Justin Webb

If the BBC were defunded, as the Conservative government seeks to do, broadcasting and newsgathering in Britain would be irreparably damaged. But it is institutionally transphobic, and makes complaints against them phenomenally difficult. Complain enough, and they suggest you write to the Executive Complaints Unit.

Here is my complaint against Justin Webb, explained for the Executive Complaints Unit in full. Continue reading

“Biological men” and centre-left politics

“Labour is proud to stand with the LGBT+ community,” it tweets. What does that mean in this political climate, and does anyone believe them?

The anti-trans campaigners have moved on. Trans women have been in women’s spaces and services forever, and that just wasn’t a problem. There are so few of us hardly anyone noticed, and they mostly didn’t care. But then in 2017 Theresa May proposed reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and the campaign against trans people got the billionaire rocket fuel it has now. At first, the haters pretended they had nothing against “genuine trans women”, only predatory men pretending to be trans women. One vile slogan against GRA reform was “Self-ID gives predators the green light”. This is obviously transphobic, teaching people to fear “genuine” trans women, and judge us. Is that really a trans woman, or is it a “predatory male”?

But now there is no chance of GRA reform, and the transphobes have moved on. There is still the ritual claim “I have always supported rights for trans people”, along with a demand for “biological men” to be excluded from all women’s “single sex” or “separate sex” services.

Keir Starmer’s response was to support the Equality Act. Trans women can be excluded if there is good reason to do so, and not otherwise. Trans rights are just about fine as they are now, and so are women’s rights. He might think that was safe, but being centrist- listen to both sides, do what is reasonable- is not safe. The Independent reported this in the most confrontational way possible. “Keir Starmer backs excluding trans women from some women only spaces”, as if he had come down on a side. If there was any reasonable discussion, this might be tenable. I have no wish to retraumatise a woman who has just been raped, and would stay out of some spaces if it was reasonable. But the demand is for total exclusion, which brooks no compromise.

Ideally just before Conference attention should be on Labour values and policies, on Keir Starmer and his Fabian Society pamphlet. Instead, Rosie Duffield, relentless anti-trans campaigner, is “trending”.

On The Today Programme culture warrior Justin Webb asked Ed Davey, leader of the LibDems, “Do you believe there should be places in our society where biological males can’t go?” He spent more than a third of the interview (starts at 1.51.40) putting the views of the extremist trans excluders, with a petulant sneer, as if they were only seeking what everyone would agree is right. Absolutely no trans women, not never not nohow, in any women’s service. If I wanted to try on a T-shirt before buying it I should trek to the men’s section. Not all clothes shops have a men’s section. I should be humiliated.

Poor Ed Davey tried to be consensual. “I think the trans rights issue is an issue that all parties are grappling with and we need to come to some consensus across political parties.” Webb demanded a straight answer. Attempt at nuance, with any complex issue, is portrayed as equivocation. No issue is black and white, but any admission of shades of grey is called dishonest.

So Labour needs a clear, defensible position. Trans women might be excluded from women’s spaces if we did something wrong. Karen White should not be in the general population of a women’s prison. But we should not be excluded simply because of who we are. I would treat traumatised women with compassion, but not be excluded by diktat.

This needs a soundbite. “Trans women are women. Trans women should never be excluded from a women’s service because of who they are.”

Then explain as necessary. Any person who behaves badly might be excluded from a service because of what they have done, but not because of who they are. The Equality Act has always protected trans people from the moment they decide to transition. Trans women are vulnerable. Portraying us as a threat incites violence against us.

So Rosie Duffield is trending, and the news is full of the right to “single sex services” meaning No Trans Women, and my friend who is cis, in favour of trans rights, and bi, says Labour’s tweet is “opportunistic and not-credible”. Trans people should support Labour, to get the Tories out. Labour should return the favour. If that made anti-trans campaigners leave, that would be a bonus. They already are only of use to the hard Right.

Andrew Rosindell MP

Andrew Rosindell MP wants the BBC to play the National Anthem before BBC1 switches over to News 24 every night. I wonder, am I insane?

Mr Rosindell told the Telegraph: “The British Broadcasting Corporation should be unashamedly British and playing our British National Anthem once a day on BBC1 is not much to ask. They used to do it and it’s time it was restored, to send out a message that Britain is back, following Brexit in tribute to Her Majesty in this, her 90th year!”

In the same article, the Telegraph gives some bite-sized facts- “The BBC by numbers”.  10 shillings Cost of the first ever licence fee in 1922 (50p in today’s money). This is Telegraphly misleading. The retail price index figure is ÂŁ24.62, though that was for one radio station rather than the many TV, radio and internet services today; but the economic power value is ÂŁ216.60. That is the amount of wealth relative to the total output of the economy. Relative to the earnings of an average worker, it is ÂŁ91.78. I found that from this fascinating calculator.

This is Mr Rosindell’s seventh Early Day Motion on the subject. It was tabled on Wednesday, and so far signed by five MPs. He likes far-right EDMs: in July 2014 he sponsored one condemning the Equality Commission for taking legal action to protect a gay couple from discrimination. His last attempt to restore the proud tradition was October 2013, and got six signatures. Not even Peter Bonehead signed it! But the time is more propitious now. The practice ended in October 1997, not long after the Labour landslide, but now the Telegraph, and even the BBC in a backhanded way, think this is slightly better than idiocy. It deserves publicity. It might even catch on.

I find the motion terrifying. It is a symbol of British values, one monolithic single expression of Britishness. No dissent is possible, none will be tolerated. It would be a symbol of authoritarianism. I imagine Steven Woolfe MEP, drunk in front of the telly, blearily pulled to his feet by his patriotic reflex of standing for the Anthem, and stumbling wearily to bed. The country is weary, frightened, confused and angry, and the Conservative Party, the party of government for much of the last hundred years, offers an authoritarian solution. What the BNP offered five years ago, and UKIP two years ago, you can now get from a Conservative government. Destroy the Welfare State, expunge all the hope from the “Labour Heartlands” of the North, and possibly they will vote Authoritarian.

Am I overreacting, I wonder. The Hoffman Process points out that we adopt traits from our parents, either in imitation or rebellion. My father would have supported this. I would too, aged twenty, and then in my belated teenage rebellion starting in my thirties I became libertarian, now very Left-libertarian, fitting the Green Party. Am I reacting out of rebellion, unfree, rather than rationally responding to this? Is Mr Rosindell insane, or am I?

It is clear I am wrong. It would be wonderful. Everyone who thinks in the right British way would have a moment of musical pleasure and sense of unity every evening. Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism writes that authoritarian propaganda cannot fulfill this longing of the masses for a completely consistent, comprehensible, and predictable world without seriously conflicting with common sense; but (Jason Stanley in the NYT) The goal of totalitarian propaganda is to sketch out a consistent system that is simple to grasp, one that both constructs and simultaneously provides an explanation for grievances against various out-groups. Mr Rosindell is part of the creation of such a belief system.