This is how ridiculous things have got, that a campaigning group whose only raison d’être is to get 50:50 male/female representation in Parliament, is essentially happy to campaign to reduce the numbers of women by including men as candidates.
I had no intention whatsoever in signing up, but after pointing out that two of the six woman panellists were in fact trans-identified men my Twitter account was suspended, the day before the seminar was due to be held. Hell hath no fury and all of that, so I spent those hours prior to the webinar sharpening my claws.
So who are 50:50? It’s not clear to me what their status is. They don’t appear to have non-profit status, they ask supporters for donations but aren’t a charity. At some point in their history they were selling some crappy merchandise, so must have registered with Companies House.
Hilariously their most recent claim to success is ‘In the 2019 UK general election fifty of the women standing were part of 50:50 and nine went on to win seats in the Commons’. Fifty out of how many, you might ask. So I did and there were 1,123 female candidates (see the HOC website). That means only 4% of female candidates supported the 50:50 campaign, which is hardly a surprise when many of these women were in direct competition for seats. I wonder who the nine lucky ones were? Was it because they were already MPs? If all 50 were sitting MPs it means 50:50 had a net loss of 41.
Also, how jolly hockey sticks does this sounds?
Now, when women #SignUpToStand via www.5050Parliament.co.uk, 50:50 help them build their Personal Political Profiles and allocate “buddies”, building a New Girls Network: women supporting women, along the path to Parliament.From the About page
The Fawcett Society was involved in the running of the webinar event, as we were asked to abide by their Equal Power Values with enticements to sign up to their Equal Power list. All very impressive.
50:50 Parliament is an inclusive, intersectional, non-partisan campaign. We support all women in getting selected and elected.
This event is open to everyone. We want everyone to hear how we can all support LGBT+ women progress in politics so that their voices can be heard. 50:50 understand that some women face higher hurdles and double discrimination – so let’s hear how we can help them!
The event aims to inspire LGBT+ women to stand.
– Nia Griffith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Labour MP for Llanelli. In 2017, she was named on the Pinc List of leading Welsh LGBT figures.
– Christine Jardine MP, for Edinburgh West. Previous Lib Dem spokesperson for Women & Equalities .
– Rona Mackay MSP, for Strathkelvin and Bearsden since the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2016
– Sue Pascoe, the Conservative Party’s first trans woman candidate in a European election and was among PwC’s 50 inspirational people of 2019.
– Mandu Reid, Leader of the UK Women’s Equality Party and prospective candidate for the Mayor of London
– Robin White, the first barrister at the employment and discrimination Bar to transition. She has just been nominated “The Lawyers” Barrister of the week.
Our speakers have been drawn from Parliament and the LGBT+ community. They will give guidance on how to help LGBT+ women in public life and point to organisations that can offer assistance and advice. The event will be facilitated by Emma Best who is part of the 50:50 Diversity Team.
It will be an inspirational 50:50 Tea Time!Blurb for the event on registration page
The Webinar welcome
The webinar opened with the host relaying the fact that currently in the House of Commons there are 55 MPs who are ‘out’ as same sex attracted, 11 of which are women. 50:50 were calling for greater inclusion.
So let’s look at the numbers. The ONS put the figure of the LGB population at 2.2 percent in 2018 (with men roughly 2.5 times more likely to be gay than women). Whereas LGB MPs account for 8.5 percent of the House, with lesbian women at 1.5 percent. So in fact LGBT are over-represented in Parliament, if you wanted to make that argument, making 50:50’s call utterly disingenuous.
But what sort of women are 50:50 encouraging to attend? Well, we were told that there were 32 million women in the UK, whereas the transgender population was about half a million who were ‘marginalised and vilified’.
Like most women, very few trans women are interested in politics, but those who are brave enough to consider standing for election, wanting to bring their life experiences to our councils and Parliaments, wishing to represent their constituents, deserve our support. There has never been a trans MP. Parliament is meant to be a representative institution, but currently men outnumber women by two to one in the corridors of power.
The way to remedy this, apparently, is to get more men into Parliament. The idea that trans-identified men aren’t interested in politics is laughable. Heather Peto, Sue Pascoe, Eddie Izzard, Lilly Madigan, Sophie Cook, Tanya Love, Sarah Brown, Aimee Challoner, and Kathryn Bristow are just some of the names which have sprung to mind. Despite many of these individuals behaving inappropriately, their Parties have failed to sanction them, with the Challenor incident being particular instructive of how untouchable gender identity is.
