Fury as only 11 Labour MPs vote to block Section 35 trigger

Keir Starmer sitting in front of two Union Jacks
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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.

Read on...

Labour abstains

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:

Scottish Greens councillor Anthony Caroll called out the cowardice of Keir Starmer’s Labour when it comes to trans issues:

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:

And others echoed the sentiment with a little less decorum:

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:

Angela Eagle also offered a note on her absence:

However, she did sign a cross-party letter warning the government against their current hostility towards trans people:

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.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the trenches, nobody was shocked at Rosie Duffield’s performance in the debate:

There were even calls for her to defect and have done with it:

On the fence

This vote was the latest entry in the logbook of Starmer’s well-documented Tory-lite centrism:

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

Get involved

Please read Trans Safety Network’s article to see how this will effect Trans People’s lives:

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  • Show Comments
    1. It is perfectly normal and right for women to refuse to allow men access to safe women only areas such as changing rooms. It is also incredible that a 16 year old be allowed to undergo life-changing operations without the agreement of their parents; in any other context this would be classed as child abuse.

    2. Scots are able to vote at age sixteen and in some areas can vote or be a candidate in community council elections, be a young carer and receive a grant to do so implying need for ‘money management’, get married and have children, choose which religion they prefer different from what parents saw offspring born with. Presumably, Scots sixteen year olds would have the wisdom, not necessarily toward the irresponsibility of freely choosing life-changing operations at a moments notice, but a circumspection of their condition and the implications of an irreversible operation to understand their own wherewithals in the matter to blunder into irreversibilities. Of course, not all sixteen year olds are the same anywhere just as twenty-six year olds or sixty year olds do not share the same capabilities mental or physical.

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