Jennie Formby – A reply to Labour Women for Women’s Rights

Jennie Formby, the General Secretary of the Labour Party, has written the following reply to the Labour Women for Women’s Rights open letter which was addressed to her and Jeremy Corbyn.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your concerns about the NEC statement about All Women Shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women.

The purpose of the statement was to set out and explain Labour’s current policy on All Women Shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women, in order to address any confusion or concerns. It did not change our policy in any way.

The Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women, as are the positions of women’s officer and minimum quotas for women. The Labour Party is committed to upholding the principle of affirmative action for women. Anyone attempting to breach Labour Party rules and subvert the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women will be dealt with via our established safeguards, selection procedures and disciplinary measures.

This restatement of our policy is not about the Gender Recognition Act or women-only spaces. As outlined in Labour’s manifesto, we are committed to updating the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 in line with the principles of self-declaration to ensure it provides proper protection for trans people from discrimination. The Party will be developing more detailed policy on how this will be achieved and how important safeguards and protections for all women, including vulnerable women, will be maintained. There will be a full consultation with relevant stakeholders on the detail of this so I hope that this goes some way to reassure you. The National Policy Forum also offers scope for further discussion about the Gender Recognition Act. See

We recognise that there is a diversity of views on this subject and there has been no attempt to silence different opinions on what is a complex and emotive issue for many members. All members are entitled to their views and must be able to express them and engage in discussion in a respectful manner. All forms of abuse or intimidation are unacceptable and will be addressed according to our rules and procedures.

As only the second woman to hold the position of Labour Party General Secretary, I am fully committed to the women’s equality and I hope that you will continue with your membership of the Labour Party.

London FBU LGBT Section position statement on GRA proposals

The London LGBT Section of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) (after member consultation) have agreed the following position statement on proposals to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Statement on behalf of the LGBT London Section

The Gender Recognition Act is in urgent need of review. The government are currently consulting on proposals that would streamline the process for individuals transitioning, making it easier for a person to legally change their sex. These proposals include allowing individuals to ‘self-identify’ as the opposite sex without the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or having to undergo any hormonal treatment, or surgery.

Although we support many of the government’s proposals such as making the transition process simpler and removing many of the stressful and humiliating obstacles that those transitioning face, we are however concerned about the concept of allowing a person to simply ‘self-identify’ as someone of the opposite sex and the possible impact this could have on women only spaces.

Under the Equality Act 2010, sex is a protected characteristic. It is therefore legally important, as a commitment to women’s equality, that the impact of these proposals on the sex protected characteristics is discussed and assessed.

We believe that women (both as individuals and through representative organisation and service providers) must be consulted on any proposed changes to laws which will affect them. Therefore in line with the position of Woman’s Place UK we have 5 demands that must take place before any changes to the Gender Recognition Act regarding ‘self-identity’ are made:

  1. Respectful and evidence based discussion about the impact of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to be allowed to take place and for women’s voices and trans voices to be heard;
  2. The principle of women only spaces to be upheld – and where necessary extended.
  3. A review of how the exemptions in the Equality Act which allow for single sex services or requirements that only a woman can apply for a job (such as in a domestic violence refuge) are/will be being applied in practice;
  4. Government to consult with women’s organisations on how self-declaration would impact on women only services and spaces;
  5. Government to consult on how self-declaration will impact upon data gathering – such as crime, employment, pay, and health statistics – and monitoring of sex-based discrimination such as the gender pay gap.

Labour Women for Women’s Rights

25th May 2018 Update: Jennie Formby has replied to the open letter below.

8th May 2018

Dear Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby,

The Labour Party has announced a policy on All-Women Shortlists (AWS) that seriously threatens women’s rights and is in breach of the Equality Act (2010). This has happened with no debate having taken place and before Jeremy Corbyn has met with women’s groups as he promised. The Labour Manifesto in 2017 said (p109) “A Labour government will gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.”

It was Labour’s awareness of the under-representation of women in political life that led to the establishment of AWS and Women’s Officers in the first place. We have therefore found the decision on AWS deeply troubling in asserting gender identity over sex-based exemptions.

We fully understand the frustration felt by many Labour women that their voices are not being listened to. Many women Labour Party members are so concerned about this that they are leaving the Party.

We want a Labour government to improve the lives of women but we are concerned at the disregard with which women have been treated and understand that many of us feel alienated and afraid.

We fully support the rights of those who have undergone gender reassignment not to face discrimination as transgender people as is their right under the Equality Act (2010). However, women are also a protected group under the Equality Act and we are concerned that groups, including the Labour Party, are unwilling to uphold our right to sex-segregated spaces.

Sexism and misogyny are still endemic in society and no organisation is immune from it, including the Labour Party.

Recently too many men have not been reprimanded for using sexist obscenities as insults or defamatory caricatures of feminist debate. We will not tolerate women being slurred with the misogynist insult TERF or being called ‘cis’ against their will. Where sexist obscenities against women are used to silence debate we expect the Party to deal with these matters appropriately through the disciplinary process.

We expect the Party’s membership to understand the need for vigilance and to challenge sexism and misogyny.

However, we also believe there are signs of a growing awareness in the party that these issues of concern to us must be addressed. As grassroots members of the Labour Party, we pledge ourselves to ensuring that Labour is pro-active in the fight against women’s oppression and sex discrimination.

To this end, we have decided to stay as members of the Labour Party for now to make sure that women’s concerns are taken seriously within the party and its many structures.

