Starmer grapples with Labour's stance on trans rights and speaks out over 'intolerance'

28 March 2022, 10:53

By Megan Hinton

Sir Keir Starmer said too many people are "intolerant" of transgender issues, but insisted he was also an "advocate for women" as he grappled with his party's position on trans rights on LBC.

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During Call Keir this morning, the Labour leader told Nick Ferrari that the Gender Recognition Act needed "reforming" and that transgender issues need "open discussion" not "intolerance".

A caller, Iris from Aberdeen, asked Nick: "Do you think it's fair that transgender women with all their physical advantages, are allowed to compete in women's sport?"

Sir Keir said: "I think it's for the sporting bodies to decide for themselves how they deal with this, it throws up all sorts of difficult questions."

He refused to answer whether or not it would be "fair" for Lia Thomas to compete in the Paris Olympics saying it is a decision that the committee must make for themselves and it "probably needs more discussion."

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Nick Ferrari later grilled Sir Keir several times on whether or not "a women can have a penis", to which he replied: "I'm not... I don't think we can conduct this debate with...

"I don't think that discussing this issue in this way helps anyone in the long run.

"What I want to see is a reform of the law as it is, but I am also an advocate of safe spaces for women and I want to have a discussion that is... anybody who genuinely wants to find a way through this, I want to discuss that with, and I do find that too many people - in my view - retreat or hold a position of which is intolerant of others.

"And that's not picking on any individual at all, but I don't like intolerance, I like open discussion."

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Nick also quizzed the party leader on Harry Potter author JK Rowling's comments after she said earlier this month that the Sir Keir could "no longer be counted on to defend women's rights".

Sir Keir replied: "Of course we can be called on to defend women's rights.

"I spent a lot of my working life dealing with violence against women and girls first-hand, and I know from that experience, just how important it is to fight for women and fight for equality."

He said: "We have had legislation in this country which makes it clear that in some circumstances, particularly at the moment under the law when you've gone through a process, you can be recognised in the gender of your choosing, that's been the position for over a decade now."

Sir Keir said that law needed "reform" but he added: "But I equally - I want to be really clear about this - I am an advocate of safe spaces for women. And that comes from discussions with many many women on this and also from my own experiences of those violence agents women and girls cases."

When asked to clarify whether he was referring to female changing rooms, he replied: "I am actually more concerned about, I mean the example the equalities act applies here says there are some circumstances where you can have exemptions for safe spaces for women.

"The example they give is some refuges for women who have been subjected to violence etc."

Implying that he would not support trans women taking refuge in domestic violence housing.

Labour has found itself in difficulty in recent months over trans issues, with Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield both criticised and heralded for her views.

Ms Duffield came under fire for her opposition to "male-bodied biological men" being allowed to self-identify as female in order to access women-only spaces such as prisons and domestic violence refuges.

She opted not to attend the Labour Party conference in September after receiving threats and being branded transphobic, which she denies. Sir Keir later said the Kent MP had been wrong to say "only women have a cervix".

It came after Sir Keir told The Times "trans women are women" according to statute in the UK, and called for a more "considered, respectful, tolerant debate" about gender.