Month: September 2020

Safeguarding and Mr. Blunt

This is a guest post by @hatpinwoman


Yesterday gave us the revelation that the English MP for Reigate has been attempting, behind the scenes, to weaken and remove women’s rights and safeguards in law, through the gender recognition reform that would have seen us getting self ID. Last night, in his capacity as the Chair of APPG, he also called for Liz Truss to be removed as Minister for Women and Equalities due to her decision on GRA reform.

Given all this, we thought that a little investigation into this MP was warranted. What kind of man would think that such an undemocratic way of proceeding was acceptable?

There is a lot of information to be found about Crispin Blunt. He is an ex-army man, who resigned his commission as a Captain in 1990, having been awarded the Queen’s Medal. In the early nineties he was a representative of the Forum of Private Business.

In 1997 he became MP for Reigate, a relatively small, busy and picturesque town, about an hour from London, which used to be a bustling staging post in the days when horses were the surest means of travel. Aptly, it is also the town where anti-suffragette Etta Lemon, the founder of the Royal Society for The Protection of Birds, is buried.

According to Crispin’s voting record as analysed by the “they work for you” website, he mainly votes with the party on key issues, though he deviated from that in order to consistently vote for bills around assisted dying, that would mean a “terminally ill person could lawfully be given assistance to end their life if the consent of the High Court is obtained.”

I won’t get off topic by talking too much about that, but I will say that issues of safeguarding around things like euthanasia are very thorny and in disabled communities we are extremely divided about how a society that still tends to treat sick people as a burden would go about ending the lives of those people in an ethical way. And it makes sense to me that a man who does not understand safeguarding would be especially likely to vote for such bills, without truly reckoning with the more complicated questions that surround the issue.

In the year he became MP for Reigate there was a series of events that, later, would lead him to seek a change in the law. A local boy of 9 was repeatedly sexually molested between July and October of 1997 at a private school in the area. The games teacher, Nick Drewett, was accused and suspended from the school pending an investigation which led to a court date being set. However in 1998, before he could stand trial for six counts of indecent assault, he hung himself.

You might imagine that as a people’s representative in a friendly little town any efforts Crispin Blunt made as a result of this case might be on behalf of the child and his family. The concern might be in helping them to cope with what would have been an overwhelmingly traumatic experience. Instead his public efforts have been to use this case to try to help gain anonymity for those accused of rape and sexual offences and to cast aspersions on the accusations in question. And he has gone so far as implying, on record, that the allegations against Nick Drewett were false.

During the debate around the anonymity for arrested persons bill he spoke at some length and said:

It was also in 1999 that I introduced the Sexual Offences (Anonymity of Defendants) Bill. As I reminded the House last summer, I have some form in this area. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe referred to it, but in the context of the debate about rape anonymity, and as I will come to reflect on, we have proposals that achieve the objective that I set out in the Education Bill that is before the House. The purpose of my Bill was to protect teachers from the consequences of accusations by children who have anonymity, and from the subsequent reporting of such allegations. As some hon. Members may recall, my Bill was prompted by the suicide of a constituent, Nick Drewett, a teacher who took his own life after being accused of behaving improperly with pupils in his care. This was a tragic example of the cost of unfounded allegations. The headmaster who was accused alongside him was subsequently acquitted. My experience here is one reason why I am delighted that the coalition is bringing forward legislation to deal with the problem of false allegations against teachers.

Let’s be clear that here we have an MP arguing for the anonymity of those accused of sex offences against children because he believes, and is willing to insinuate on record, that a nine year old falsely accused a teacher. His motivation is to protect other adult men from the consequences of the accusations of children. Rather than, as many might consider to be an imperative, to protect children from certain adult men.

In another debate in Parliament about the anonymity of rape defendants he mentions the case again. This case incidentally has not been highlighted by any official body as being poorly handled by the police, nor has there ever been any suggestion that the evidence was unsound. Yet Mr.Blunt felt able to assert, again on record, that “the combination of the way in which the accusations were investigated by the police and their reporting led to his [Nick Drewett’s] death”.

He later asserts this again while talking of the “tragic case of Nick Drewett”. He baldly states that “It was the reputational damage that caused him to take his own life”.

This kind of speculation rather goes against Samaritans advice to not assume motives for suicide, ignores the possibility that being caught may have been some kind of factor in the decision to end his life, and instead paints the assumed villain of the piece as a tragic victim of circumstance.

