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Currying favour with the trans lobby

Stonewall members at Pride in London, 2015. Getty Images

Even my employer doesn’t scrutinise Stonewall closely enough, says BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan in Nolan Investigates: Stonewall. The pushy presenter turns his investigative ire on the LGBTQ+ rights group’s lobbying of the government, media regulator Ofcom and the BBC in this 10-part series. Skip the first episode, which introduces Nolan’s team – “the most robust part of the BBC” – to hear juicy bits on the Beeb (episode 2), as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments and Ofcom (all in episode 6).

Stonewall is intent on making employers and lawmakers accept that gender and sex are “more fluid than simply being male or female”. That’s contested, says Nolan, but Stonewall publishes an influential equality league table of employers, so organisations are overly eager to please it. The podcast reveals that in 2019 Scotland axed the word “mother” from its maternity policy “at Stonewall’s behest”.

Nolan describes the BBC as “the least open and transparent of any organisation we spoke to” about working with Stonewall – although, to its credit, it aired his series anyway. No one from Stonewall agreed to speak. One “allyship” policy taken from the group saw straight staff at the Beeb being told they had a “greater impact” than LGBTQ+ employees, so should volunteer to speak in meetings on their behalf. “Can you imagine if you were saying to a woman, we’re going to get a man to speak on your behalf because they’re listened to more?”

About time, says James Kirkup in The Spectator. I know countless people inside the BBC who have grave doubts about its approach. I’m not saying Stonewall is wrong. But instead of treating it like a player on the pitch, public bodies have designated Stonewall as its own referee. One interest group shouldn’t be privileged above others. This is good BBC journalism, even if it is directed against itself.

Listen to the podcast here.