Next election, the question to trip up every politician won’t be on social care or immigration, but: “What is a woman?” And how to answer this question is already tearing progressive parties apart, says Janice Turner in The Times. Marsha de Cordova, formerly Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister, was “vilified” for meeting feminists who stress sex-based rights over gender identity. After reportedly feeling “cut adrift” by Keir Starmer – who, as with Brexit, has vacillated hopelessly on the issue – she quit. Similar spats have riven the Greens, and “civil war has broken out” in the SNP, which proposes denying raped women the right to choose a female medical examiner. When Lib Dem leader Ed Davey was recently asked if “there should be spaces where biological males can’t go”, he replied: “No.”
Politicians who think this is a niche concern are deluded. Women are furious. “Why can’t they say ‘breast feeding’? Why are they called ‘menstruators’?” They’re no longer afraid of lectures from “woke men” or their “privileged, pronoun-obsessed student daughters”. Only the Tories are reading the room. Kemi Badenoch is attacked by activists for her “science-based, humane attempt” to balance trans and women’s needs as equalities minister, but stands firm. Starmer needs to grasp the gender nettle too. Women make up half the electorate, and there’s a new political slogan in town: “If you don’t respect my sex, you can’t expect to get my X.”
Why it matters
Labour MP Rosie Duffield has pulled out of this weekend’s party conference following threats from militant transgender activists, showing just how fraught gender politics have become, and prompting an angry reaction from Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who said MPs should be able to appear publicly “without fear of harm”. Duffield says she has been branded transphobic for “knowing that only women have a cervix”.