Self-Cervix: Labour’s Troubles with Women | Frank Haviland
If there’s one thing British politicians are good at, it’s pretending not to know why their voters elected them. Theresa May made a career out of pretending not to know what Brexit meant. Carrie Symonds’ lapdog, ‘Bojo’ (occasionally spotted moonlighting at PMQs), seems convinced his conservative backers harbour a secret desire to ‘level up’, ‘build back greener’, or simply to become ‘more feminine’.
You have to take your flat cap off to the Labour Party however, who are unparalleled geniuses when it comes to identifying issues their voters have zero truck with. You can hardly blame them; it’s not as if YouGov or Lord Ashcroft exist solely to explain why they lost the last election. Better focus group it, just to be on the safe side.
In the aftermath of four lost elections, the worst defeat in almost a century, and the most unpopular leader in 45 years, this year’s Labour Party Conference was a golden opportunity for Keir Starmer’s Party. A chance to prove they are not only listening, but are ready to re-embrace power. An opportunity to address genuine red-wall issues: the NHS, poverty and inequality, the economy, and of course immigration. Alas, it appears to be an opportunity squandered.
Despite the crystal clear lessons from Brexit and 2019 (i.e. dismiss voters’ concerns at your peril), Labour still seem hell-bent on policing the electorate: policing their language, their attitudes, and worse still, denying certain sections of the electorate a voice altogether.
‘There are too many white men putting their hands up’ harangued Mark Ferguson, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee. This was met by titters and a smattering of nervous applause, possibly because no one had informed the assembled Brighton honkies whether they were allowed to clap anything other than the NHS?
The fact that this contemptible behaviour remains unchallenged, demonstrates the magnitude of affection Labour bigwigs feel towards their own voter base – all the bonhomie of an Emily Thornberry day trip to Rochester.
Next, it was the turn of Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who with trademark élan chose her words carefully:
‘We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile … of banana republic… Etonian… piece of scum.’
Not only do I have no problem with these words (it’s an honest reflection of swathes of Labour voters, just ask Jess Phillips), Rayner remains the only Labour frontbencher I could definitely have a drink with. No, the problem is not the use of the word ‘scum’, but Starmer’s prissy reaction to it.
While Sir Keir has taken pains to distance himself from Rayner’s comments, and ‘rebuked’ her for them, he has not insisted she apologise. This of course is Starmer’s great weakness as leader: he stands for everything and therefore nothing. You cannot simultaneously demand the policing of language, only to renege for fear of driving a leadership rival to mutiny.
All of which pales into insignificance, when it comes to 2021’s wokest conundrum: what exactly is the meaning of a cervix? Who would ever have thought that Dawn Butler’s ’90 percent of giraffes are gay’, or ‘babies are born without biological sex’ could be topped, but they have been.
Yes, the Labour Party Conference was dominated by ‘cervixgate’ – which all kicked off when Keir Starmer branded Labour MP Rosie Duffield ‘wrong to say only women have a cervix’, although he generously declined to call it ‘transphobic’:
It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.
Call me Jenny Talia all you want, but I’ve always thought those who can’t accurately identify the contents of their pants shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the shadow cabinet. Labour clearly cannot determine which is the better vote winner: defending women, or telling their voters they don’t know what a woman is. If that doesn’t win the red wall back, nothing will.
The hard truth for Labour is that they ought to be around 20 points clear in the polls. Instead, far from a conference bounce, the Labour vote share has slumped even further post conference. And yet, the Johnson administration is almost certainly the most rudderless 80-seat majority in electoral history.
Even allowing for the turmoil of Covid, the incompetence has been unforgiveable: interminable lockdowns which were never going to happen, an education system in chaos, a Tik-Tok video for an NHS, a complete failure to halt illegal immigration, a politicised police force unfit for their own nail polish, and a national debt even David Lammy couldn’t claim on expenses.
A Party serious about returning to power would take pains to address these issues. But Labour are not serious, which is why they are stuck contemplating their navel. Then again, why should any politician listen to me? I’m just your average bigoted, white, middle-aged male who doesn’t know his cervix from his elbow.