50:50 had disabled the chat for the event and hidden the questions. They stated that the audience size was about 50, which was ‘fantastic, just the number we expected’. But why have such a low expectation? If only fifty people were to read this blog I wouldn’t fucking bother.
It was just so boring. Many of the women in the audience were gender crits and we quickly realised the questions were hidden. It also means that we had falsely boosted 50:50’s numbers by probably 50 percent.
The conversation was so dull because everyone on the panel could do the maths themselves and knew that there is no deficit of lesbian and bisexual women representation in Parliament. However, obviously no one could actually say that and there were some lovely trans ladies on the call who needed some care and attention.
Q: Why do we need more LGBT women in politics?
Comments were made about how all women shortlists (AWS) can help increase the numbers of women in Parliament. Men in the Labour Party have successfully used AWS to get Women Officer roles and at the time of writing the Labour Party still currently hold that men can self identify onto those lists.
The LibDems had fielded a transgender candidate in a target seat at the last election. The SNP has a current policy of promoting disabled and and BAME candidates and therefore were not promoting transgender people at the moment. What Rona Mackay forgot to mention was that the SNP had allowed people to self-identify as disabled. Yes, really.
Sue Pascoe told us about his transition, ‘an amazing journey’ in the Party and had been ‘blown away’ by the support, yet on the other hand the world outside was cruel and unkind. Trans women, Pascoe said, had something to unique to say because they have an ‘understanding of both halves’.
I don’t have any testosterone in my body anymore, I’m just full of oestrogen, it has reprogrammed my brain, my way of thinking and I have an understanding of two different lives and that empathy of a woman’s way of thinking and a man’s way of thinking, gives me an insight that is really quite rare. And the ability to be able to bring that to representative government and to life is something pretty special.Sue Pascoe, Master of the Hunt
Of course, Pascoe forgot to mention that he only knows his own way of thinking rather than being some sort of omnipotent soothsayer, but we were later to learn that he was considered semi-divine whilst in India having his cock and balls removed.
Mandu Reid, current leader of the Women’s Equality Party and current London Mayoral candidate, was a revelation. And I don’t mean that in a nice way. She talked too loudly for too long, the panel looked like they were glazing over, as I was myself, and I’m sure everyone else. During her rather long rant, she demanded ‘maximum quotas for the people over the last few hundred years who have enjoyed over-representation in Parliament, what about that?’ How about ‘no’ and ‘fuck off’ Mandu?
Robin White said that change can only happen when everyone is listened to.
Q: Why did the panel stand for office?
Reid told us that she had impatience, frustration and passion and that she was bisexual, which was still widely misunderstood and part of her humanity. She ‘refused to wear the fancy dress of a politician’. Of course, dear.
The host said she had read Pascoe’s article in the Conservative Women’s Organisation (originally published by Sky). Pascoe said that his life had been like the ‘Suffragettes’ movie (it is actually Suffragette – singular). Just like the lady in the film, he had given evidence to a select committee in front of Maria Miller. Unlike the suffragette in the film, who had presumably been asking for the right to vote and to own property, Pascoe’s evidence pertained to how long he had had to wait for his first NHS appointment. With a totally casual adjustment of his bra strap, he told us he had to wait four years to be seen, which was terrible, so he went to India for his ‘gender surgeries’ (presumably before the appointment and therefore making any first consultation redundant). He was treated amazingly over there, even to the extent that he was told he was ‘semi-divine’ (fights urge to post a photo of Divine) .
After the select committee hearing Pascoe met with his MP in the tea room and his MP suggested to him to become an MP. Within six months Pascoe passed his first assessment board within the Party making him oven-ready to stand as a real candidate and not only that was offered a seat to stand in (I believe it is quite unusual in the Party to progress so quickly). Pascoe, however, couldn’t stand because he had experienced a massive pulmonary embolism (a known risk with oestrogen) just a few months before.
Christine Jardine told us that she had been persuaded to stand by Jo Swinson (a fact probably better buried (though you probably don’t remember who she is now, in which case it doesn’t matter)) and also that she had been inspired after a chance meeting with a man who had been in primary school with her being led into court on a shot gun offence. The disparity between their two lives was the catalyst – though it seemed to me that she had absolutely no idea what his back story might have been and I wondered what the exact crime was.
