Women in the Conservative Party yesterday criticised government minister Penny Mordaunt for insisting to MPs that “transmen are men and transwomen are women”.
On Monday Mordaunt, the Paymaster General, spoke for the government on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill which allows Attorney General Suella Braverman to be paid maternity leave.
The minister was accepting amendments forced by the House of Lords to ensure that the goverment’s chosen use of the word ‘person’ should be replaced in the bill with the words ‘mother or expectant mother’.
Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North since 2010, told MPs “The amendments we are accepting today are legitimate and understandable, and critically they are also legally sound, but let me say in supporting them from this Dispatch Box that trans men are men and trans women are women, and great care has been taken in the drafting and accepting of these amendments to ensure that that message has got across.”
The minister added “I think it is progressive for women and for trans men, and that is an important message that we should send.”
However the Conservatives for Women group has lodged a formal complaint with the Chairs of the Conservative Party writing that Mordaunt was “undermining government policy from her privileged position at the dispatch box.”
In their letter Conservatives for Women highlight the impact of gender ideology on lesbians: “Young women and men face being called ‘transphobic’ if their sexual preference is for biological men or women, rather than for anyone according to their gender identity. Lesbian women appear to be under the most sustained attack, with men opting to ‘self-identify’ into their spaces.”
Conservatives for Women said they were setting out “the ways in which gender ideology is undermining important foundations of our society. In our view, the Conservative Party, which has been in government for more than ten years, is doing too little to stem its tide. It is not too far-fetched to say that the Party is therefore complicit in undermining the values it exists to protect. Nobody voted for this ideology; it is in no manifesto. By participating in its promotion, the Conservative Party also undermines trust in our democracy.”
In their letter Conservatives for Women highlight the impact of gender ideology on lesbians: “Some young people are facing a sustained attack and challenge to their sexual identity. Young women and men face being called ‘transphobic’ if their sexual preference is for biological men or women, rather than for anyone according to their gender identity. Lesbian women appear to be under the most sustained attack, with men opting to ‘self-identify’ into their spaces.”
Conservatives for Women’s letter to the Party’s Chairs
Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP for Thurrock, wrote on Twitter: “Everyone is entitled to live as they choose to express themselves. However trite comments that ‘transwomen are women and transmen are men’ belies biological reality. We should all be careful with our words.”
Baroness Claire Fox tweeting a video of Mordaunt’s speech told Twitter followers “For those who criticised making a fuss about ‘just a word’ last wk, here Tory Minister sponsoring maternity bill makes it clear that great care was taken in drafting to ensure trojan-horse message was transmen are men & transwomen are women. Glad we pushed back.”
Transwoman teacher and journalist Debbie Hayton writing for The Spectator said “As a trans person, let me be clear: it is not kind to trans people to let us build our lives on a fallacy. Nobody can change sex, not even trans people. While Penny Mordaunt may be willing to perpetuate this idea, increasing numbers of people – men and women, including trans people of both sexes – see the dangers. We are not bigots, or transphobes, or TERFs. We are reasonable people who think critically and understand reality when it stares us in the face.”
Mordaunt has been a long time supporter of pro LGBT policies in the Conservative Party and as Equalities Minister under Theresa May introduced an LGBT Action Plan. She gave a keynote speech at Stonewall’s Workplace Conference in 2019 where she said organisations and businesses have a role to play in pushing forward LGBT equality.
Political blog Guido Fawkes highlighted Mordaunt’s speech had contradicted the government’s trans policy. “Regardless of Mordaunt’s personal politics, the Equality Act 2010 defines man as ‘meaning male’ and female as ‘meaning female’. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows over-18s to change their gender, this however is distinct from sex according to law. Statements made at the despatch box are intended to reflect the government’s collective view, which Mordaunt clearly ignored in her remarks,” Guido Fawkes said.
The well connected blog continued “Guido suspects she is going rogue on a range of issues because she fears she’ll be sacked at the reshuffle and wants to be able to claim she’s a ‘progressive martyr’.
“A Downing Street source says ‘she can’t bear the fact she’s not in the top team’. This will have done the former Defence Minister no favours ahead of the next reshuffle,” the blog reported.
During her speech this week Mordaunt praised Reigate MP Crispin Blunt for his work for the all-party group on LGBT rights. Last September Blunt had compared Mordaunt’s time as Minister for Women and Equalities with that of the current minister Liz Truss. Asking an urgent question to Truss he said “The contrast in her reputation between each responsibility is horribly stark. On women and equalities, it is horribly stark set against the reputation and achievement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt). It was in her tenure that we created the expectations that we were finally going to deliver on equality for trans people in principle, based on a comprehensive consultation itself based on work under the coalition going back to 2011.”
The Prime Minister’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds is believed to be close to Mordaunt after she campaigned for her in Portsmouth in the 2019 election and the MP was reported to have had dinner with Symonds and Boris Johnson at Number 10.
A Royal Navy reservist Mordaunt was once accused of trivialising parliament after admitting she had smuggled repeated mentions of the word “c**k” into a Commons speech as part of a bet with fellow reservists.
Photo: Malcolm Park/Alamy Live News