Quakers and politics

It is deceptively difficult for Quakers to discuss politics.

Being left-wing, I am in near despair. Publications I trust- The Guardian, Paul Krugman in the New York Times- tell me that cutting taxes, particularly corporation tax or higher rate income tax, does not promote economic growth as Patrick Minford and Liz Truss say. I read that the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, will be tougher on immigration than Priti Patel was.

So it is a sad pleasure to talk of this with some Friends. Like me, they believe Liz Truss will take the wrong course on the climate crisis, the cost of living crisis, the Sterling crisis- I read a suggestion that parity with the dollar is possible- and will increase division and suffering in the country. We say things like “I thought Boris Johnson was bad, but Liz Truss will be worse” and agreeing brings us together.

It is tempting in these conversations to say things like “The only good thing the Tories have done in twelve years is Equal Marriage”. I thought of writing that, drafting this, then thought of other things the Conservatives have done of which I approve. I must guard against hyperbole.

My impression is that most Quakers are left-wing, like I am now. Our testimony to Equality seems to point that way. When I went to my first Monthly Meeting the Friends taking me said their children were in the Socialist Workers Party but their values were the same- and I thought, that’s a bit extreme. At the time, I voted Conservative. I have canvassed for the Conservative party. Perhaps it is my bias to imagine people to be like me. Perhaps it is that right-wing Quakers usually keep quiet about it. There is no one right Quakerly view of immigration, leave alone economics.

In a letter to The Friend on 4 August 2022, Deryck Hillas wrote, “Johnson is the worst prime minister in British history and we will be well rid of him”. In a reply in The Friend on 8 September, Clive Ashwin wrote, “Boris Johnson will emerge as … a great prime minister for his far-sighted and effective handling of unforeseen national problems”. For too many Friends, one at least of these opinions may set us off. We get angry, and think of all the contradictory evidence. On social media, we may start typing, delighting in our rhetorical flourishes. Face to face, I go into that kind of conversation where I am planning what to say rather than listening.

Reading the Guardian, I get a different impression from those Quakers who are Times readers. Things which seem obvious to me are not obvious to them. The risk is that if we argue, both will lose. The one with the sharper rhetoric and debating skills may have the last word, but that is a hollow victory if the other is hurt and the trust in friendship is lessened.

Speaking to a Quaker Leave-voter, I was reduced to hearing his views expressed calmly and definitely, and feeling that if I contradict him it will do neither of us any good. That was better than arguing, but there is a more excellent way.

We can each state our views, without interruption or contradiction, so that we know where each stands without attempting to contradict or persuade. Or, we can worship together and see what words will bring us together in Love. We can check our own understanding: I see my temptation to fall below “strict integrity” in what I say. Especially when disagreeing about politics I should take care to be truthful, and listen carefully when someone with a different news source gives a different perspective.

These things matter. Last winter I spent some time each day wrapped in a sleeping bag cuddling a hot water bottle. I will be colder this winter.

How can I speak the truth in Love, so that I have the best chance of being heard?
Am I better to remain silent, when speaking truth as I see it will merely divide us?
Can I properly hear people who disagree?
How can we come together in Love, to know and respect each other better?

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman should not be attorney general. Her speech to the Policy Exchange, where she spoke about anti-trans discrimination, demonstrates that.

The attorney general is the chief legal adviser to the government, advising on questions of international law, human rights, and devolution. The government has great power to amend the law, with a working majority of 71. The Attorney General should say what the law is, not what the government would like it to be: if they do not like it, they can change it.

Even under the Conservatives, previous AGs have usually had far more experience than Braverman. She was called to the Bar in 2005, and elected to Parliament in 2015. From 2010 she was on the Attorney General’s C panel of counsel, the entry level, undertaking basic government cases. Her predecessor Geoffrey Cox was called to the Bar in 1982, appointed QC in 2003, and elected to parliament in 2005. Dominic Grieve practised as a barrister for seventeen years before becoming an MP. Jeremy Wright only practised for nine years before being elected to Parliament, and made the appalling decision to prosecute anti-deportation protesters under terrorism legislation. The Court of Appeal said there was no case to answer.

