Before it had even begun, a misconduct investigation into Kishwer Falkner – the chair of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – has been halted. The EHRC issued a statement on 26 May, saying that:
This investigation has been paused. This is while we seek legal advice on the impact of leaked confidential information. We must ensure its integrity and that it is fair to all parties concerned.
Staff at the equalities watchdog had put together a dossier of 40 alleged instances of their boss’s discrimination, harassment, bullying, and transphobia. These include referring to Emma Laslett – a trans disability activist and Mastermind contestant – as a “bloke in lipstick” during an official EHRC board meeting.
The news of the pause came just hours after 54 cross-party peers voiced support for Falkner. They called the claims “vexatious” and a “political chess game”.
Bullying and harassment in the EHRC
More broadly, the EHRC itself has also come under fire. Channel 4 collected statements citing a “lack of trust in the impartiality and independence of our Board” and “an increase in bullying, harassment and discrimination”. Marcial Boo, EHRC chief executive, responded by saying:
We treat allegations of bullying and harassment with the utmost seriousness, following the proper process, and instructing independent investigators where appropriate, in order to provide assurance to all parties concerned. It would be wrong to comment on specifics when investigations are ongoing.
She also claimed that the commission’s “annual turnover is in line with the average across the public sector”. This, however, may be difficult to believe. Fully one-quarter of staff left in 2022 alone, according to leaked figures.
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VICE originally broke the story of the mass EHRC resignations back in April. In particular, the article highlighted seven high-profile figures leaving the organisation. These included a commissioner, an executive director, four directors, and a committee member.
One staff member told VICE:
It’s not difficult to draw a line between the letter that was sent by the commission to the government and employees leaving. People have been involved in the current publications, and been very unhappy, and they’ve been expressing their discomfort for a while, so clearly now enough is enough.
There has been no effort made to look for evidence on any actual real-life issues in relation to the policy of rights between (cis) women and trans people. And it just seems to be a case of going full-steam ahead without considering any evidence, and I think the commission is inflaming a culture war.
Another ex-staffer later said:
One paper was so heavily edited by Falkner that it left people speechless. She changed the case studies, the language… It was so transphobic, there was no way it would get published.
Independence under question
The claims that the EHRC lacks independence from the government echoed criticism levelled at the watchdog recently by Stonewall and other queer advocacy groups. In answer, an EHRC spokesperson stated:
We take all decisions impartially, based on evidence and the law, both in the UK and internationally.
Our independence is guaranteed in statute.
The way the EHRC is governed, and Commissioners appointed, is set out in the Equality Act and has not changed since the Commission was established.
However, this assertion is questionable at best. In recent years, the EHRC has been toeing very close to the Tories’ distinctly transphobic party line. Coincidentally, Falkner took over the commission in 2020. According to research collective The Trans Safety Network, she quickly made opposing trans rights an “early priority” in her work.
Most recently, at the behest of Kemi Badenoch, the organisation offered advice on removing a huge swathe of protections from the Equality Act.
It is disappointing that trans people are being given the message that the potential change would make it impossible for them to live their day to day lives safely and with dignity. Such unfounded remarks simply generate more fear and concern among a community that already experiences too much discrimination.
Again, though, the criticisms were far from “unfounded”. The potential effects on trans people’s lives are both clear and wide-ranging. Most obviously, it would strip the legal protections provided to trans people according to their lived genders.
Spot the trans activist
The Telegraph reported the pausing of the investigation as following:
a growing backlash over an attempted coup by trans-activist civil servants.
It should not be forgotten that these civil servants signed up to work at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. When they did so, they presumably thought that their labour would contribute to the advancement of those same human rights. Though it is increasingly clear that many members of the UK government disagree, trans people are included among the category of humans.
The fact that human rights workers can be brushed off wholesale precisely because they are trying to advance human rights would be laughable, were it not so sickening. British society has reached a point where any attempt to prevent the destruction of existing trans protections makes one a trans activist. Then, in turn, being a trans activist means that one can be ignored.
A foregone conclusion
This applies across over and over. The results of the consultation on self-ID were ignored because they were overwhelmingly favourable. Officials claimed they were “skewed by an avalanche of responses generated by trans rights groups”.
The census says there are too many trans people, so the census must be wrong.
And, of course, critics of trans clinics like Tavistock are reported as “whistleblowers”. But the whistleblowers at the EHRC are partisan trans activists.
You know what? Keep your fucking investigation. Even if it had found that Falkner was a bully and a transphobe, the government that appointed her would have clapped anyway. There can be no fair hearing for trans people or their allies in the UK.
All of this was a foregone conclusion.
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