Last month, we reported on Lisa Townsend, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, and her comment that Stonewall had become “a well-funded lobby group for a dangerous ideology that threatens the safety of our women and girls.” Three other Conservative PCCs went public to say that they shared her concerns – Donna Jones, the PCC for Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Marc Jones, for Lincolnshire, and Rupert Mathews, who serves as the PCC for Leicestershire.
Since then, we invited the other Conservative PCCs to give their opinion on the controversy – and several have done so.
Some were strongly supportive of Townsend’s stance.
Tim Passmore, the PCC for Suffolk, responded as follows:
“I think Lisa Townsend is absolutely correct with her desire to stop funding Stonewall. In my personal opinion, Stonewall has changed from an organisation which achieved a great deal in promoting the rights of gay people but it has now become far too confrontational in its approach. Some months ago I gave instructions to our finance department to stop paying any public money to Stonewall. I was unaware at the time that our police force had made such payments. Using taxpayers’ money for supporting political organisations such as Stonewall is at best misguided and in my opinion, plain wrong. I do not believe the majority of our local Council Taxpayers would approve of using their hard-earned cash in this way, especially after several years of above-inflation increases. I am also reviewing any other subscriptions to try and ensure such situations do not occur again.”
David Sidwick, the PCC for Dorset, agreed:
“My belief is that the law should define this issue and sex should be paramount when it comes to risk and safeguarding. It should be safety that is the primary consideration and therefore the interpretation has got to be law based and not lead the law. The police should uphold the law without fear or favour and therefore should not subscribe or support lobby groups with agendas. The issue here are the quite understandable concerns of women in areas such as refuges / prisons and with regard to the offences of sexual assault and rape. I know that there are fervent voices campaigning for self-identification to be the only criteria. I do not hold with that and certainly not in the context of a safeguarding situation. This is not about who people are or how they live their lives – it is about taking a sensible and pragmatic approach. Therefore record both sex and gender. Lisa my PCC colleague for Surrey is right to make this case.”
Mark Shelford, the PCC for Avon and Somerset, said:
“I think it is very courageous for PCC Lisa Townsend to have spoken out about her position on Stonewall and women’s safety. Such a topic is a very complex and sensitive matter and I fully support her view. I have shared my concerns with the Temporary Chief Constable and I will be formally asking Avon and Somerset Police to consider their use of consultation and advisory services from Stonewall when their contract comes up for renewal this October. I will ask that they either work with Stonewall to change their policies to better reflect the public’s concern regarding the safety of women and girls or end their contract. I want to ensure that any advice taken by the police is inclusive and considerate to all those from communities with protected characteristics but also considers the public safety of women and girls.”
David Lloyd, the PCC for Hertfordshire, commented:
“Lisa is shaping up well to be a brilliant PCC – she recognises that we are in charge of strategy and the chiefs are operational. She also recognises that we have the power to force change in areas where there are divergent views and to take a position. As Paul Goodman says, “the one recently elected for Surrey is going about earning her salary, getting stuck in, campaigning for a cause she believes to be important – and risking the inevitable social media backlash.” I fully concur.”
Others were less emphatic.
Roger Hirst, PCC for Essex, responded:
“It is not an issue which has come up so far in Essex – we don’t have a women’s prison, and the governor of the men’s has told me we have never had a transgender inmate. So I have not had occasion to look into it.”
Philip Seccombe, Warwickshire’s PCC, gave the following reply:
“I am very supportive of efforts to boost inclusion and ensure we have a diverse police service which fully addresses the needs of local people. To do this I think it is vital to work closely with local organisations and representative groups who understand these needs best and can speak more authoritatively about what is happening within Warwickshire, including on subjects such as trans rights. Warwickshire Police does not currently employ Stonewall or make use of its programmes but does engage an extensive network of local independent advisory groups. I remain committed to ensuring local voices have the strongest possible say in how policies and practices are developed and would want to see this approach continue in the future.”
Many thanks to all those who were prepared to comment on this controversial, but important, issue.
Philip Wilkinson, who was elected as the PCC for Wiltshire and Swindon last month, has sent the following statement:
“I have spent most of the last twenty years embedded in indigenous governments in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, and I have always been treated civilly and with respect for my personal beliefs. Of course, that is not to deny that there are intolerant extremists everywhere and sadly that seems to include our own country.
“I believe that we should treat every other human being with respect and courtesy irrespective of their sex, gender or sexual orientation. I believe passionately in inclusiveness and diversity and Martin Luther King’s ethos that we should treat every individual by what is within and not the colour of their skin. As a proud citizen of the UK, let alone as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, I will therefore not support any organisation that promotes a narrow ideology that is exclusive, divisive and potentially dangerous.
“I therefore agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by Lisa Townsend, the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey. Like her, I do not believe that the vast majority of women in this country wish to allow biological men into their private enclosed spaces such as women’s prisons and female toilets. That is a matter of public security and not inclusiveness. I will not support any organisation that promotes such a narrow and exclusive agenda and if necessary, that includes Stonewall.
“There is also a very practical and unhelpful aspect to the promotion of this exclusive and prescriptive agenda. If we demand, without opt-out, to know the sex, gender and sexual preferences of those we are trying to recruit, many of those potential recruits, particularly those of religious faith, will take themselves elsewhere and we will lose many good people. If we claim to be inclusive and wish to recruit the very best individuals, we cannot adopt practices that positively encourage intolerance, exclusive and are therefore divisive.
“As I see my role as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, it is to listen to the concerns of my residents and to respond through the application of the appropriate rule of law and justice provisions to those concerns, while being compassionate and caring to every individual, especially victims of crime and those who are troubled or in distress. I believe that I was elected to bring the application of the law democratically closer to the quiet majority and I will not to be distracted by any minority lobbying group. And if I fail to do that the people of Wiltshire should rightly replace me at the next PCC election.”