Policy Exchange is a “highly opaque” think tank which refuses to reveal the identities of its donors. It recommended legislation to prevent their victims from suing the armed forces, and to establish schools funded by government but “free” of some regulation and inspection. In her speech on 10 August, Braverman spoke against Equality legislation, and said that legislation for trans rights should be interpreted in such a way as to make it easy to exclude trans people.

Braverman congratulated Policy Exchange on its arguments for reducing judicial power, and thereby correction of any acts of government against the law or human rights. She says there are trade-offs in allocating rights, which is true.

She asks, “Do our feelings about who we are, change the rights to which we are entitled?” Clearly. A right to marry a woman is no use to a gay man. His right to private life, and so to equal marriage, depends upon his feelings of attraction. My feeling that I am trans is remarkably consistent, despite my attempts to overcome it, including aversion therapy. She means, it’s only a feeling, so unimportant. Against feelings, she balances “the facts of biology”- as if my lack of a uterus is important at all, except if I were trying to bear a child.

But feelings are at the heart of being human. My feelings make me me. She wants to impose some other understanding, which she might call objective reality, to subjugate my feelings, and perhaps her own too- but Reality includes trans people’s feelings. She is the reality denier.

If feelings did not matter, the objection to trans women in women’s spaces would not matter. Braverman privileges the feelings of prejudiced people over the feelings of trans people.

Then she says something truly damaging. She says businesses are going beyond their legal obligations, misinterpreting the law. It is clear she means including trans women in women’s spaces when they do not need to: later she makes this explicit.

She gives a definite, but misleading, interpretation of the Equality Act as it relates to trans women in women’s spaces. She claims trans women, being “biological males”, can be excluded from any women’s space which would be entitled to exclude men. She says this applies even if we have a GRC, though s9 of the Gender Recognition Act provides that my “sex” is female. She says the permission to exclude trans people from women’s services is in fact permission to exclude trans men.

This is completely wrong. It is contrary to the EHRC’s code of practice, and all previous understandings of the legislation. Robin Moira White, barrister and expert on trans law, commented she would have a lot of work if businesses interpreted the law the Braverman way.

Braverman is also wrong on trans schoolchildren.

Does it matter that Braverman is wrong? It matters if businesses or their public-facing workers believe her, or if cis women anti-trans campaigners take this as a licence to complain about trans women in women’s services. A tiny proportion of these matters reaches the courts.

It means that ordinary trans women may face abuse, confrontation and exclusion going about our daily lives. I hope businesses will be aware of a better interpretation of the law, but I am more and more concerned that I may have to endure confrontation, and even threaten legal action.

More in Common

“We have more in common than that which divides us,” said Jo Cox MP, and on the sixth anniversary of her murder More in Common, the foundation set up in her name, published their report on trans rights to argue just that. After interviewing 10,300 people, they produced seven “segments” of British society based on their core beliefs on social issues, their values, identity and worldview. They then classified people by these segments to organise further focus groups and surveys on issues including trans rights.

The report explains the segments. Membership does not depend on voting patterns. They are:

Progressive Activists. They are politically engaged, and seek to correct historic marginalisation of groups. They have the lowest authoritarian tendencies of any group, but a significant minority believe the real injustice is the erosion of “sex-based rights”. Only Progressive Activists are embroiled in the social media wars on trans.

Civic Pragmatists’ starting point is kindness and compassion. They are open to compromise and socially liberal. They are turned off by the divisiveness of the elite media debate on trans.

Disengaged Battlers who feel the system is broken and they are barely surviving. They see no point in engaging with the democratic system, but are tolerant and socially liberal.

Established Liberals. Prosperous, cosmopolitan, pro-market and status quo.

Loyal Nationals. Belonging to a group, and being British, is important to them. They care about fairness. They feel under threat from outsiders.

Disengaged traditionalists. They are self-reliant, patriotic, tough-minded. They emphasise personal responsibility and explain success in life by individual qualities rather than the System. They take social rules seriously and are judgmental about others’ behaviour. They pay little attention to current debates.

Backbone Conservatives. They are optimistic about Brexit, proud of being British, and engaged with politics. They want clear rules and strong leaders. They are the most likely to think transition is unnatural.

