Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy will 'redouble efforts to stand up for trans rights'

21 February 2020, 05:27

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy
Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy has pledged to amp up her support for trans rights after attempts to 'shout her down' on the subject.

The debate over trans rights in Labour has deepened after hecklers at a leadership debate demanded the candidates "define a woman".

Ms Nandy, the MP for Wigan said she was targeted by a barrage of "hate and anger" and was repeatedly heckled at an LGBTQ hustings in Manchester on Thursday evening.

Protesters attempted to shout down the MPs at the event in Manchester, where all three leadership candidates said they back reforms to allow transgender people to self-identify their own gender in law.

As LBC News has previously reported she and fellow leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey have backed a pledge from the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights that call for the expulsion of transphobic members from the party.

Part of this is a move to describe organisations such as Woman's Place UK, a group that calls for biological sex to be acknowledged as part of maintaining women's rights, as a "trans-exclusionist hate group".

But this has drawn anger from some corners, with this being on display at the event organised by PinkNews when a small but vocal minority in the audience repeatedly shouted at the candidates.

Ms Nandy said: "I've had a bit of a taste of this over the past week. I signed a pledge along with Becky about standing up for trans rights because I believe trans men are men and trans women are women and we should say that loud and clear as a party.

"And the amount of hate and anger that's been directed my way in the last week, it's given me a very, very small taste of what people in the trans community have to face on a daily basis.

"So I will redouble my efforts to stand up for trans rights."

Labour leadership candidates (left to right) Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leadership candidates (left to right) Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: PA

She said it is not "beyond our wits" to protect safe spaces for women and to take into account "very real concerns about safety" while also standing up for "one of the most marginalised groups in the country".

Ms Long-Bailey called the current system for trans people "dehumanising", while Sir Keir said, "some of the hatred I see has echoes from the 80s," and called for the debate to be less "heated".

Shouted at for a second time, Ms Nandy was applauded when she said: "I signed the pledge precisely for this reason because we have got to be better than this as a level of debate in this party.

"I will not stop no matter who tries to shout me down."

One person in the audience accused the candidates of not knowing "what the definition of woman is" and said that "women's voices are being shut down" during the debate.

The repeated shouting at times disrupted the moderator Benjamin Cohen, the chief executive of PinkNews, who was widely applauded when he told one heckler to allow the contenders' voices to be heard.

Sir Keir Starmer, who also took part in the debate, has not said whether he backs the 12 pledges but has called for transgender rights to be seen as human rights.

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair also came under fire during the preceding deputy leadership hustings for saying Labour should not fight the "culture war" on trans rights.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "I'm pretty upset about what Tony Blair said today.

"There's a number of things that was wrong with it. First of all for me leadership shouldn't talk like this, you don't choose your battles.

"Transgender women have not chosen to be in the middle of a battle and it's not just about a political football, it's people's lives."

Earlier in the day, Mr Blair said he would not sign up to the 12 pledges.

"If you're going to start trying to advocate things in a finger-jabbing sectarian way, saying 'If you don't sign up to what I'm saying then I'm going to disrupt your meetings and shout at you', you're not going to win that battle," he added.

"You're just going to put a whole lot of people off."

Mr Blair said if Labour chose transgender rights as its "big thing" then it would lose "a kind of culture war" with those on the right of the politician spectrum, who were likely to adopt immigration as its main issue.