27 July 2023

Flip-flopping Starmer can’t be trusted to defend women’s rights


Never forget that it was Keir Starmer who claimed it was ‘not right’ to say only women had a cervix, after death threats left his own MP, Rosie Duffield, too frightened to go to Labour conference.

Never forget that when Labour women were drummed out of the party for objecting to someone born male becoming a women’s officer in his party, he simply shrugged and said, ‘trans women are women’. 

Never forget that even when it became clear that this dogma meant that predators could access female safe spaces and prisons by claiming to be trans, he said his party was ‘committed’ to introducing ‘gender self-identification’ – meaning that if a man wanted to claim to be a woman all he had to do was say it. 

What was it that made him so intent on following through with this dogma? And what is it that precipitated yet another a screeching about turn, when earlier this week he said a woman was an adult female‘, and his party was no longer looking at self-ID?

Starmer himself points to Isla Bryson, a trans-identifying rapist who was set to be sent to a women’s prison in Scotland, as the reason he’s changed his mind. The case was certainly a stark illustration of the dangers of the self-ID rules Labour were supportive of the SNP in implementing. But people in his party could have told him that. In fact, they did tell him that and he didn’t listen. 

As a clever man and a former Director of Public Prosecutions, presumably it wasn’t the first time he realised that predators would take advantage of rules. It couldn’t be, surely? 

Or could it, possibly, have something to do with Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge by-election? While ULEZ was undoubtedly a big factor (and another thing Starmer is likely to backtrack on), I wonder how many people on how many doorsteps said they couldn’t vote Labour because it was ignoring women’s rights? 

Labour may be leading in the polls, but they will still require a massive swing to win power – every vote counts. And it seems Starmer has belatedly realised that appearing not to know what a woman is may not be a vote winner. 

Starmer likes to paint himself as a man as principle. God knows we could do with one of those in politics. 

But as a Jewish woman who saw him stand by Jeremy Corbyn, call him his friend and say he was 100% behind him, only to later pretend to be a stalwart opponent of antisemitism (including using it as an excuse to deselect Tyneside mayor Jamie Driscoll) – I have to admit I feel a little cynical about this claim. 

Politicians should be allowed to change their mind – and I am glad he has changed course on protecting women’s rights. But I am not surprised that many of my friends fighting for women – many of them lifelong Labour supporters – still aren’t sure whether he can be trusted. What’s to stop him changing his mind again when in government?

From university tuition fees to nationalisation, from working with private companies in the NHS to his Brexit policies – U-turns are starting to look like a feature, not a bug, of Starmer’s leadership. And it’s telling that even though he has belatedly developed a grasp of basic biology, Rosie Duffield still hasn’t had an apology – in fact she hasn’t heard a word from him. 

That he will do anything for power is, of course, no surprise. He is a politician, after all. But he’s been a leader for three years now and it is still impossible to know what he truly stands for. Jeremy Corbyn once said Jews ‘don’t understand English irony’. I wonder if Keir Starmer, for all his recently discovered fervour for fighting antisemitism, is missing the point of the famous Groucho Marx joke, ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others’.

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Nicole Lampert is a freelance journalist.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.