Women from the Scottish Labour Party have written to the leader, Richard Leonard, calling out an “imbalance” of anti-trans views reaching the leadership and questioning the deselection of an election candidate.
The open letter, signed by several prominent female Labour activists, highlights the tensions over proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act within the party, with the signatories saying they do not want to be ignored or be “immediately labelled toxic while witnessing poor behaviour from individuals who take a more critical stance” to GRA reform.
The row comes after the Labour candidate for Edinburgh South West, Frances Hoole, was deselected last week for sending an offensive tweet about Joanna Cherry MP, meanwhile Jenny Marra MSP is reported to be involved in hosting a controversial sex-based rights event in the Scottish Parliament, with no action taken against her.
Ms Hoole was dropped by the party after tweeting a meme about her constituency election rival, Joanna Cherry, with the image of the SNP MP next to a bottle of cleaning liquid and the text “Bang! And the TERF is gone”.
Ms Hoole, speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, apologised for posting the image to Twitter, acknowledging that it could be seen as a threat against the MP. She said “I am genuinely really sorry I posted it. I’m sorry about the violent content. I posted it without looking very hard at it.”
But campaigners within the Labour movement have called her deselection inconsistent and cited examples they believe move the party away from sensible discussion on the topic, saying:
“We believe that Scottish Labour setting the precedent for penalisation over the use of the term TERF, while ignoring poor online behaviour by their elected representatives highlights a disparity in the party’s commitment to responsible and non-abusive debate.”
The letter sets out the concern the women have that some voices within the party are moving to an extreme anti-trans agenda, with common tropes and offensive terms being rolled out on social media.
The letter asks the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, and General Secretary Michael Sharpe, to:
- engage with women from all opinions rather than listening to a minority fringe view
- to appreciate the role of leading, established women’s organisations who undertake a range of work regarding women’s rights and to take their lead
- and, to encourage in all quarters a safe and non-toxic debate where women can express their views without fear of abuse
Last week, LGBT Labour Scotland also released a sharply-worded letter criticising Jenny Marra for her co-hosting of a sex-based rights event at Holyrood on International Trans Day of Remembrance, with speakers which they say “have a history of regressive anti-trans rhetoric”.
The event was to be co-sponsored by the SNP’s Joan McAlpine and after criticism from several women’s groups and LGBT organisations, it’s understood the event has now been postponed.