More in Common did a survey and then focus groups. 74% of people said they knew someone who is LGB, and 24% knew someone who is trans. Thinking of social groups where I would say I know people, all of them include another trans person. In the past, in work, I met other trans people. Perhaps I have a lower threshold of what it means to “know” someone. 31% of Millennials (born 1981-96) and 48% of Gen Z (born 1997-2012) know a trans person.

2% of people included “the debate about transgender people” in the top three of sixteen issues facing the country. 64% named Cost of living, 32% the NHS, and 29% the war in Ukraine.

More in Common is keen to point out what people have in common. “There is a strong sense of acceptance and compassion,” they say. Live and let live.

More people agree than disagree that a trans man is a man, and a trans woman is a woman. Only “Disengaged Traditionalists” felt otherwise. So the Times and the Tories have not yet managed to create some great divide over the issue. By contrast, there were sharp divisions between the segments on whether BLM is a good thing. The problem is they think a “trans woman” is someone who has lived in their true gender for a significant period or had genital surgery. But, the Equality Act protects us from the moment we decide to transition, and that is when we most need protecting: we are more nervous, and pass less well.

The report says people don’t want to be condemned for an innocent mistake over pronouns, and some sound wounded. My impression from trans people is that in person we are keener to gently educate than to rebuke. We only object if it is intentional. But twitter is different.

It says people think unisex toilets are a good solution for trans women. That is silly. People are used to single sex toilets, buildings have them, law requires employers to provide them. Most women will rarely or never know that there is a trans woman in the room with them. Why have men in women’s loos, because then the rule would be that trans women could use the same loos as everyone else? It makes no sense. Far better to just let trans women use women’s loos. That’s the problem with asking people who have not really thought about the matter what should be done.

It says most people are not following the debate. They know JK Rowling said something, but are not sure what. But they are clear trans women in women’s sports is unfair, especially elite sport. They say a male puberty gives lifelong advantages. That anti-trans argument has cut through.

It suggests that people are aware of the issues around gender identity, but they do not think of it as a political dispute. Instead, they consider how it affects their day to day lives and think about progress in practical not symbolic ways. They want common-sense, compassionate and fair solutions. They wanted to find some other way a trans athlete could compete.

There are four ways to approach culture war, MIC says:

1. Deciding to make things worse, for political gain.
2. Ignoring and avoiding the issue, leaving it to the polarisers.
3. Making passionate arguments which appeal to activists but turn off the general public.
4. Seeking to engage with the majority of Britons

They say most people want to be compassionate, and seek practical solutions. So, MIC recommends building upon areas of consensus, emphasise the shared starting points, and acknowledge the progress that has been made. They want spaces to have the discussion and provide answers to ordinary people.

They recommend, emphasise the shared starting points people have, and build on areas of consensus. Have a case by case approach, so exclusion in sport is OK, but emphasise the experience of people who have found solutions and acknowledge the progress that has been made. Create spaces for discussion, while stopping bad-faith actors setting the terms of discussion. But, “Listen to those worried about the pace of change”.

Finally, “remember this is about people”. I agree that having my life “being treated as ideological footballs is cruel and unnecessary”. There is a better way, but will The Times and the Tories follow More in Common’s lead?

Parliament debates trans conversion

“Your lives matter, and you should be protected from abuse, coercion and control just as much as the next person.” People comment how tense I am all the time. Reading that, from the Conservative MP Peter Gibson, I felt my tension lift a little. It should not need to be said, but I am glad it is. One trans constituent asked, “surely I deserve to feel safe, have some dignity and live my life in peace without being demonised?” Continue reading

Trans people in hospital wards

As a Tory cabinet minister said, the NHS under the Tories is “wanting and inadequate”. But its rules on admitting trans women to women’s wards is good. Its guidance adopted in 2019 (pdf) says trans people should be accommodated according to how we present. We do not need a GRC or legal name change. If our breasts or genitals appear of the opposite gender, we should be given sufficient privacy with curtains or a single side room.