We call on Jeremy Corbyn to meet with women, as promised, to discuss our concerns. We call on Labour women to redouble their efforts to make the party fit for purpose and to remain in the Party with us, not with illusions, but with spirit and determination to make women’s lives better and to increase our political representation.

Yours sincerely,

Kiri Tunks (Walthamstow), Glynis Millward (Central Cardiff), Helena Coates (Salford & Eccles), Judith Green (Cambridge), Ann McTaggart (Tottenham), Denise Bennett (Women’s Officer, Blaydon), Lucy Masoud (Tooting), Diane Jones (Newcastle Central), Bronwen Davies (Cardiff North), Laura Oakley (Tottenham), Rebecca Lush (Winchester), Lisa Bishop (Maldon), Shonagh Glen (Dundee), Alice Bondi (Penrith & The Border), Annie Thomas (Bristol West), Ruth Serwotka (Carmarthenshire East), Emma Dolan (Leeds NE), Shani Kara (Tottenham), Amanda MacLean (Tottenham), Emma Wilkes (Stalybridge & Hyde), Dianne Vine (Bournemouth East), Louise Hersee (Hastings & Rye), Gill Parke (Bournemouth East), Pilgrim Tucker (Vauxhall), Emma Barraclough (Bristol South), Jan Pemberton (Bristol West), Ruth Conlock (Manchester Withington), Cllr Sue Lent (Cardiff Central), Sona Mahtani (Tottenham), Julie Armstrong (Gateshead),Paula Dauncey (Cardiff Central), Sarah White (Worsley & Eccles), Sarah Johnson (Cambridge ), Ceri Williams (Tottenham), Jennifer James (Garston & Halewood), Catia Freitas (Esher & Walton), Rebecca Heath (Brent), Lisa Bishop (Maldon), Emma Salmon (Bexhill & Battle), Ruth Gordon (Tottenham), Debbie Epstein (Cambridge), Kay Green (Hastings & Rye), Shani Kara (Tottenham), Julia Richards (Hornsey & Wood Green), Cathy Devine (Withington), Pam Isherwood (Tottenham), Holly Brewer (Oxford East), Lisa-Marie Taylor (Brighton), Selina Todd (Manchester Withington), Helen Soutar (Stafford), Paula Boulton (Corby & East Northants), Therese O’Meara (Tottenham), Gill Parke (Bournemouth East), Kay Green (Hastings & Rye), Hilary Adams (Tottenham), Marjorie Caw (Bristol West), Kate Jerrold (Bristol East), Hayley Mullen (Tottenham), Prue Plumridge (Maldon), Marta Garcia de la Vega (Tottenham), Janet Holden (Cambridge), Heather Downs (Rochester & Strood), Ruth Todd (Newcastle Central), Sohayalla Wilson (Manchester Gorton), Eleanor Tristram (Stafford), Sarah Cave (Tottenham) Tania Ziegler (Winchester), Matesa McKeefery (Rossendale & Darwen), Rebecca Pennington (Lewisham Deptford), Laura McGrath (Walthamstow), Sylvia Dobie (Tottenham), Anna Hillier (Camberwell & Peckham), Amanda Lesiatoi (Bristol West), Susan Matthews (Dulwich & West Norwood), Fiona English (Tottenham), Frankie Rickford (Shrewsbury & Atcham), Nicola Kerry (Thornbury & Yate), Pamela Beamish (Bristol North West), Karen Kruzycka (Romford), Cathy Love (Ilford South), Naomi Fearon (Salford & Eccles), Senia Paseta (Oxford West & Abingdon), Lynn Walsh (Twickenham), Lizzie Bartram (Bristol East), Jess Goldie (Bury North), Ann Sinnott (Cambridge), Catherine Bjarnason (Ealing), Charlotte Delaney (Waveney), Gwenan Richards (Chair, Bishops Ward, Vauxhall), Catherine Muller (Vauxhall), Jen Izaakson (Richmond), Cathy Boardman (Manchester Central), Esther Giles (Bristol North West), Lynne Caffrey (Blaydon), Jan Baxter (Leeds Central), Li Doran (Haringey), Bridie Norton (Corby & East Northants), Gwenda Owen (Cardiff Central), Becky Vaughan (Brighton Pavilion), Helen Martlew (Stafford), Fiona Leggo (Norwich South), Shanthie Wild (Bristol East), Cllr Louise Nixon (Stafford), Ornella Saibene (Bristol West), Beth Aze (Stretford & Urmston) Philipa Harvey (Coulsdon South), Samantha Scott (Corby & East Northants), Daisy Lee (Manchester Withington), Katherine Rutter (Corby & East Northants), Emma Aynsley (Cardiff Central), Jackie Hartley (Stafford), Helen Dickson (Wavertree), Lorraine Robinson (York Central), Sheila Spencer (North Tyneside), Pam Smith (Coventry South), Jane Galloway (Sidcup), Nicola Clements (Stafford), Mara Leverkuhn (Salford & Eccles) Nina Houghton (Women’s Officer, Wavertree), Katharine Cotter (Stafford), Ann Morch (Calder Valley), Madison Plumridge (Ealing), Andree Jamileh Beida Ryan (Ealing), Melissa Briscoe (Stretford & Urmston) Maggie Wellington (Stretford & Urmston), Lynn Alderson (Totnes & South Hams), Alison Morris (Rochdale)