Has Hastings’ ruling Labour group blocked its own councillors from saying what they think in public?

A wall of silence has greeted any attempts to gain some clarity on an internal row over the rights of transgender people to ‘self-identify’ that is said to be tearing Hastings Labour Party apart.

Last Wednesday, newly elected Labour Councillor Claire Carr, attending her first meeting, refused to back a member of the old guard–Councillor Ruby Cox–for the role of Deputy Mayor. She was the sole abstention from the vote of the entire council, with Tory opposition even voting in favour.

A statement issued by the party this morning, more than a week after the storm first erupted is already being criticised for not going far enough in explaining the local party’s position, while others are demanding statements from the protagonists at the centre of the row so they can fully understand the positions they themselves are taking. But rather than face the issue head-on and allow councillors Ruby Cox and Claire Carr to explain their positions to the public, the party – we have been told – has instructed councillors NOT to talk to the press about the dispute between the two women.

One party insider told Hastings In Focus: “This is a great embarrassment to the party.” Another said: “This is what we have been seeing for some time – a continued lack of accountability and self-serving behaviour.”

The social media post from Ms Cox which is believed to have been the catalyst for the row.

The first council meeting after an election should be a routine matter and last Wednesday’s meeting was going to plan until it came to the election of Deputy Mayor.

Veteran councillor Ruby Cox was nominated. In normal circumstances the vote would have been a formality but last week one of her fellow Labour councillors could not support her and abstained.

It emerged on social media that the two women disagree on the rights that transgender people should have in a modern society.

On one side of the argument you have newly elected Labour councillor for Castle Ward Claire Carr, who on Twitter she describes herself as: “Mother, wife, socialist, ex stage manager,
parent and send advocate, pansexual, she/her and so many other things.” Her issue with Ms Cox revolves around her posting a link to a guide on how to fill out the gender recognition act, to prevent further equal rights for LGBT+ people.

One observer noted: “Any sensible LGBT+ person would not vote for someone who does not want to grant equal rights to them.”

Neither in the meeting itself nor following it did Ms Carr make any official explanation on why she abstained and on Thursday Hastings In Focus made its first of numerous attempts to speak to her. We believe the people of Hastings have a right to to know why a councillor they have elected and a Labour councillor at that, felt unable to support the woman who will be one of the town’s principal figureheads in the coming years.

Our approaches to Ms Carr and to Ms Cox have been ignored.

In the wake of the meeting we also asked the Labour Party for a comment, we emailed: “Does the party have a comment to make regarding Claire Carr’s abstention in the vote for Deputy Mayor last night? We understand the two women disagree over LGBTQ issues.”

The response we received said: “I’ll see if someone can get back to you.” No one did.

So we asked Ms Cox herself: “I was hoping I could get a comment from you on the on-going issues between yourself and Claire Carr.

“Over the last few days I’ve had various on and off-the-record conversations with Labour party supporters, members and councillors. I’ve also had conversations and email exchanges with those representing the local LGBT community. I’m planning to do a story towards the end of the week and that would obviously benefit from direct comments from you and Claire – I’m sure the rumour I’m hearing that the party has slapped a ban on councillors talking to the press on this issue is not true.

“One specific issue I would be interested in hearing your view on is that it has been suggested to me that you will not be welcome at Pride in your role as Deputy Mayor.
Given the great support the council and Labour councillors in particular have given to the event in the past would that not be somewhat embarrassing?”

Once again there was no response.

Finally this morning a statement was forthcoming from the Labour party but it still failed to address the specific issue: “As a Labour council we are committed to tackling inequality and promoting equality and diversity. We passed a motion at full council last year reaffirming our commitment to combat racism and prejudice in all its forms.

“We are refreshing our town’s Equality Charter through the Local Strategic Partnership and will be consulting with and inviting community groups, voluntary organisations, businesses, sports clubs, and service providers to sign up to it.

“We are proud to support Hastings Pride and are working with Pride again this year to ensure a successful event. Hastings Labour group supports our party’s national policy and is committed to championing the fight for LGBT+ equality.

“Locally and nationally we’re proud of our record – Labour abolished Section 28, equalised the age of consent, created civil partnerships and it was only through Labour votes that equal marriage became law. However, transgender people continue to face widespread discrimination and there is still a long way to go on issues such as education, equal access to public services, levels of LGBT+ hate crime, and mental and physical well being.

“As a party we’re committed to ensuring trans people can live their lives with equality, dignity and respect. We will resist any attempts to roll back hard-won rights and we are committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for trans people.”

