I have reported previously on how many local authorities and police constabularies have ceased funding Stonewall. Surrey County Council is an exception among Conservative councils in continuing to send over Council Taxpayers’ money to the controversial lobby group. However, Lisa Townsend, the newly elected Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, has given some robust comments in the Mail on Sunday:
“Everybody has told me not to speak-out about this, that the debate is incendiary, but if women like me can’t or don’t speak up who will?
‘Stonewall, which has drifted so far from its original mission is now a threat to women and risks putting feminism back 50 years.
‘Police forces, in an attempt to correct many of the wrongs committed against minorities in the past, are being naive if they believe that Stonewall are anything but a well-funded lobby group for a dangerous ideology that threatens the safety of our women and girls.
‘The single biggest issue that filled-up my inbox when I first announced I was standing as police and crime commissioner were concerns about gender self-identification.
‘They raised concerns about safeguarding, the recording of crime, the placement of trans women in women’s prisons and men identifying as women in changing rooms.
“Some were mothers alarmed about the influence of trans lobby groups in schools.“The women who contacted me were shocked that someone was finally listening to them. Some were anonymous – genuinely terrified to put their names to emails because the backlash for speaking out can be brutal.”
Townsend has been brave to raise her concerns – even though the majority of people would quietly agree with her. But it is heartening that other PCCs have expressed their support. Those backing Townsend on Twitter include Donna Jones, the PCC for Hampshire & Isle of Wight. Also Marc Jones, the PCC for Lincolnshire, who tweeted:
“Some services quite simply can’t function in a gender neutral way and we mustn’t put women and girls at risk by trying to make them.”
Rupert Mathews, the PCC for Leicestershire, emails me to say:
“I agree with the views my colleague in Surrey expressed when she said that ‘Stonewall pushes a dangerous transgender ideology’. We cannot, on the one hand, be focusing on tackling the scourge that is violence against women and girls, all the while ignoring their concerns and safety when it comes to allowing biological men into women’s spaces such as prison and changing rooms. Stonewall’s influence had become part of the problem.”
There could be some tension, of course, should the PCC and chief constable have different views. Or, more plausibly, that the chief constable is used to following whatever politically correct demands the National Police Chiefs’ Council or the College of Policing come up with. As Paul noted yesterday the PCC can sack the chief constable but it “might be just a bit excessive” to do so purely on this issue. However, the PCC is responsible for setting the budget and setting policy. Surely the issue of giving funding to Stonewall and of following its edicts comes under that category. Quite rightly, the chief constables have responsibility for “operational policing” – but if that definition is stretched to cover everything then the PCC is impotent.
Chief constables might be reluctant to disregard the wishes of someone who has been democratically elected. That applies all the more when those wishes have been publicly and strongly expressed. We shall see what actions follow the words. But words are a start. Townsend is to be commended for speaking out.