A trans person who has not had a genital operation should not share open shower facilities. Where the treatment is sex-specific, such as a trans man having a hysterectomy, staff should discuss options with the patient. If a patient is unconscious, staff should draw inferences from mode of dress and only consider genitals if this is specifically necessary for treatment (I am sad that needs to be said). A trans woman without her wig should have extra care to ensure her privacy and dignity. Nonbinary patients should be asked discreetly about their preferences.

A child’s preference should prevail even if the parents disagree and the child is not Gillick competent.

Unfortunately, anti-trans hate campaigner Emma Nicholson has become aware of this guidance, and wasted House of Lords time at 1am on 17 March to amend the Health and Care Bill to exclude all trans women from women’s wards. The usual hate campaigners- Claire Fox, David “Blencathra” Maclean- came out to bore everyone with their usual disinformation. The government whip, JoJo Penn, thanked Emma for “all her work advocating for women’s rights”, and I hope that is just the usual oily courtesy shown by “noble Lords” to each other. She said the NHS is currently reviewing its guidance and seeks “privacy, safety and dignity” for all its patients. Guidance should be based on “evidence, compassion, empathy and respect”, but she could not give a date for the review being published beyond some time this year.

Fox put her extreme case emotively. She spoke of vulnerable cis women patients losing their right to single-sex wards. She said women (anti-trans campaigners) were effectively being told “Don’t you worry your pretty little heads”. The hate campaigners in the House of Lords have been whinging about this extensively, and the Evening Standard reported their words uncritically. Then Fox refers to the newspapers. It is all circular. However she gave the good news that Dr Michael Brady, NHS LGBT adviser, is involved in the review, has consulted Stonewall and Mermaids, and stated there are “no plans to reduce the existing rights of transgender people”.

Nicholson told the story of a trans woman constituent when she was an MP. The woman was a police officer, who after transition was given a lower rank. Nicholson claimed that she helped “persuade the police that [transition] was a fully acceptable thing to have done”. Then she claimed a trans woman on a women’s ward raped another patient a year ago. That is explosive.

Ralph “Baron Lucas” Palmer (Con) claimed “trans women are men” under the Equality Act. Michael Farmer, former treasurer of the Tory Party, recited some legal interpretation from anti-trans campaigners, claiming that excluding trans women from women’s wards would be a “legitimate aim”. Timothy Clement-Jones, LibDem, spoke for the amendment despite his party’s definition of transphobia. As nonbinary people are not explicitly protected under the Act, he wanted them assessed for objective sex.

Terence Etherton, former Master of the Rolls (President of the civil Court of Appeal) explained that putting trans women on men’s wards would be unlawful harassment under the Equality Act, as it would violate our dignity. He said changing your name is changing an “attribute of sex” sufficient to clearly fit the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. “It is not a legitimate aim that some people feel uncomfortable sharing accommodation and facilities with trans people of the opposite birth sex. That would make a nonsense of having the statutory protected characteristic in the first place.”

Sal Brinton, LibDem, said Nicholson’s amendment “seeks to create a false understanding” of the Equality Act.

Michael Cashman talked of evidence: freedom of information requests around the country have shown there is no need to change Annexe B, the part of the policy specifically about trans people. He pointed out how Maclean, as a Home Office minister, had blocked an equal age of consent for gay sex with straight sex. That had to wait for a Labour government, despite a win in the European Court. He drew parallels between the hate against trans women now, and against gay men in the 1990s, and “against minorities across the centuries”. Ruth Hunt said “many lesbians” support trans inclusion. To detoxify the debate, she said, we should stick to the facts. Elizabeth Barker, LibDem, said the amendment was not about single-sex wards at all, but Nicholson’s continuing campaign against trans women, and “we should simply not pay attention”. She says trans women “are women with a different experience”.

Trans women are probably safe from this review. We will continue being treated on the appropriate wards, and given dignity and privacy. And the hate campaign will continue.

Abolishing sex

What would happen if the law no longer certified whether a person was male or female? Now, birth certificates and GRCs say what our sex is, and everyone has one or the other, even nonbinary people, or people with variations of sex characteristics. There are rules on changing classification. What if that was ended? Would it help create a world where children were not socialised into gender, and people could live without gender-based expectations or constraints? The Future of Legal Gender project has published its final report, together with several articles, to answer these questions.