A Labour party insider explained: “This is a great embarrassment for the party. Ruby is a senior councillor and Claire is seen as someone with a bright future.”

They went on to explain the issue between the two women was a complex one, “… the two sides cannot agree and there is no room for compromise, it is all down to the issue of self identification.”

While Ms Carr supports the concept of transgender people being able to ‘self-identify’ which is described as where a trans person could legally change their gender without, for example, a medical diagnosis, Ms Cox is described by some as a TERF, a Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist, who refuses to accept self-identification as a way forward.

Local resident Adam Wide says: “Sadly the ‘old guard’ will find themselves on the wrong side of history…. young people today don’t care about gender politics – other than to let people be who they are. The TERF battles that trans rights erode women’s rights is very much a reactionary approach that really isn’t supported among the young ones!”

17 thoughts on “Has Hastings’ ruling Labour group blocked its own councillors from saying what they think in public?

  1. This story has been sent to several lgbtq+ publications. I am so incredibly tired of the Hastings Labour Councils charade of pretending to support the lgbtq+ community at pride and then all but one councillor votes a transphobe to become deputy mayor, utterly disgusting, Maya Evans pretends to be a friend to the lgbt community, and in private, doesn’t care and votes for Ruby Cox.

  2. Believing that women have the right to be consulted on changes that affect their safety, privacy and dignity does NOT make a person a “transphobe”. Throwing childish playground-bully insults adds nothing to the debate and has one and only one purpose: to silence the opposition.

    The other tactic used is to threaten, harass, bully and even physically assault women who dare to question the erosion of her sex’s rights or who are concerned with their daughter’s safety, dignity and rights.

    The vast majority of the ordinary people of this and every other town do not support the wholesale stripping of the rights of women and girls, particularly without debate, democracy or consultation with the very people who are affected.

    I note that HIF has perpetuated this by having conversations and email exchanges ONLY with the LGBT+ and not with women, who are over 50% of the population.

    1. A few questions:

      1.I note over several years on this issue, that feminist groups, LGBTQ women, unions, female MPs etc have been in discussions about self id, including invitations to representatives of anti-trans groups too
      – where do you feel that women were not consulted?

      2. You speak floridly about sex based rights for women being ‘taken away’
      – please provide specific examples of these rights that you believe are being “stripped” from women a d girls?
      And, considering no recent changes in our laws ( except making the application for a gender certificate cheaper) under the property ‘trans’
      what has actually changed in Britain since 2010?

      3. You also speak of women being bullied and harassed ( even physically???)
      – I can’t say that I’ve seen any evidence of this, perhaps what you maybe referring to is a ‘response’ to hard-line gender critical groups that have recently gathered and organised against the trans community? May I turn your logic: I am deeply disturbed by these recently formed groups, largely by second wave feminists, that have never accepted trans people, as 99% of current feminism does, notably under intersectionalism. I am particularly alarmed by their narrow minded bullying of trans women, briefing half truths, and seeking to overturn equal rights that have been enshrined in British law since 2004”

  3. Ruby Cox’s “crime” in the eyes of these pushy zealots was for her to forward a post by someone else, inviting women to have their say in a government consultation.

    The entire purpose of a government consultation is to ask voters for their opinions. So how can it be a terrible offence for Ruby Cox to support that?

    Some questions HIF ought to be asking.

    Why are women being silenced on this subject? Why are they being de-platformed, cancelled and attacked? Why are all their meetings threatened and disrupted by violent, bullying trans activists who turned up at every meeting banging pots, screaming abuse, throwing liquid over, and even lunging violently at women just for trying to have a peaceful meeting about a proposed change in the law?

    The police were called dozens of times by women being terrorised and threatened by men being violent at every meeting. Even the small, peaceful meeting in the outskirts of Hastings needed police presence and security guards had to be employed. When did that ever happen about any other government consultation?

    This news report by HIF is unbelievably biassed and I expect that to be remedied in the next issue.

    1. Ruby Cox could have posted the link to the consultation and it’s 24 pieces of literature, She posted a link to a guide to fill out the consultation to prevent equal rights for lgbt persons.

  4. How sad the Hastings& Rye Labour Party have sought to quash this issue by a directive to ‘say nothing’. Transgender rights are an important issue – one that I would have hoped the Labour Party and its councillors would lead on. Issuing a statement is not enough. A ‘gagging order’ will not resolve this. I want Ruby Cox to justify her post and position on transgender rights – or are the vulnerable transgender community considered inconsequential?

    1. Vulnerable? How can you describe a bunch of aggressive, bullying, silencing, reporting, non-platforming, violent men as “vulnerable”? There are literally hundreds of pieces of evidence of their aggression and threats, and yet zero coming from the other side towards them.

