Why I still wanted to be in the Labour Party
I left Labour in a fit of pique in 2018 when the then General secretary, Jennie Formby, announced that all-women-shortlists would no longer be women only.
I applied to join again in December 2019 after the election defeat. I wanted to be part of building the party ready to win the next election because I am a socialist as well as a feminist. The thought of another five-years of Tory rule was bad enough. I wanted to help make sure that it wasn’t ten.
My application was rejected on the grounds that information had been brought to the party’s attention that I had engaged in conduct online “that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility based on gender identity”. I wrote about the saga here. I appealed. The appeal process concluded in July 2020, my appeal was unsuccessful.
I reapplied in June 2021, just after the Forstater ruling. It was now recognised in law that beliefs such as mine, that is, recognition of the reality of the difference between sex and gender, knowing that people cannot change sex, that women are disadvantaged if we can’t even name and measure sex discrimination (and so many more examples) were “worthy of respect in a democratic society” and our right to that belief was a protected characteristic. However, my application was rejected again. The reason given to me was that it had not been two years since my initial rejection.
So, two years after my application had been initially rejected (on 24 March 2022), I applied again. I was rejected again. This time I was given the reason that it was not two years since my appeal was rejected. So, I applied again on 21 July 2022, two years to the day of the conclusion of the appeal process. I got no response. Just in case my application had fallen down the back of a metaphorical filing cabinet, I applied again at the end of March 2023.
I’m very pleased to share that I am now a member of the Labour Party.
Why have I bothered to persist with a party that didn’t want me? Because – despite the imperfections of the Labour Party, and yes, I know there are many – I firmly believe that Labour offers the best policies for the majority of women in the UK.
I know the term ‘socialist feminist’ has again become a term of derision to some, but it’s a badge I’m proud to wear. I’m a feminist. I’m a socialist. They’re not incompatible, in fact I think that neither can be what it claims to be without the other. I prioritise women and within that I prioritise women who have been subjected to men’s violence. But I recognise that sex is not the only axis of oppression and privilege. I recognise that class, race, other inequalities and iniquitous social policies mean some women have fewer life chances and opportunities than others. I believe that the Labour Party deals with these inequalities better than the Tories and are the only Party which could possible beat the Tories in England and Wales in a general election.
Many women – and some men – some whose names some of us know and some whose names most of us do not, are working behind the scenes to make legislative and policy change. And of course, there are many whose work is visible and recognised. Some of these women and men are making sure that the Labour Party does not let women’s sex-based rights and protections slip like dry sand through fingers. Thank you to all those people for the fight you are fighting and the differences that you are making. Thank you for trying even where you fail or feel like you’re failing.
Some on the left have turned their backs on women’s rights. It has ever been thus. But feminists do not have to turn our backs on inequalities beyond sex inequality. Women don’t lead single issue lives and I’m not a single-issue feminist. Gender identity ideology is a threat to women’s rights and the mechanisms for responding to the many manifestations of sex inequality. It is an important fight but it is not our only fight. I’m not going to let sexist men, misogynistic men and women who won’t fight for women define the left or drive the rest of us out of grassroots or mainstream politics. I’m not going to sit back and let them write-off those of us who fight for women’s rights as right-wingers and traditionalists. I’m not going to collude with those on the right whose gender criticism aligns with regressive politics and a roll back of women’s freedoms or LGB equality. Whilst it’d be churlish of me to not acknowledge that some who are not of the left are making important contributions to the fight against gender identity ideology and resistance to ideological capture and I myself am of the left. I think and hope that I always will be. I’m not going to stop Defending Women’s Spaces. And I want the next UK government to be a Labour government.