They refer to reform as decertification. It is a proposal made to see what it might mean, rather than to solve a specific problem. They interviewed experts, campaigners and ordinary people. Possible benefits include subverting the basis of discrimination, supporting self-expression, and removing the legal burden of gender change. They asked about possible problems, and clearly anti-trans campaigners have been at them, saying sex-specific services, data gathering, and positive action against discrimination could all have difficulties.

Possibly, law could decertify sex as part of a neoliberal project to stop law and government tackling social inequality. The project wants decertification to be part of a social justice movement to support diverse ways of flourishing. It would need to involve greater public provision, not continuing austerity.

Law could still prevent sex discrimination as it does race discrimination. Most people would object to having a race legally assigned to them. Many service providers recognise nonbinary people, and law is increasingly gender neutral.

People consulted spoke of the need to dismantle male domination, violence, and gender based roles and stereotypes. Trans people could back these goals and still advance their aim for recognition of diversity. The Project says gender is institutionalised, rather than being an identity. It is a set of institutional processes rather than personal qualities. It affects people’s values, patterns of wealth and power, and ways of interacting. They say understanding of sex is interpreted through a gendered environment. I say sex as in reproduction only matters if you want to reproduce, or have a physical health condition. Everything else is cultural. Most people agreed our lives should not be defined by the bodies we are born with.

A leisure centre manager said it was important not to assume someone’s gender. When asked where the changing rooms were, they would say the men’s is there, the women’s is there, and the accessible room is there, and leave it to the customer to make the choice. However, when at the cinema I asked where the loos were, I was sent to the men’s.

Sex inequality in the 19th century involved voting, property ownership, inheritance and employment. These legal inequalities have lessened. We need sociology to recognise and research inequality that remains, relating to poverty, work, violence, exclusion and social stereotyping.

Gender is a complex social phenomenon that produces the categories of women and men to shape people’s lives. Decertification might make that shaping less rigid. It would undermine the assumption that gender divisions in roles or behaviour are natural, lawful or desirable, and support diversity. It might counter early gender socialisation of children.

Would it prevent “single sex” spaces? Many women’s organisations rely on self-identification, not asking for legal documents or assuming that a person’s sex or gender could be known from their appearance. They use risk assessments to manage potential problems, rather than expecting biological status as female to safeguard users. Single sex spaces can imply that the risk to women is from strangers, but most violence has perpetrators the victim knows.

They suggest that sports could be classified as in the Paralympics, which assesses functional capacity. What of positive discrimination, such as all-women shortlists to select political candidates? Applicants could be asked to explain why they fit.

We need data to show the inequalities and needs of different groups of people. People’s experiences differ by social class, disability, beliefs and race as well as gender. Why is the data needed? More precise questions, such as “do you menstruate?” could produce more useful data. Any data collection is intrusive for people- the intrusion is justified if the data is used for their benefit.

Trans people can use a GRC to assert our gender, and that protection would be lost. However, I do not want to provide documentary evidence: I want my word to be accepted. I am a woman.

The project says legal reform can be part of a wider programme of change, one policy tool. It is a creative way of thinking big. The aims would be to end legally registered sex or gender, to help dismantle gender hierarchies, to support people whose gender leads us to be excluded or disadvantages, and to undo broader social injustice and inequality. For discrimination and the public sector equality duty there would be a new ground of gender. Employers and service providers could not impose gender stereotypes. Services could still exclude people based on sex or gender if this was done to address unfairness or safety.

The Telegraph report was merely mocking. “The census could ask ‘do you menstruate?’ instead of ‘are you female?’ to be inclusive of transgender people, a taxpayer funded study has suggested.” Including trans people is not the only reason for the project’s proposals, but they wanted to wind up anti-trans campaigners to hate the study as well as their usual anti-woke, anti-tax readers. A trans woman shared the Telegraph’s hate screed on facebook, so I learned about the report. I am so glad I did.

Reform is unlikely to happen soon, but I am glad people are thinking about the possibility.

