This piece was written on the morning of Wednesday 2 June 2021
It’s been a bad night for Stonewall. Yesterday, the Labour MP Dawn Butler created a Twitter Poll. ‘Who do you trust more?’ she asked her 150,000 followers, Stonewall or Liz Truss?
It’s not exactly clear what inspired Butler to ask this question online, but this is, of course, the MP who last year told Good Morning Britain that she believed ‘babies are born without a sex.’
Butler’s folly gave anyone with a Twitter account the opportunity to have their say. The numbers are not looking good for Stonewall. Although the results may change up until 2pm later today, as of writing over 80,000 votes have already been counted and Truss is leading by 70 to 30.
The reason for the poll’s pointed question is the ongoing controversy over Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme. Stonewall claims that this is the leading employers’ programme for ‘ensuring all LGBTQ+ staff are free to be themselves in the workplace.’
Why anyone would need to hand over good money to show that they treat their staff with dignity and respect is a mystery to me. The law in the UK is clear: sexual orientation and gender reassignment are protected characteristics and it is unlawful to treat people less favourably as a result. This is not rocket science. For example, The Spectator has never coughed up to Stonewall yet it happily engages with gay, Lesbian and trans writers.
At the peak of the scheme, Stonewall was pocketing cash from over 850 organisations across the UK. But while the private companies who sign up are in the end responsible to their shareholders, who can presumably ask questions at the next AGM, the programme also includes government departments and public bodies – around 250 of them. They are spending our money. At the weekend, Truss – as equalities minister – called time on what is at best an unnecessary public expenditure.
Concerns run far deeper than the misuse of public funds though. Evidence is emerging that Stonewall have been misrepresenting the law. In her report about a recent scandal at Essex university (which saw academics no-platformed after being accused of transphobia) the barrister Akua Reindorf was clear, ‘In my view the policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.’
The question comes back to who we should trust. We might trust all sorts of people to varying degrees, but Butler collapsed it to a binary question – a Conservative minister or Stonewall? In the end, it appears that a substantial number of people trust the Conservative minister far more.
I can only hope that Butler and her party take notice of this. It is certainly a learning opportunity for the Labour party, which has far too often allowed itself to be dominated by dogmatic members of the transgender movement.
Will the party listen? Or will they continue to ignore the world outside their activist bubble?
Labour has been held captive by Stonewall’s nonsense for far too long. It is bad for the party and bad for our democracy. For a healthy democracy, we need both sides of the political spectrum to be rooted in reality. If it takes an online poll to bring Labour back to their senses, then Butler may have done us all a service.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.