JK Rowling accuses Labour of abandoning women

JK Rowling accuses Labour of abandoning women

14 minutes agoBy Brian Wheeler, Politics reporterPA Media

JK Rowling has criticised Labour for “abandoning” women over its stance on the rights of transgender people.

Writing in the Times, the Harry Potter author said she would struggle to vote for Sir Keir Starmer, saying she had a “poor opinion” of his character.

The former Labour donor accused the party under Sir Keir’s leadership of a “dismissive and often offensive” approach to women’s concerns.

Labour said it was “the party of women’s equality, with a manifesto that puts women front and centre”.

Rowling’s comments come after Sir Keir appeared to shift his position on transgender rights in Thursday’s BBC Question Time election special.

Last year, the Labour leader said “99.9% of women” do not have a penis and in 2021 stated it was “not right” for Labour MP Rosie Duffield to say that “only women have a cervix”.

On Thursday night, he said he agreed with former Labour leader Sir Tony Blair’s position on the issue, saying “biologically, a woman is with a vagina and a man is with a penis”.

Asked about his previous comments on Ms Duffield, he said the debate at the time had become “very toxic, very divided, very hard line”.

In her Times article, Rowling said: “The impression given by Starmer at Thursday’s debate was that there had been something unkind, something toxic, something hard line in Rosie’s words, even though almost identical words had sounded perfectly reasonable when spoken by Tony Blair.”

She added: “For left-leaning women like us this isn’t, and never has been, about trans people enjoying the rights of every other citizen and being free to present and identify however they wish.

“This is about the right of women and girls to assert their boundaries. It’s about freedom of speech and observable truth.”

The author donated £1m to Labour in 2008 but in recent years has been critical of the party’s position on gender.

“As long as Labour remains dismissive and often offensive towards women fighting to retain the rights their foremothers thought were won for all time, I’ll struggle to support them,” she wrote in the Times.

Reacting to her comments, a Labour spokesperson said: “Sex and gender are different, as Labour’s Equality Act makes clear.

“That’s why we have consistently said that we will not introduce self ID and that we will protect single sex spaces for biological women.

“Keir was right to say that the discussion around these issues can become too polarised.

“After years of division under the Conservatives, Labour will bring the country together and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of “protected characteristics”.

These are a set of identifying traits that are protected by law and include age, disability, religion, race, sex and sexual orientation among others.

Some interpret sex in this context as referring strictly to biological sex, while others believe it also applies to people with a gender recognition certificate; a legal document that allows someone to change the legal sex on their birth certificate.

The Conservatives have said they would change the act to apply to biological sex, and say single-sex spaces, such as public toilets and hospital wards, and services such as rape crisis centres do not have to be open to those who are biologically male but identify as female.

Labour says such a change is not needed as the Equality Act already protects single-sex spaces for biological women but the party says it would produce “clearer guidance” on the issue if it wins the general election.

Rowling also accused Sir Keir Starmer of offering no support to Rosie Duffield over the threats and abuse she has received “some of which has originated from within the Labour Party itself”.

Last week, Ms Duffield, who is standing for re-election in Canterbury, said she had not attended election hustings due to “constant trolling” and has spent £2,000 on bodyguards while campaigning.

Labour peer Lord Cashman was suspended from the Labour Party in Parliament by Sir Keir after calling Ms Duffield “frit or lazy” for withdrawing from the events, in a social media post.

The former EastEnders actor and Labour MEP apologised “unreservedly” for the post.

Earlier this month, an internet troll who posted online messages threatening to kill Ms Rowling and Ms Duffield was given suspended jail sentences.

Glenn Mullen, 31, of Clyde Road, Manchester, admitted uploading audio clips in Gaelic threatening to kill Ms Rowling “with a big hammer” and said he was “going to see Rosie Duffield at the bar with a big gun”, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

The full list of candidates standing in Canterbury is:

Luke Buchanan-Hodgman, Social Democratic Party

Rosie Duffield, Labour

Louise Harvey-Quirke, Conservative

Bridget Porter, Reform UK

Henry Stanton, Green Party

Russ Timpson, Liberal Democrats

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