On Tuesday 17 January, the UK parliament held its vote on whether to use Section 35 powers to block Scotland’s new self-ID legislation. The motion to use the unprecedented veto passed by 318 to 71.
What is Section 35?
In essence, the never-before-used Section 35 is a veto power for the Scottish secretary of state:
The power is exercised through a negative statutory instrument presented to the UK Parliament, which would provide a legal instruction to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament not to present a bill to the King for Royal Assent. This would mean that although the Scottish Parliament has passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, it would not become law.
The veto has been called a “matter of last resort”. The criteria for its use are exacting:
Section 35 can be used in two different situations, where the Scottish Secretary has “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Holyrood bill:
- would be incompatible with the UK’s international obligations or not in the interests of national defence
- would modify the law on reserved matters in such a way as to have an “adverse effect” on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters.
The Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR) would make it easier for trans people north of the border to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Whilst a GRC is not a requirement for a trans person to live their day-to-day life, it does affect things like updating birth certificates and getting married.
Whilst nobody was surprised that the increasingly anti-LGBTQ+ Tory party voted overwhelmingly to use Section 35, they weren’t the focus of the ire on social media. Instead, commenters were shocked that just 11 Labour MPs voted to oppose the motion:
Only 11 @UKLabour MPs had the courage to stand up for both trans rights and the UK democratic process.
I don't have words.https://t.co/hq8TvllRZf
— CN Lester (@cnlester) January 17, 2023
Scottish Greens councillor Anthony Caroll called out the cowardice of Keir Starmer’s Labour when it comes to trans issues:
The Tory's Section 35 Order passes 318 to 71.
Where was the UK Labour Party?
Cowering away at the slightest call to defend trans folk, or a devolved government's right to legislate in making their lives a bit better.
Absolute sham of a "progressive" party.
— Cllr Anthony Carroll (@_AnthonyCarroll) January 17, 2023
Have some Pride
People were also quick to point out the hypocrisy of the fact that Labour MPs, including Starmer himself, marched in last year’s Pride parades. They were happy to turn up for the photo opportunity, and notably absent when the trans community needed a show of solidarity.
Some commenters made it clear that Labour wouldn’t be welcome at a march again:
Handy list of the only Labour MPs who should be within a kilometre of a Pride march. pic.twitter.com/iRXrHAVdQP
— Euan Yours (@EuanYours) January 17, 2023
And others echoed the sentiment with a little less decorum:
The Section 35 order passes parliament by 318 votes to 71.
The Labour Party is a fucking disgrace, and no friend of the LGBTQ+ community.
Shame on any of them who abstained or voted in favour, but particularly @Keir_Starmer.
Stay away from Pride, you duplicitous shithouse.
— Queer Brenda 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (they/them) (@SpillerOfTea) January 17, 2023
Where were you?
The conversation quickly turned to some questions around the notable absence of familiar names. There were suggestions that some MPs had been paired:
Pairing is an arrangement between two MPs of opposing parties to not vote in a particular division. This enables an MP to be absent without affecting the result of the vote as they effectively cancel each other out.
This was apparently the case for Jeremy Corbyn:
seen a few tweets doing the rounds about this and MPs conspicuously not on this list – corbyn was paired which is why he didn't vote. trying to find out about other big names you would have expected to see here! https://t.co/y7vB5lTowN
— Ben Smoke (@bencsmoke) January 17, 2023
Angela Eagle also offered a note on her absence:
It was a ‘to note’ motion which would have made no difference even if passed and as I have explained I was in other meetings (the SO20 debate was only granted minutes before it commenced and was therefore not in the order paper) – things aren’t always as they seem https://t.co/Ie3TNqwJka
— Angela Eagle DBE (@angelaeagle) January 17, 2023
However, she did sign a cross-party letter warning the government against their current hostility towards trans people:
As Co-Chair I have signed this letter https://t.co/jVBbOWhkti
— Angela Eagle DBE (@angelaeagle) January 17, 2023
The letter itself began:
This move, although one we appreciate has not been taken lightly, will bring with it significant ramifications of a social, legal and political nature. We are deeply concerned that the government’s course of action risks further politicising the very real struggles of the trans community and placing their identities and lives at the centre of a constitutional crisis.
Rosie Duffield has confirmed my instinct that I was right to cancel my membership of the Labour party.
— Caroline (SKitty) #Socialist 😷❄🐱💙🏳️🌈🏳️⚧ (@CarolineSkitty) January 17, 2023
There were even calls for her to defect and have done with it:
Rosie Duffield should cross the floor to the Tories so @UKLabour can select a new candidate for Canterbury who wants equality for all and doesn’t parrot Tory culture war crap
— Rusthall Socialist GTTO (@Rusthallred) January 17, 2023
On the fence
This vote was the latest entry in the logbook of Starmer’s well-documented Tory-lite centrism:
As UK Labour attempt to land themselves comfortably on the fence with the Gender Recognition Reform S35 order, a Scottish Labour source writes:
"The long and short of it is the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) includes a load of transphobes and Starmer is terrified of them."
— Conor Matchett (@conor_matchett) January 17, 2023
Under Starmer, the Labour party have ceased to function as representatives for working classes, unions, or marginalised people in any real way. Through his inaction, Starmer has allowed the Tories to use powers that threaten the union of the UK, almost completely unopposed by our nominal ‘opposition party’. All this, just to prevent what is ultimately a minor legislative change affecting less than 0.5% of the population.
Featured image via Youtube screenshot/Sky News
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