Alison Eden

Alison Eden is the Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for Central Devon, a district councillor, and an obsessive hate campaigner. Other LibDem councillors have noticed.

For example her retweet of Sharron Davies’ tweet against trans in sports. Or this retweet, with the ridiculous claim that “women are being phased out”. Or this retweet of Susanne Moore, attacking Owen Jones for standing up for trans people. Or this retweet of JK Rowling boasting that someone called her transphobic. Or this retweet of someone claiming trans men can’t get endometriosis- or are women really. That’s five out of her last twenty tweets, a transphobia score of 25%. It’s almost as if she has the twitter of an anti-trans campaigner rather than a councillor.

She is an extreme transphobe. This article starts with an attack on inclusive language for trans men, and morphs into a rant against trans women- who, she alleges, pose “rape threats”. Then she fearmongers about someone self-declaring and having “instant and unquestioning access to sex-specific places” as if that had not been happening for years. What’s terrifying about her article is its complete ignorance. She does not bother to find the facts before crying out in rage and hate. She just gets triggered, and tries to trigger others.

She claims the challenge is “certainly not the people who seek veracity in their lives through transitioning”. Oh, she’s not against real trans people, just the nonexistent fakes. The trouble is that no-one can tell the difference, seeing me walk down the street. Could I be one of the dangerous fake ones? Can the cis people take the risk?

Her alleged article in the Mid Devon Advertiser is now only available in Nigel Scott’s blog. He is a transphobe, and for years has only blogged transphobic drivel. He claims, without an archive link or other evidence, that she claimed the rights of transitioners “trump” those of vulnerable women. That’s one step further. Sometimes she claims not to be against the real transsexuals, but this article clearly is. She ended by claiming to want “safe places” for the trans women, but “caring compromises”- not among the cis women.

Scott claims Eden was excluded from an online event for members, for proposing to ask Ed Davey about excluding trans women from women’s spaces, as the Equality Act currently permits in restricted circumstances.

If the LibDems are silencing Eden in a party event, why is she still a candidate? Because the Tory MP had an absolute majority, do they hope he will win again?

According to Scott, Eden is clearly within the LibDem definition of transphobia. She advocated for trans people to use “segregated facilities”. The definition was adopted in 2020. So, why has she not been expelled from the party?

Here is the LibDem complaint procedure. It does not ask if behaviour is wrong, but whether there is “risk to the party’s reputation”. Currently, the media would blast the party for disciplining the most extreme anti-trans campaigner. It is not clear that nonmembers can complain, and the page assumes complainants will be members. So, has the party’s definition of transphobia any value at all?

Murray Blackburn Mackenzie

Murray Blackburn Mackenzie claim to be policy analysts. Their twitter and website have a reassuring air: a picture of the Forth Rail Bridge in sunshine, a logo of three grey wavy lines to look serious. They could be a long-established firm of Edinburgh solicitors, though few solicitors would have a request for donations on their front page, or endorsements from four notorious anti-trans campaigning politicians.

They are generally referred to as policy analysts, for example by The Guardian. Note the headline: “Scotland’s gender recognition reform is a ‘recipe for bad law’, say campaigners”, though the article itself says Rape Crisis Scotland and Amnesty, and every party but the Conservatives, support the proposals. Who is against? One of these “policy analysts”, tiny hate group Four women Scotland, and LGB All Liars.

So, why bother reporting what they say? Is a tiny hate group’s opposition to gender recognition reform overwhelmingly supported by Scottish civil society actually newsworthy? The Herald is a model of reporting, quoting at length supporters of the law as befits their importance, but still quoted MBM, calling them “a policy think tank”. The Scotsman calls them a “policy group”, and had a silly piece quoting one of them at length after she resigned from the Royal College of Nursing. The RCN had investigated her for a potential breach of contract. Reporting on the gender recognition consultation, The Times quoted the Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland, and “the policy analyst” MBM.

What do they tweet about? Their pinned tweet is about gender recognition reform. All their 54 tweets in May are too. One of them is Kath Murray, a criminologist. Her pinned tweet is about “recording sex accurately” (No Transwomen!) and again her tweets are overwhelmingly attacking trans rights.

