Recently I asked Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, whose remit also covers women and equalities, about police forces routinely recording sex offenders not by sex at birth but gender, whether with a gender recognition certificate or just self-identifying. That skews criminal justice data with the absurdity of females recorded as rapists. It’s highly damaging for policymaking where accurate information’s critical.
Badenoch replied with aplomb. She was having none of it and was happy to take on board any information that those advising me might have to offer. It followed on from her bravura performance at a committee where she demolished the Labour chair on gender. She might be as right-wing as a corkscrew, and her views on poverty being eternal send a shiver down my spine, but she’s able. She’s the Tories’ future, along with James Cleverly, another formidable minister, not Suella Braverman and others in the crazy gang.
But it also shows the Tories are on a different trajectory than a few years back – one where they’re passing New SNP going at speed in the opposite direction. Previously under Penny Mordaunt, the “woke” agenda had been embraced by the Tory government.
It was then that I first started commenting on the issue of transgender prisoners in the women’s prison estate. This was long before convicted rapist Isla Bryson, aka Adam Graham, or others came on the scene. Then, it was an issue in English prisons with the whole issue of self-ID still to explode in Scotland. It was a warning of what might happen but was an issue I knew little of and, truth be told, hadn’t really been interested in.
However, prison campaigners and those seeking to protect women’s rights approached me and what I saw concerned me. As a former Justice Secretary, I was well aware of the particular vulnerability of female prisoners. I also recall being made aware of warnings that convicted male sex offenders in England might be allowed into women’s prisons because of the deviousness of some.
Despite these warnings, they pressed on regardless and at pace, the current Deputy First Minister denying or being deliberately blind to such manipulative prisoners existing. Then came the insanity and inanity of First Ministers and Justice Secretaries being unable or unwilling to define Bryson’s identity. Their tongue-tied responses when asked what sex he was made excruciating viewing.
Now, despite all that and England screeching into reverse gear, we’ve the nonsense of the Scottish Prison Service’s latest policy on transgender prisoners. Having learned no lessons from either jurisdiction, they’re now back where they started with the Bryson mess. Rather than make a dignified retreat, they’ve dug in for more punishment.
Even the Scottish Government’s decision to abandon a pointless appeal against the UK Government’s torpedoing of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill won’t help. The damage is done and, what’s worse, it’s continuing despite all those warnings. The Scottish Government’s tarnished and SPS policy perpetuates the agony.
How strange that the trajectories have passed. Badenoch’s only going to go from strength to strength whether in government or opposition. Labour will be filleted by her on this and many other issues. In Scotland, the new Justice Secretary has decided to commit political suicide on this issue, continuing the direction towards disaster.