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Kemi Badenoch has found Labour’s weakest spot

Kemi Badenoch leaves Downing Street
Kemi Badenoch leaves Downing Street

Kemi Badenoch was back in action this week, informing the Commons of the latest update to the list of countries whose gender recognition certificate (GRC) will be recognised in the UK. It wasn’t long before questions from backbenchers across the House took the Minister for Women and Equalities off topic and she had to field a wide range of questions.

I became aware of Badenoch’s performance only later in the evening when I met a friend while taking my dog for its walk. He (my friend, not the dog) was full of praise for Badenoch, which I considered remarkable, given my friend’s working class background and Labour voting habits.

But then, why should I find such praise extraordinary? There is a long tradition, going back at least to Margaret Thatcher, of Conservative politicians touching a nerve among working class electors. Picket line violence during the 1984 miners’ strike was one such issue where the then prime minister earned grudging respect from voters whose similar concerns were not being reflected by the Labour Party. Politicians and commentators of the Right are far more likely to articulate fears over radical Islamist violence than those on the Left, allowing the charge to be made that Labour worries too much about the risk of causing offence to a small though important part of its coalition of supporters.

On trans ideology, the vast majority of voters, and certainly a majority of traditional Labour voters from working class backgrounds, tend to cast a sceptical eye on the tenets of an ideological movement that asserts that biological men must be accepted as women – and be offered similar rights and access to women’s spaces and sports as women – simply by asserting their new status.

But the polls suggest that this is not yet a salient issue when it comes to voting intentions, and so Labour can continue to equivocate (at best) on the various conflicts between trans and women’s rights and hope that the issue will not rise further up the political agenda until after polling day at the general election. Still, it’s a pretty poor show from a party that once prided itself on its feminist credentials.

There are those who will claim that such reticence, such self-imposed omerta, is no more than kindness; that Labour MPs simply don’t wish to make life any more difficult than it already is for those unfortunates who believe themselves to have been born in the wrong body. This is a plausible excuse that may well apply to some. But I suspect that simple cowardice plays a bigger role in this conspiracy of silence. And it is a cowardice that has the potential to do great damage to the Labour movement.

In the United States, where the culture wars began and which so many on Britain’s Left wish to emulate, ordinary voters’ fears about the wholesale surrender of the nation’s further educational establishment – not to mention the Democratic Party itself – to radical Left-wing ideology are articulated almost exclusively by Right-wing commentators and politicians. This has cultivated and exacerbated the culture wars while isolating and silencing millions of voters who might sympathise with the likes of Tucker Carlson and Matt Walsh but who fear to be associated with them publicly.

While the Left sit silently, offering measured support to their various stakeholders and fearing above all else the unforgivable sin of offending someone with their opinions, the Right is taking ownership of an agenda that should have been the Left’s all along. For instance, the brutal mass rape of women in southern Israel by the barbarian terrorists of Hamas should be an issue that Labour is raising on a daily basis.

It is unsurprising that the likes of Kemi Badenoch attract the support, however muted, of traditional Labour voters. And while she is not the Conservative Party leader, and while trans rights come way down the list of political priorities for many voters, this will not worry Labour.

But it should. Because things, including party leaders, change. Political priorities change. And there may come a day when a Labour government starts to recognise that it should have adhered to its own principles and spoken out more forcefully against injustice when it was given the opportunity.

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