Column: Talking Politics with Craig Whittaker MP - Time for a kinder politics
Whilst it is fair to say Dave and I are at completely the opposite spectrum on political views, one thing we have always shown each other, is respect. It really did sadden me to read his blog recently on ‘Hebweb’, on how his family have been treated by elements of the community.
This level of abuse is now far too common from elements within our communities who are the most open minded, free thinking and intelligent people, until you disagree with them!
No level of common sense is applied and woe betide anyone has a good old-fashioned debate about subjects where a level of respect was used to appreciate differing views, but still able to go and have a pint together after the event. Sadly, those days seem to have long passed.
The issue for Dave’s family was an event organised to support his daughter who had recently lost her job to help fund an Employment Tribunal - a link to her fundraising page can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/support-lecturers-in-education/.
It was a private booking but advertised to the public as a ‘Women’s Only’ event, excluding ‘Trans Women’. Cue overzealous local councillor who decided to intervene on behalf of ‘Trans Women’.
What happened next was one of the worst cases of vile abuse that I’ve witnessed in my 25+ years in politics. The venue suffered thousands and thousands of abusive messages on social media, meanwhile the Boardman family have suffered much abuse too.
There is a lesson here for local political parties absolutely but more so for communities. For far too long now I have women and women's groups come to see me to complain about the erosion of their hard fought for rights and their need to feel safe when they go about their daily lives.
Yes, we absolutely have to respect the rights of others but not when the rights of a few, curtail the rights of the many. The law governing events such as this is very clear. The Equality Act says that providers have the right to restrict the use of spaces on the basis of sex, and exclude transgender people, with or without a Gender Recognition Certificate, if this is justified. On the basis of the level of abuse the venue and family received, this is more than justified to protect women. I can assure you that this position has remained unchanged since 2010, and in my view, this strikes the right balance.
If we talk the talk about ‘kindness’ and a ‘kinder, gentler politics’, then we need to walk the walk too. Yes, we show respect for everyone whether they wish to call themselves something other than what they were born but on the same token we must apply common sense and reality.