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‘A man cannot be a woman – it’s not hateful to say so’

Conservative MP Rachel Maclean on her brush with the thoughtpolice.

spiked

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

When the UK Green Party revealed Melissa Poulton as its parliamentary candidate for Bromsgrove last week, it was pretty clear that Poulton was a biological man. He may have called himself a woman and described himself as a ‘proud lesbian’, but few were convinced. None less so than Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch and deputy chair of the Conservative Party. Last Friday, she took to X to share a post that referred to Poulton as a ‘man in a wig’. She added that ‘While the Greens don’t know what a woman is, my Worcestershire neighbours, the people of Bromsgrove, certainly do’.

An online pile-on ensued, with trans-activists calling Maclean a vile, hateful transphobe. She was even reported to the police for her comments. spiked caught up with Maclean to get her side of the story.

spiked: What did you say about Melissa Poulton – and what was the response?

Rachel Maclean: I want to start by saying that I support trans rights and that we must treat each other with respect in politics. I didn’t say anything specifically about the Green Party candidate in question. However, I did retweet somebody else’s comment, which I thought was perfectly legitimate within the bounds of normal political discourse on a social-media platform. And that sparked a backlash. But it shouldn’t be controversial to differentiate between a transwoman and biological woman. The fact that it has become so controversial illustrates the heart of the problem.

Most people in the UK find this concerning and they don’t quite understand how to navigate it. Of course, everybody wants to be kind. Many people have transgender friends. But when it comes to making public policy choices about healthcare and criminal justice, we have to be clear on this. We have to base our policies on biological facts, rather than feelings.

spiked: You’ve been called transphobic, vile and hateful. You were even reported to the police. What do you say to people who seem keen to silence you?

Maclean: Yes, I was reported to the police for a ‘non-crime hate incident’, which I’m challenging on the grounds that my being reported was entirely politically motivated. It’s an utter waste of police time. Plenty of my constituents are suffering with anti-social behaviour, car crime, shoplifting and so on. And that’s what the police should be tackling – not faffing around with this.

What I said was not transphobic at all. It’s not hateful. It’s not nasty. And it is, in fact, my right – protected by the free-speech laws in this country – to say that there is a difference between a transgender woman and a biological woman. And that a transgender woman cannot be a lesbian. Somebody has to stand up and say it. I don’t mind if I get attacked. But it’s really difficult for ordinary teachers in a school, for example, or nurses on a hospital ward to do the same. I’ve heard testimony from lots of these people proving as much. So it is important that people know that they can speak out.

spiked: Do you think that these kinds of stories are waking people up to just how out-of-control gender ideology has become?

Maclean: I honestly don’t know. My worry is that, in our current political climate, the Conservatives are the only ones coming out and saying the right things. Keir Starmer has been very woolly on this. Last time I checked, he said that 0.01 per cent of women can have penises. This is not acceptable.

Obviously, people vote for governments on a huge host of issues. And the trans issue is only one of many I talk about. It is, however, an issue that politicians often do not talk about – even though the people want us to say common-sense things like a man cannot be a woman. The problem is rife in our institutions and public services, from the NHS to the criminal-justice system, and the consequences are frightening. We ask these organisations to use their reasonable judgement, but that judgement has clearly been falling down on the wrong side far too many times.

spiked: What do you say to people who downplay the trans issue as little more than a culture-war talking point, rather than a serious isssue?

Maclean: This is a war over how we use language and facts. It is about the right to say things that are true, even if people are telling you that they’re not. It’s easy to see how, if you deny the existence of biological sex, you can quickly move into the space where you deny the existence of a lot of other things. It all stems from the prioritisation of different identities that separate us instead of what holds us all together. And once you start going down that path, you will end up with a competitive hierarchy of vulnerable groups fighting over who deserves the most.

Instead, we should be thinking about what everybody needs – regardless of race or gender identity. And most of our needs are very similar. The whole philosophy of identity politics is really unhelpful and only succeeds in creating divisions in communities. We should be thinking about our shared humanity and our future aspirations, not whether I’m more vulnerable than you because of my skin colour, background and disadvantage. That rabbit hole has no end.

We should not be told that these are tiny problems that nobody cares about, because people really do care about them. Wherever we are in the political cycle, the universal truths remain the same – and we should not be frightened to speak about them.

Picture by: UK Parliament.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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