Do they blog about anything other than trans? In 2021 they did an article about whether the Green Party, now it is in coalition with the SNP, would retain opposition party privileges. So I did a quick google. It doesn’t. In 2020, they did a three page submission on the Lobbying Act. And, that’s it. By contrast, they have eighteen posts this year so far on gender recognition, scaremongering and making unsubstantiated allegations of harm.

Everything else is an attack on trans rights. Under “education”, there are three articles, all about trans rights. One makes the shocking allegation that “no university in Scotland has any form of organised representation or networking for female staff”, but read closely, it reveals that it means all the women’s groups may include trans women. It then goes on about anti-trans campaigners as if they were victims.

There is a great deal on their site about data collection. All of it is advocating trans exclusion. For example, they are desperate that trans women should be told to tell the census that we are men, even though the Court of Session disagrees. They make a number of unsubstantiated claims that trans women being allowed to say we are women is “harmful” to accurate statistics, though the proportion of the population who is trans is under 1%, and trans men and trans women will cancel each other out.

All of their work on criminal justice and policing is about trans: for example, they do not want hate crime law around misogyny, but around the characteristic of sex, which they define to exclude trans women from the category “women”.

Who are they, anyway? Two former civil servants and a research fellow. Just as anyone can set up a wordpress blog, it seems anyone can call themselves “policy analysts” or consultants, get to make scaremongering, unsubstantiated claims to parliamentary committees, and have their words reported unquestioningly by the press, as if what they said matters. It only matters because the press decides it does. So MBM’s message of hate and exclusion spreads.

The effects of the culture war

Could attacks on trans people and culture war win power again for the lying, cheating Tories who have done so much damage to this country? Johnson partied while the rest of us were in lockdown, erected a customs border between parts of the “United Kingdom”, threatens to break international treaties so Britain cannot be trusted and he might start a trade war, and lies and lies again about it. On the other hand, Max Hastings in The Guardian claims, Keir Starmer “refused to define a woman comprehensibly”. In fact, Keir Starmer has said trans women are women. The only definition that makes sense is, a woman is anyone who honestly says she is one.

Nevertheless, the public seem to be noticing the bull and bellyaching about culture war issues. IPSOS, the polling organisation, and King’s College London, report that while in December 2020 46% of British people agreed the country is divided by culture wars, now the figure is 54%. So Johnson and his media enablers divide the country further, for their own gain.

78% believe the country is divided, up from 74% eighteen months ago. The number who have read about “being woke” is up from 49% to 65%, and the number who have read about “cancel culture” is up from 39% to 60%.

36% believe “woke” is an insult, up from 24%. It’s complicated. The word is Black culture, so I don’t use it. I call myself an ally to those seeking human rights, and various spiritual terms for my own desperate fight for self-respect. Meanwhile, most people using it intend an insult, as if supporting human rights were a bad thing.

Is the term “White privilege” helpful thinking about race relations? Yes. But 51% of people think it unhelpful.

In 2011, there were hardly any articles in UK newspapers mentioning “white privilege”. The number passed 200 in 2016, and 1400 in 2020. “Cancel culture” hardly appeared until 2018, but passed 3500 articles in 2021. The Daily Mail carried 23% of those articles. Fewer than fifty articles a year mentioned culture war in Britain until 2016, but in 2021 the figure was over 1500. The report does not state the slant of the articles, but they are often contemptuous and vitriolic.

What media chooses to report matters. Hastings links to a clip of some vile little man asking Starmer “Can a woman have a penis?” As if what he thinks about that could show he is out of step with ordinary, prejudiced, Britons, and therefore even though Labour manages the economy better they should stick with the Tories. This report shows that lie is gaining traction with the public. It is far easier to count mentions of a specific phrase such as “cancel culture” than to provide a meaningful measure of the slant of the articles, but they are overwhelmingly against human rights.

The report barely mentions trans: 38% of media articles on free speech discussed universities. It just says some alleged harassment of academic staff for their views on trans rights, but does not count the number of articles referring to trans people. However, as the Guardian article shows, attacks on trans rights are a major tool of the hard Right culture warriors, and are having an effect.