our big thing’, you are going to lose that war, so you are not going to advance any of the things you want to do.

“We don’t need to be fighting that culture war. That doesn’t mean you don’t take the right positions on things.”

Blair didn’t offer any suggestions for how candidates can establish a clear position on trans rights without becoming trapped in a “cul-de-sac of identity politics”, but put forward his opinion on what not to do.

“If you are going out there and saying you are going to advocate things in a finger-jabbing sectarian way, saying ‘If you don’t sign up to what I am saying, I’m going to come and disrupt your meetings and shout at you’, you are not going to win that battle,” he said. “You are just going to put a lot of people off.”

Blair added that Long-Bailey, Nandy or Starmer would all be a “significant improvement” on Corbyn, but declined to endorse any of them as he said his support would only damage their chances.

Related topics: Kier Starmer, Labour leadership battle, Labour party, lisa nandy, Rebecca long Bailey, Tony Blair

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