Don’t reduce trans debate to ‘bodily parts’, Nandy tells JK Rowling

Labour minister says society will be ‘utterly ashamed’ in the future for the way transgender women are currently being treated

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, delivers address to the Labour conference inside the ACC Liverpool on the second day of the annual Labour Party conference on September 26, 2022 in Liverpool
The shadow international development minister also discussed Labour’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza Credit: Nicola Tree/Getty Images

Lisa Nandy has hit back at criticism from JK Rowling as she insisted the transgender debate should not be reduced to “bodily parts”.

The Harry Potter author lambasted Ms Nandy last month over her past support for sending trans women rapists to female prisons, calling her “one of the biggest reasons many women on the Left no longer trust Labour”.

But the shadow international development minister hit back on Thursday as she suggested history will be unkind to gender-critical feminists who believe identifying as female is not the same as being born a woman.

Sir Keir Starmer hardened Labour’s stance on gender in July to reject the concept of self-identification, but the party would still reform equality laws to make it easier for people to change sex. jfKYpxIDAsw

Asked about Rowling’s remarks and whether women voters can trust her party at the next election, Ms Nandy told journalists: “Yes, they can. It breaks my heart, actually. We’re re-reading Harry Potter at the moment in my house, with an eight-year-old who is absolutely Harry Potter obsessed.

“And I don’t think we should end up in an oppositional relationship where we’re talking about some of the most marginalised, discriminated against women and girls on the planet and we can’t have that debate.

“Because there’s a genuine conversation to be had about the rights of transgender people and the protection of safe spaces and hard-fought rights for women.”

Calling for “far less heat and far more light” while discussing trans issues, Ms Nandy said she speaks up so vocally in defence of transgender people “because we’re talking about one of the most discriminated-against groups of human beings in our country”.

She added: “I think when I look at the way we reduce that debate to things like bodily parts, I think when we look back in history, we’re going to be utterly ashamed of ourselves.”

Nandy says ceasefire ‘incorrect’

Addressing the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, Ms Nandy was unapologetic about Labour’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza after eight shadow ministers resigned or were sacked as they defied Sir Keir in a vote on Wednesday.

Acknowledging “heartfelt and genuine views” among her colleagues on the issue, she said: “What I can’t apologise for is, firstly, the decision that we reached. That calling for a ceasefire at a time you’ve got 200 hostages potentially sitting in tunnels in Gaza, and Hamas rockets flying into Israel … Many people in Israel, including the Israeli government, when they hear the term ‘ceasefire’ hear simply an instruction that they should lay down there and just allow that situation to continue. I don’t see, first of all, how that’s a correct position to hold.”

Ms Nandy also declined to apologise for arguing in her 2020 leadership campaign that the Government “cannot allow the continued selling of arms to Israel”.

“Israel has a right to defend itself, it’s a democratic country, and we ought to support that,” she said. “There have been a number of issues around the targeting of children where it’s come to light that British weaponry and arms have been used.

“And I’ve been very tough with the Government that we ought to have a system that prevents that from happening. And there ought to be people held to account for that.”

Ms Nandy revealed she had been receiving advice from Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, on the Middle East war in recent weeks, adding he had sent emails in all-capital letters from New York in the middle of the night.

Despite criticising Boris Johnson for temporarily cutting foreign aid from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent, the shadow cabinet minister confirmed Labour would not be able to restore previous levels of overseas spending “overnight” because of the economic circumstances.