  5. By what HELENA WOJTCZAK is saying, heterosexual, cisgender women should have been asked (by the way, they were, and MP’s also met with them) ignoring the 51% of the lgbt community who are female (lesbians, bisexual, pan, trans women etc) why should heterosexual people be consulted on lgbt rights? Do we consult racists over rights for black and Asian people?
    The consultation finished, anti-lgbt groups attempted to hijack the consultation it was noted in the reports findings, the ant-lgbt minority were added to the consultations numbers, nearly 110,000 people replied, one of the largest responses for a government consultation. The result? Nearly 80% of respondents agree with self-ID for transgender persons, so where is this majority who disagree? Nearly 60% of women who replied to the consultation want self-ID for their trans sisters, including heterosexual and cis women and a huge majority of lesbian women (by the way, before a transphobic person says cis is a slur, it’s not, it’s a Latin term we have used in healthcare for a longtime meaning someone who has stayed the same sex as stated at birth.) And over half of men also agree with self-ID. THE
    Women’s Place meetings are usually picketed and protested by the lgbt community, but, in Hastings, where a lot of people were making a fuss, saying they have been threatened, not a single protest, and less then a hundred people went, making themselves seem pretty stupid for making such a fuss and proving the point that they do not have the support of the majority. The local lgbt community brought tickets for this women’s place debate, but they are not interested in debate, they kept our money and did not tell us where the venue was.
    Below is the reference for my numbers.

  6. And just to add, transgender persons can already self-ID under the 2010 equality act. They can use the bathroom of their choice, women’s crisis centre, get driving licenses and passports, adopt, play in whichever sports team they choose etc, there is already law protecting them and allowing them to do that, and guess what? Since 2010 there has been no instances of abuse of the system, much as the same as the dozens of countries around the world who have self-ID laws. The gender recognition act was purely for self-ID for birth certificates, nothing else. To those persons who claimed they were scared of trans persons having birth certificates in their chosen gender, how many places do you go to where you have to show your birth certificate to gain entry?
    Assault is illegal, if you are assaulted in a safe place, then a crime has been committed, no matter what birth certificate the person has. Scaremongering that trans people are going to assault you in a separate sex facility is a complete fallacy, as stated above, assault is illegal no matter who commits it. Some transphobes have now been reported as having harassed ‘butch’ lesbians in toilets, calling them men and calling the police on them, this is what’s happening now, is this the world we want to see going forward?
    And before anyone mentions prisons, each prisoner is based on a case by case process, much like women’s shelters who perform risk assessments on each case, some trans persons go to a prison assigned to their gender, and some violent cisgender women are sent to men’s prisons.

  7. Handbags at dawn battle in Hastings –

    I am really pleased this discussion is getting prime airtime & open discussion. I respect Ruby for her work & greatly look forward to watching Claire make her mark at HBC. Thank you both.

    It has been a badly kept secret for over 3yrs in Hastings that the Labour Party has not been properly managing this debate within its broad women’s group.. Discussion is always welcome but campaigns unfortunately attract some that love stoking up tribal fear & aggression. Rather like the local anti lock down & vax brigade social media is used for spreading irresponsible propaganda. I have seen some irresponsible ignorant & damaging posts.

    It does nothing for the cause. It divisively seeks to play on fears & insecurities – Victorian bogey monsters, medieval witches – bigoted clap trap.

    I am very open to listening & understanding my Trans sisters & brothers. We need to work together to keep us all safe – to heighten equality, respect & dignity for all.

    ‘Who knew’ there have been widespread surveys in towns about this with all women opposing the Trans community – no-one asked me! It is propaganda! & this destructive nonsense is ‘own goal’ stifling discussion opportunities for women.

  8. Thanks for that link Tariq. It explains about Womans Place UK very well, showing how they align with the idea that trans people can be ‘fixed’ with mental attention or suchlike. Totally wrong! So little is known about what causes those born with the ‘wrong body’, but it is assumed to be a result of a pre-natal chemical imbalance. In other words: this is not a state they like because it is fashionable or because it makes them different – it is part of their being that they did not choose! Society does not castigate others born who are different – so why do that to trans people?

  9. I think freedom of speech is a fundamental right for all citizens in the UK (at least last time I looked). However, If Councillors hold a position of authority so if they offend by using ill-considered language they should be held to account.

    If they think they are above-accepted rules of public decency, then they need to hear from the community that elected them.

    There is an old adage that says “You get the government you deserve.” If these councillors are not held to account their views risk becoming the accepted norm.

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