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Left-wing newspaper that published ‘vile transphobic cartoon’ slammed by UK’s largest trade union

Vic Parsons February 26, 2020

A person reading a copy of the Morning Star newspaper at the Labour Party Conference in 2018. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The Morning Star was condemned this week for printing a “dehumanising, fascist, transphobic” cartoon – and now, Britain’s largest trade union has said that the newspaper has sunk to “a new low”.

UNISON, which represents staff who provide public services, said the “shocking, vile, transphobic cartoon” saw “the paper sink to a new low”.

“When I saw the image shared on social media over the weekend, I assumed it had been published in the Daily Mail, not for one moment did I think the dreadful drawing had appeared in the Morning Star,” wrote Liz Snape, UNISON’s assistant general secretary, in an open letter to the newspaper’s editor, Ben Chacko.

Snape added: “Images like this peddle the dangerous myth that trans people are a threat, when they’re the ones whose safety is most at risk. The irresponsible publishing of such appalling images does nothing to make them feel more secure.

“By publishing this hurtful cartoon, the publication so many trade unionists support and hold dear risks appearing no better than the right-wing media they despise.”

The daily newspaper published the cartoon in both its online and paper editions on 18 February, and despite widespread criticism waited five days to apologise “unreservedly”.

The apology “in no way makes up for the distress caused to so many”, Snape said.

“What’s worse is that this is not the first time the Star has printed transphobic material.

“I find it incredulous that the cartoon managed to slip through the many editorial checks that a newspaper of such standing as the Morning Star must have in place.

“Since the cartoon appeared staff at UNISON HQ have received numerous emails and phone calls from members both angry and hurt at the lack of judgement shown.

“UNISON stands with our trans members and all trans people, who face high levels of discrimination and prejudice in work and increasing levels of hate and abuse in public spaces. We assumed, wrongly as it happens, that the Morning Star did too.

“I look forward to hearing from you as to how the newspaper intends to rebuild trust with the trans community. I know members of our LGBT+ group would be more than happy to help you devise a plan.”

People were quick to praise UNISON online for sending the open letter.

Scotland’s Equality Network said: “Well done to UNISON @unisontweets @UNISONScotLGBT for sending this letter to the Morning Star about the recent appalling cartoon they published denigrating trans people.”

The LGBT+ Officers of Bristo’s Labour party said: “Thank you @unisontweets! It is good to see a major union call out #transphobia in such a way and we can only hope to see similar statements from other unions. Facist and racist cartoons recycled for transphobia aren’t editorial mistakes.”

The Morning Star has had high-profile political contributors in the past, include current leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Green party Caroline Lucas, and ex-Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

More: The Morning Star, transphobia, unison

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