Gary Powell: Why flying the right rainbow flag matters

23 Jul

Cllr Gary Powell is a former councillor in Buckinghamshire.

Cllr Martin Tett, the Leader of Conservative Buckinghamshire Council, authorised the hoisting of the standard rainbow Pride flag at the authority’s offices on Global Pride Day, June 27th, in line with the Council’s policy on inclusivity. However, the flag that was instead raised, with its superimposed triangular design celebrating inter alia hard-line transgender ideology, was the “Progress Pride Flag”. This design emerged in 2018 and, whatever its original intention, has come to be associated with the militant extreme gender movement. Its ideology champions a version of identity politics that is particularly harmful to lesbian and gay people, to women’s sex-based rights, and to child safeguarding: topics about which I have written previously in these pages.

As a gay man, a conservative, and someone who has campaigned over four decades for fairer treatment and greater acceptance of lesbian and gay people, it is with considerable dismay and horrified incredulity that I have observed the emergence of a new extremist LGBTQ+ movement over the past ten years: one now in full colonisation and cancel-culture mode. This new movement insists aggressively that there is an untestable but objectively real entity called “gender” that is more important than biological sex, and that anyone should be allowed to declare his or her “gender” on the basis of self-identification alone, conferring all the legal and social rights and protections of the biological sex with which that “gender” is deemed to correspond. Where this unscientific insanity is allowed to prevail, it puts men and boys in women’s and girls’ protected environments and categories, and it gives any predatory non-trans-identified man the legally-protected opportunity to pretend he identifies as transgender so he can freely access those spaces with ulterior motives.

LGBTQ+ ideology also promotes the redefinition of homosexuality as “same-gender attraction” rather than “same-sex attraction”, leading in particular to biological men with penises invading lesbian dating sites while claiming to be lesbians, and same-sex oriented people being called “transphobes” and “bigots” when we insist we are only attracted to people of our own sex, not to people of the opposite sex who identify as our “gender”. This attempt to redefine our sexual orientation out of existence is, of course, the very opposite of “gay rights”.

The modern LGBTQ+ lobby also insists, in this social pandemic of real or designer gender dysphoria and transgender identification, that children can give informed consent to puberty-blockers: drugs that almost always lead to cross-sex hormones and that are a passport to sterilisation, lifetime medical patient status, sexual stimulation impairment, and possibly also to drastic surgical procedures. No gay rights activist should ever campaign for measures that are misogynistic, homophobic, and contemptuous of basic child safeguarding. Yet across the West, a sea of LGBTQ+ activists refuse to recognise the serious harm they are causing, and to desist from it. It is staggering that President Biden and his administration rank among the worst gender fanatic poseurs on the planet: an indicator of how serious and widespread the problem is.

As a recently-retired Member of Buckinghamshire Council, it was a cause of considerable surprise and consternation for me to see the Council’s tweet championing that flag, together with the words:

Flying the flag yesterday for #GlobalPrideDay! Showing our support for our LGBTQ+ staff, communities and residents in Bucks. #PrideMonth #LoveWins”

A new flag outside a government building can, of course, be a signal of colonisation, so I wondered whether the ideological capture of the increasingly woke Conservative Party hierarchy by extreme gender ideology had made new inroads. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s recent Pride Reception at 10 Downing Street was one to which Stonewall were pointedly invited, according to Lord Herbert – the Government’s first special envoy on LGBT rights. As many readers will already know, Stonewall is the notorious extreme gender ideology outfit that is regularly slated in quality newspapers. At the same time, the maligned and misrepresented LGB Alliance – the only UK charity dedicated to campaigning for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) rights while opposing gender extremism – were left off the Pride Reception guest list by the Prime Minister. Proof, if any were needed, that the Government had simply thrown an unreconstructed rainbow genderfest.

Our Conservative Prime Minister is causing immense harm by feting Stonewall: and this, in the face of all the excoriating media publicity and objections to taxpayers’ money being wasted on an organisation that many lesbian and gay people from across the political spectrum are now demanding should be defunded and ostracised.

Even though Lord Herbert has stated there are areas of disagreement, such as on gender self-identification, between the Government and Stonewall, the Stonewall that he claimed “has done brilliant work over the years to promote equality” is the Stonewall of yesteryear: not today. Now, its obsession is to promote extreme gender ideology: so why are the Government and Lord Herbert empowering a rancid organisation that is well past its use-by date and set to cause increasing sickness in the society where its toxic product is consumed – or rather, force-fed? Who on Earth is advising the Prime Minister to behave like a woke apparatchik?

However, amidst all this gloom, at least there was reassuring news concerning the Progress Pride Flag outside Buckinghamshire Council’s offices. Cllr Tett explained to me that he had definitely not agreed to the hoisting of this more controversial version of the Pride flag, that he had taken up the matter with his Comms team, and that he did not intend for this particular flag to be flown again.

So Buckinghamshire has not fallen. Indeed, unlike Conservative Surrey County Council, Buckinghamshire Council is not wasting taxpayers’ money on Stonewall’s much-criticised Diversity Champions scheme, either – which I compare to the selling of indulgences under Pope Leo X. Other Conservative administrations across the country might care to watch out for what flag is raised on Global Pride Days. The LGBTQ+ lobby has been very successful at insinuating its ideology by stealth, under the radar; and watchful eyes are needed in local authorities and everywhere else.

While central Government and Lord Herbert entertain and flatter Stonewall, they are failing to provide our nation with what we desperately need: unequivocal, wise, and courageous leadership, together with action to protect the basic civil rights and liberties of vulnerable groups in the face of an extreme identity politics onslaught. A Government’s first priority should be to protect its citizens from harm.

