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Tears, Fears and Electioneers…

by Damien Donnelly

While I’m well used to elections being preceded by a period of desperate on-the-hoof policy, from all sides, this coming UK general election seems especially to have thrown into stark relief how low we have sunk as a country. Where that’s most evident is, as always, in how minorities are being treated. We heard from Janis Wilson and Graham Campbell (Janis And Graham Ungagged! Episode 5: Launches And Purges…) about UK Labour’s purge of MPs who have been outspoken on matters of equality, the most noted being accompanied by weaponisation of anti-semitism in relation to social media activity showing support for Palestinians being slaughtered in their thousands. But we’re also seeing those who have been outspoken on LGBT+ issues being sidelined. 


Janis and Graham mentioned Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was Brighton & Kemptown’s Labour & Co-op MP since 2017. He was all set to be their candidate again until a very sudden complaint about his conduct eight years ago. Russell-Moyle denies the allegation (as yet unknown to the public) and is certain he’s the victim of a vexatious complaint with the sole purpose of getting him knocked out of the running. He was already complained about last year by fellow Labour MP Rosie Duffield. While the complaint was provoked by his intention to visit her constituency to support a picket line, it focused on his behaviour in parliament in a claim that she had been ‘shouted down’ by several men, including him, because she was supporting the Tory move to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Duffield has been a martyr to the anti-trans cause for a few years now. However, the tables have turned and she now enjoys the support of the party leadership who have been falling over themselves to apologise for her supposedly terrible treatment in what has been a gradual shift away from support for LGBT+ people and especially trans rights. 


Labour isn’t the only party whose deselections are cause for concern. The Scottish Greens have long been staunch supporters of trans rights, in the face of horrendous abuse. Even as the change in political leadership of the Scottish Government caused concern specifically regarding this area of policy, the Greens stayed strong and looked to potentially be the last remaining fully trans-supportive party in any of the UK’s parliaments. That made their recent move to drop their candidate for Gordon and Buchan, Sophie Molly, all the more shocking. Since her candidacy was announced, Molly has been subjected to relentless abuse from trolls on social media, all focused on the fact she is a trans woman. 


The billionaire wizard books author played a big part in inciting this abuse and dug up a tweet from last year in which Molly referred to her as ‘a torn-faced cow.’ Molly has since apologised for this, saying it was unprofessional but we do have to bear in mind the context of rising hate against trans people being stirred. Are people not allowed to react to anti-trans activism with anger and spite? I found it hard to believe that the Greens’ executive committee would drop someone because of a complaint about one old tweet that had been apologised for. However, this seems to be the case and news outlets reporting on the deselection refer to that tweet with no suggestion there is anything else. Molly has said Maggie Chapman MSP has been incredibly supportive, but all the party has to say officially is that Sophie Molly will no longer be their candidate. 


Trans people generally have been the political football of choice for a few years now, thanks greatly to the Tories targeting them for their ‘war on woke.’ We’ve already had NHS treatments for trans youth paused in a recklessly sudden response to The Cass Review, in Scotland as well as England (which, incidentally, was the sole jurisdiction of the review). But just in case some people hadn’t gotten that message, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins made the extraordinary move of abusing her ministerial powers to impose emergency legislation criminalising the provision of puberty blockers (including those prescribed by private and overseas clincs). She did this during pretty much the last gasp of the crumbling Tory government, the day before parliament was dissolved, avoiding any scrutiny. The wording of the legislation confirms that this is outright discrimination as it says the drugs are in fact still available to treat conditions other than gender incongruence (for example, precocious puberty in cis children). Atkins’ claims this is to “protect children” go contrary to the stories we have heard from actual trans people about how these treatments can be life saving.


The emergency legislation lasts for three months and could therefore be overturned by the incoming government. However Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has welcomed the move, which is deeply concerning as it suggests that a Labour government could extend the legislation to prove that they won’t be outdone by the Tories in attempts to prove that they “protect children.” You can see the temptation of using such an easy, dramatic and performative method of supposedly safeguarding young people when the real issues that actually need addressed seem insurmountable. Issues such as spiralling CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) waiting lists. Ironically,  guidance associated with this legislation, suggests referring young people experiencing mental health struggles as a result, suggests referring them to CAMHS (who based on my experience will not be able to see them and it will fall to their school who will have to scramble to organise some sort of support for them).  


One Tory policy that Labour has been bold enough to challenge is the idea of national service. The Tories have been quick in their attempts to disabuse us of the notion that young people will be conscripted en masse. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were inventing the idea of voluntary work with the patronising explanations that young people would be invited to contribute to their communities, as if such opportunities are not already plentiful and encouraged by schools and community organisations. This is to say nothing of the countless young people hobbled by nearly two decades of Tory rule who find themselves as carers and providers for their families. Those that don’t feel like making more of a ‘contribution’ – why should they? I have very little positive to say about Wes Streeting but on this topic on last week’s Question Time, he was spot on: as he said, this generation of young people has already sacrificed more than most of us alive today. They missed out on so many experiences that had been taken for granted until Covid hit and we all had to step up to protect each other. To blithely demand more of them while many are still experiencing the fall out of the pandemic feels particularly out of touch and deeply cynical. 


What is also concerning is what our mainstream media is choosing to show us. BBC’s Question Time continues to favour platforming of fringe parties such as ALBA and Reform UK over those such as the Greens, who have actually won parliamentary representation. It’s also been decided to broadcast debates featuring only Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, as if this were a US presidential race. Given that these two parties seem to agree with each other more and more on policies, especially those concerning poverty and minority groups, it’s difficult to speculate on what the debates might be like aside from the fact that we won’t hear what the Lib Dems, Greens or SNP (until recently the third biggest party in the UK parliament) have to say on the issues. 


Because of issues in this article and related, I no longer feel compelled to vote for any particular party and instead I’m focusing on candidates as individuals. The SNP has a raft of excellent candidates – unfortunately in my own constituency of Glasgow West we’ve been landed with one of the anti-LGBT ones in the form of Carol Monaghan. I would urge others to think similarly, as an anti-LGBT opposition backbencher of any party can potentially cause more harm than even a mildly supportive MP belonging to a party of government, as we’ve seen from the likes of Rosie Duffield and Joanna Cherry and how they’ve used their platforms to undermine their own parties’ support for trans rights. I know LGBT people who hope that when the election is done we will be left alone and that is incredibly sad, because up until recently the voices of politicians who supported us drowned out those who opposed our existence and that no longer feels true.

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