Q: How do we protect LGBT+ candidates from abuse* and violence**?
*NB what they really meant was the women who had demanded a conversation about the conflict of rights between that of men who have a gender identity and the rights to privacy of women.
**There have been no cases of gender critical women physically attacking gender identity activists and a number of cases the other way round, from Maria MacLachlan being beaten up and Joanna Cherry the most recent woman MP to receive a threat to her safety.
Nia Griffith literally touched upon the Labour Party problem with anti-semitism and said that strong leadership was needed. She also said there needed to be active groups within the Party to guard agains the same; there was now an LGBT officer in every constituency and an LGBT+ National Committee. Griffith also felt that progress was moving forward and that she didn’t want to stand still.
Pascoe said the Conservative Party had a code of conduct which recognised the protected characteristics which had recently been enhanced in light of discrimination towards Muslims. Pascoe also wanted legislative change for incitement laws to cover gender identity (one panel member looked noticeably triggered at this suggestion). With regards to the media, he wanted the Editors code of practice, as set out by IPSO, revised. The last three years had been awful for transgender people because of the media. General advice was don’t engage with the hate, report it and block it and move on.
Mackay said that the SNP had very strong leadership on ‘this’ and referred indirectly to Sturgeon’s hostage-style plea (see below), they were introducing the Gender Reform Act, and also a Hate Crime Bill (which may criminalise speech made in the home) and they also had an Equality Officer and an LGBT Officer. They worked very closely with organisations like the Equality Network (an LGBTI group with a heavy focus on gender identity) and Engender (feminist policy advocacy – a brief look at their webinar recordings reveal a strong leaning towards queer theory academics).
Mackay said that she thought the ‘current debate was just awful frankly’ and was not conducive to women and minority groups standing and that bigots wanted to stop progress. Mackay said she hadn’t experienced abuse online but she knew colleagues who had. It would have been a perfect moment to condemn the death threats that Joanna Cherry had received but since Cherry has been demoted in the SNP, in part for her feminism, perhaps Mackay no longer considers Cherry a colleague.
Reid said that the WEP’s top leadership team was the most diverse in British politics, but was pretty short of men (as per usual for these things I had to double check to see if this was true, I know the WEP were the first party to be infiltrated by gender identity activists). Three of the four were members of the LGBTQI community. They were all happy to talk about their personal experiences – as if politics were some kind of group therapy cult, oh wait.
More eyes glazed over as Reid emphasised every other word in endless stream of diversity-bilge: learning and understanding, journey, shedding of prejudices, dialogue, red lines, zero tolerance, evolution, microcosms of society, create safe spaces and call them caucuses. She has a ‘LGBTQI caucus under construction at the moment’. Sorry while I piss myself.
Then it was time for the final question. The host for 50:50 wanted it answered in one sentence, ‘or to be honest I think it could be done in one word’. Want to know what the question was?
Q: How can we ever achieve equality when backbenchers still aren’t entitled to maternity or paid parental leave?
Griffiths said that MPs should have the same rights as women in other professions.
Jardine said it was not good enough that the new policy only covered ministers and that equality would never be achieved it we thought about parental leave only being for women (forgetting that it is only women who need physical recovery from pregnancy, birth and breast feeding). Unless that is changed employers will always regard that women will be the ones who need to take leave.
White said that if barristers chambers, as groups of self-employed people, can solve the problem then it should be within the grasp of the House of Commons.
Reid said something about red lines and zero tolerance and ground zero. She could send the WEP manifesto which had the right ingredients to solve the problem, or at least make a word salad.
Mackay said the Scottish Parliament had already maternity leave and parental leave.
Pascoe gave an answer which suggested he was completely uncomfortable with the topic.
The host then said that unfortunately they had to skip the live questions (the ones the gender crits had sent in) but that ‘we did get through a lot of meat’. The event had been sponsored by Equal Power Coalition (a Fawcett Society initiative) backed by Comic Relief and I doubt any women will stand as a result of their output.
A few days after the meeting the Scottish National Party published their definition of transphobia as set out below and had consulted Stonewall, Equality Network (a LGBT organisation) and the Scottish Trans Alliance.
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