Many left-wing people – particularly women – are now even declaring their intention to vote Conservative because of this specific crucial issue, on which the other main parties have sold out completely. If the Government continues with its shifty and pusillanimous appeasement of Stonewall, however, these leased-out votes will be retracted. Furthermore, the years leading up to Brexit should surely have taught the Conservative hierarchy a stark lesson in what happens when they abandon their grassroots supporters. The Conservative Party now risks haemorrhaging votes from grassroots conservatives who abhor spineless creeping capitulation to an extreme gender politics Zeitgeist that is ideologically rooted in the hard left.

We surely did not leave the European Union in order to become Gender Woo-Woo Island; nor for our sovereign Conservative Government to be stuck in timorous thrall to neo-Marxist identity politics.

Jackie Doyle-Price and Miriam Cates: The trans debate. Women are standing up for their rights, not declaring a culture war

10 Jul

Jackie Doyle-Price is a former Health Minister, and is MP for Thurrock. Miriam Cates is MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge.

This week, Frank Luntz, the U.S pollster, said that “The problem with woke and with cancel culture is that it is never done. The conflict and divisions never end,” warning that “this is not what the people of the UK want – but it’s coming anyway.” In a report for the Centre for Policy Studies, Dr Luntz states that woke culture is now the biggest dividing line amongst voters.

His research into UK voter attitudes found that ‘wokeism’ is now a top three priority for the British public, and that the divisions between the ‘woke’ and the ‘non-woke’ are greater than those between north and south, urban and rural, women and men, and even young versus old.

Into this new battleground has ridden the Prime Minister’s special envoy for LGBT Rights, Lord Herbert . The former MP for Arundel said last weekend: “I wouldn’t like to see the government in any way take a side on what some are seeing as a culture war on these issues”.

But he then did exactly that by praising the work of Stonewall, and suggesting that “it would really help to change the debate in this country if we had more trans people in leading positions in our national life here” – in particular a “transgender Member of Parliament”.

The more than 800 comments below a subsequent Times article leave little doubt that the general public have very definite views on the desirable qualities of parliamentary candidates. And that women in particular are increasingly concerned about the erosion of rights and language in this particular arena.

As the judge in last week’s High Court judicial review over the inclusion of transwomen in the women’s prison estate made clear, we are now at a point where there is a direct collision of rights: those hard-won sex based rights and protections for women and girls, and the rights of a small group of people who feel that their gender identity differs from their sex.

Implying that this is a “culture war” is to debase what is a valid fightback by women against the erosion of our rights, our descriptive language and our spaces. An aggressive agenda is currently being pursued by a number of organisations – including Stonewall – resulting in legitimate concerns amongst parents, doctors, psychologists, athletes, teachers and women’s groups as well as the wider public.

Talk of culture wars does not help to encourage moderate and sensible debate, nor the search for solutions that respect and protect the rights of both groups.

We have all seen the rifts that formed across our four nations following the EU Referendum in 2016, and the vast majority of people despair of this increasing polarisation, and wish to live in a society where we are united by our common goals and aspirations, not divided by identity politics. A Cassandra, in the form of Dr Luntz, has predicted the US-style trajectory on which we are currently plotted, and from which we need to start to steer a new course.

Tolerance, a virtue for which the British have enormous capacity, is becoming the exception rather than the rule. People are bewildered as to where the new diktats are coming from. NHS leaflets talk of ‘cervix havers’ and ‘chest feeders’, Government policy documents on menstrual products in schools’ reference ‘learners’ instead of ‘girls’, and the House of Lords had, only recently, to fight for the inclusion of the word ‘mother’ in the Ministerial & other Maternity Allowances Bill. Our own amendments to this Bill in the Commons’ stages, to ensure the word ‘woman’ was included, were not accepted.

Perfectly legitimate and temperate comments on social media by celebrities can result in outcry and calls for ‘cancellation’; ‘misgendering’ and stating biological facts can lead to the law courts; academics and people in other ‘woke-heavy’ industries feel silenced and afraid to speak out.

How can it be right when ordinary people find themselves accused of ‘bigotry’ for expressing mainstream opinion? This is not a healthy development: all ideas must be open to robust debate and scrutiny, otherwise one must doubt the very democracy on which our society is based.

And let us not forget that our Parliament is still far from representative of our population – 51 per cent of the UK are female while women make up a mere 34 per cent of members in the House of Commons (an all-time high), and 28 per cent of the Upper Chamber.

Within the Conservative Party, women make up only 24 per cent of our MPs. It is barely 100 years since women were even allowed to vote or stand for election – and less than 65 years since women were allowed to sit in the House of Lords.

But, as Pink News proclaimed in December 2019, the UK Parliament is “the gayest in the world” – with no less than 57 openly LGBTQ members, and 8.8 per cent of members in the Commons, including 11 women and 25 Conservatives. It could be said that LGBTQ representation is positively thriving.

We would like to invite Lord Herbert to engage with those whose views differ from his own; to meet some of the women’s groups who are concerned about the rights of women prisoners or victims of domestic violence; to listen to the voices of parents who are increasingly concerned about the push to ‘affirm’ questioning children and steer them down a pathway of lifelong medical interventions; to hear from those in the gay and, particularly, lesbian community whose same-sex attractions are being called into question; and to consider the views of sportswomen who have concerns over safety and fairness.

He will find that there is no battle against LGBTQ individuals, nobody wishes to deprive anyone of their rights, but that, as can be seen by the huge exodus of women from other political parties that have not stood up for the protection of the sex-based rights of women and girls, the time has come for us in the Conservative Party to stop with the entreaties to #BeKind – and start to be sensible in finding a solution that does not mean expecting women to keep quiet, move over and make space.