Baroness Susan Williams with Sue Pascoe (right). the Conservative Party’s first trans woman candidate in a European election.
Sue PascoeSue Pascoe stood for election for Yorkshire and the Humber in the 2019 European Election, chairs the Conservative Women’s Organisation for North and East Yorkshire, and she is also on the Executive for the Conservative Disability Group.
In an exclusive feature for Chamber, former outsourcing and change management partner at PWC, Sue Pascoe writes on why the Conservative Party should not forget their ‘centrist’ values.
As I’ve found as a member, standing for election and serving on national committees there are amazingly kind, generous and thoughtful people in the Conservative Party. There is also a slice of our Party which seems to have lost its humanity and it’s humility that would take us back to the days when Theresa May described some were calling us the ‘nasty party’.
I choose hope for a better a world, free from war and suffering where people have the common humanity and humility to treat all people with respect and dignity – no matter their background or who they are. I choose love over hate. I hold out a helping hand. That’s why I came into politics. Personal freedom and enterprise underpinned with equality of opportunity for all delivered with tolerance, compassion and fair play. I think these are core Conservative values.
“We need to remember that being transgender is not an illness”Sue Pascoe, former outsourcing and change management partner at PWC
So why are some in our Party trying to undermine these core values – these ‘centrist’ values that make us humble and electable?
Hijacking the debate:
The abandonment of centrist values was exemplified earlier in the month with the hijacking of the International Women’s Day debate in Parliament over the trans issue. Sir Bernard Jenkin took up more time than any woman speaker in the debate accusing Anneliese Dodds, a woman and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, of not knowing how to define what a woman is and claiming women can’t commit rape when they can as an accessory. He also gave out rape statistics implying they related to trans women when they could just as easily have been committed by natal women. This same error was made by The Times who posted a correction.
I don’t normally quote Sir Keir Starmer, but as the former head of the Director of Public Prosecutions and a Human Rights Lawyer, I think he has competency in this matter when he said “A woman is a female adult and, in addition to that, trans women are women, and that is not just my view that is actually the law. It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and the 2010 Equality Act.” But he wasn’t the first to say this, Penny Mordaunt then Cabinet Office Minister said this from the Despatch Box, “Trans men are men and trans women are women” sometime ago. A Conservative woman ahead of her time, again.
It is so frustrating when others, Parliamentarians in particular, misstate the law. I wish they would be straightforward enough to say what they want, which appears to be the roll back of the Equality Act and take away the existing rights of transgender people as set out in law. Because despite what is often made out, no women’s rights are being taken away and no new trans rights have been requested. All that has been asked for by transgender people is the existing gender recognition right be made easier to obtain.
The Government has made it clear repeatedly that the Equality Act is not going to be changed. The Scottish Government has laid a reformed gender recognition bill before the Scottish Parliament which would replace the current medicalised process with one based on self-declaration of gender and a wait for gender change of six months. In England and Wales, no change is currently proposed but the Women and Equalities Committee has recommended that a change is made towards a self-declaration model of gender recognition. The Welsh Government supports such a move.
Then you have the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, Lisa Townsend attacking Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, one of the most decent men I know, because she was told by the Surrey Police Crime Panel she was not being “dignified or respectful” to others. Instead, of listening and reflecting on the Panel’s wise words, she ran off to the papers to claim men were trying to ‘cancel’ her voice. So, what was the fuss about?
Police Scotland described how they recorded the gender of trans people brought into custody based on self-identification. This prompted JK Rowling to tweet “The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.” Lisa then retweeted this and added “We will not accept this gaslighting from men who keep telling us they are women, or from those who enable them.” Subsequently, Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham of Police Scotland said, “I do think in the scale of what we are dealing with, we’ve had 1,229 rapes reported to us in the first six months of this year. That’s nearly 47 rapes every week, nearly seven rapes reported every day and there has never been a set of circumstances where we would have somebody who has committed a rape in terms of the act of rape who was biologically a man self-identifying as a woman. So, at the moment it’s a hypothetical debate.”
The words from the Deputy Chief Constable are stark and put the comments of both Lisa and JK Rowling into context.
In a free society, they are of course entitled to their own views – as are we all – but all people also have the common courtesy, if not the right, to be treated with dignity and respect and not be demonised as a class of people who are sex pests. The vast majority of the estimated 500,000 trans people are good citizens who wish nothing more than to have self-determination, bodily autonomy and live in harmony with others like everyone else. It’s incumbent on our elected officials to fairly represent all people.
We need to remember that being transgender is not an illness and there is considerable scientific evidence that there is a biological underpinning for an individual’s gender identity.
Whilst a marginalised minority in our society is being disrespected and some of our politicians are acting in undignified ways, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and 20% of children in the UK have lived with an adult perpetrating domestic violence against them. I think every single one of us can get behind trying to do something to help make a difference to these unacceptable situations.
Treat all people with respect:
My plea, can we stop chasing windmills and creating fear and anguish between communities and have respectful sensitive nuanced dialogue between each other. Can we focus together on the real risks affecting all women and children of abusive people; however, they manifest themselves, especially in the home. Finally, can we stop abusing politicians and treat all people with respect and dignity.