Jo Bartosch has a message for Lord Herbert of South Downs, Boris Johnson’s new special envoy on LGBT rights.
To mark the end of Pride month, the ‘professionally LGBT’ were invited to a soiree at No. 10. Those at the gathering included LGBT envoy Nick Herbert, the first Officer in the British Armed Forces to identify as trans and representatives from Stonewall.
Nick Herbert is a former MP; in 2020 he left the green benches of the Commons and slipped into an ermine-trimmed robe in the Lords as Baron Herbert of South Downs. Founder of the Countryside Alliance, fox-hunting enthusiast, and chair of the Royal College of Policing, one wonders how he fits in his role as the special envoy on LGBT rights. Herbert was also the first openly gay Conservative to be elected in 2005.
In an interview for Times Radio Herbert announced of the current stalemate around sex-based rights “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… I don’t think that’s what the prime minister wants us to do.” He went on to praise the work of Stonewall and to suggest 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 suggesting a “transgender Member of Parliament” would be a sign of “progress.” With these words he clearly signalled both his ignorance of the issues, and exactly where he stands “on what some are seeing as a culture war.”
Herbert is due to be working with Equalities Minister Liz Truss, to coordinate a year of domestic action on ‘LGBT issues’ – something Truss will no doubt entertain with about as much enthusiasm as a dose of Covid.
In June 2022 Herbert will chair the ‘Safe To be Me’ LGBT conference in London, and it seems he is intent on showcasing his version of progress across the world. Herbert has made bold claims about his relationship with the Prime Minister. Given the hosting of the LGBT reception at No. 10, the appointment of Herbert to a specially created role and his lead role in the conference planned for next year, it seems fair to assume his boasts are substantiated. Herbert is due to be working with Equalities Minister Liz Truss, to coordinate a year of domestic action on ‘LGBT issues’ – something Truss will no doubt entertain with about as much enthusiasm as a dose of Covid.
One might have hoped that Lord Herbert would have looked into his brief a little more deeply – that he might have questioned the huge rise in rates of referral to gender identity clinics, that he might have met with the LGB Alliance, that he might have questioned why Stonewall is shedding support. But Herbert seems more focused on expanding his influence than reflecting on what he has clearly dismissed as a fictitious culture war.
Herbert’s apparent lack of curiosity is surprising, particularly given his role as chair of the Royal College of Policing. Last year in what was heralded as a victory for freedom of speech, campaigner Harry Miller won a significant victory against both the Royal College of Policing and The Chief Constable of Humberside. Miller was questioned by the police, who turned-up at his place of work, following tweets he made which were reported as ‘transphobic.’ In his ruling, Mr Justice Julian Knowles was scathing, noting:
“There was not a shred of evidence that the Claimant was at risk of committing a criminal offence. The effect of the police turning up at his place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated. To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi.”
It seems acknowledging that the police have in effect been turned into a militia force for trans activists doesn’t fit with Herbert’s image as the salesperson for LGBT Britain.
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch MP and the redoubtable Truss have held the government line for common sense.
After the government LGBT advisory board was disbanded earlier this year, for a while it seemed like common sense was returning to No.10. While Stonewall-supported campaigns like a total ban on conversion therapy saw MPs stake their rainbow flags in the ground, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch MP and the redoubtable Truss have held the government line for common sense.
But the whispering presence of special advisers like Henry Newman, a close friend of Carrie Symonds, have stymied attempts to address the pernicious spread of trans activism through the mechanisms of state. Crispin Blunt MP and others on the Global LGBT+ All-Party Parliamentary Group have the parliamentary angle covered. The addition of Nick Herbert presents a further roadblock, unless he can be persuaded that cheerleading for gender identity might harm his reputation – and for Tory MPs that it might harm their vote.
Top photo from Twitter @nickherbertcbe