He does assure us though, lest we worry that injustice is being done, right in front of us during this debate, that the accusations against Nick Drewett fell “very short of rape”. I’m sure to the child’s parents reading their MPs statements about this, it is of great comfort to them that he takes time to try to quantify their child’s suffering in a way he can dismiss.

In the debate for this bill he uses the popularity of Nick Drewett (700 people attended his funeral!) as some kind of argument. Only unpopular people molest children in Blunt’s worldview, I guess.

He also argues that Drewett’s case is not unusual, noting that Nick is “not alone.” He continues:

The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers has had recent experience of three members who have taken their own lives in similar circumstances. Since 1991, there have been 974 police investigations into abuse allegations made against NAS/UWT members. In 792 of them, no grounds were discovered for prosecution. Publicity in 80 per cent of those cases did serious injustice to innocent teachers.

We should say here that sexual offences tend to be hard to prosecute, and we shouldn’t leap to assuming that failure to proceed is the same as innocence, as Blunt does. We could also note that using suicide as a means manipulating political discourse is not an unfamiliar or democratically legitimate tactic.

Blunt goes on:

The Bill attempts to protect teachers from injustice that can do them permanent professional and personal damage. There is a popular view that an allegation of child abuse, unsubstantiated by investigation, is in itself sufficient cause for concern to disqualify permanently a teacher from being in charge of children. There is little awareness that teachers are liable to be the victims of false or malicious allegations. It is therefore just to take measures to ensure that teachers as well as complainants undergo investigation with their identities protected. That is what the Bill aims to achieve.

While it is of course important to investigate allegations of abuse thoroughly, what Blunt shows us here is a recognisable prioritisation of the needs of those accused of abuse over those abused. Moreover he doesn’t even stop at suggesting teachers *can* be victims of false accusations or that there have been occasions when they have been. No, he states they are liable to be victims of false or malicious accusations, which is an extraordinary claim. What epidemic of spiteful, untruthful school children claiming to have been molested does he know about that we don’t?[1]

If the suspicion is that Crispin Blunt only fails to understand the concerns of children, never fear, his support for a bill that would see the sentence of rapists cut in half if they plead guilty will disabuse you of that notion. In a country with a low conviction rate perhaps one could consider it admirable to encourage rapists to admit their crimes. Except that of course when there is such a shockingly low conviction rape, the only rapists motivated to actually take a guilty plea are going to be the ones who have no hope of being proven innocent already.

Halving their sentences, then, is just a further level of injustice.

How does Crispin Blunt relate to the gender recognition act reform discussion though? What are his connections to these ideas? What made him, fresh from trying to protect alleged rapists and child molesters everywhere, divert his attention onto this issue?

Well, as a result of leaving his wife, coming out as gay, and publicly admitting to taking poppers (…?!) he was in the papers, and pink news for a while. In one article they talk about him attending a Stonewall diversity dinner, so I would suggest a close affinity with stonewall might be his mistake here. But a man does have to eat so we won’t make too many assumptions just yet…..

…..oh no

If you go and review the Parliamentary written questions Crispin has submitted you quickly find him asking if the ministry of defence can take time during its busy schedule of, you know, fighting wars and protecting the land and stuff to “make funds available to enable cadet adult instructors to attend Stonewall train-the-trainers courses”. So clearly he is one of The Stonewall Possé. The least intrepid, but still sufficiently aggressive, gaggle this land has lately seen.

He’s also to be found asking several questions about “sex work”. He was, inevitably, against both the idea of criminalising men who buy sex and the McTaggart Nordic Model amendment.

This all brings us, of course, to self ID which in light of the last few days and his own admissions we know he is very pro. I did manage to talk to some of his constituents who made him aware, as early as 2018, of the potential conflict between Self ID and women’s rights. A possibility he outright rejected.

While we know he apparently likes to conduct most of his complete dismissal of women’s rights in private on this issue (while stroking a white cat and looking suitably sinister one hopes), he is on record a couple of times about this before this week.

In July this year, for example, he co-wrote an article with Sue Pascoe that you can read here. Apparently the reform to the GRA would be a “minor change”. (If it’s that minor Crisp, then why is it so important?).

Through this article we also find out about the new science that Blunt knows about and the rest of us don’t. Such as how there is “a durable biological element underlying gender identity”. As with seemingly all links offered on this subject by proponents of gender ideology, the truth of the matter when you click on them is much more woolly. In a situation that reminds me earwormingly of the song about the court of King Caractucus, It links to a piece about a statement about the durable biological element of underlying gender identity by the endocrine society.

I read their position statement and then got covered in cobwebs digging through their sources online. Their primary source for the claim is one entitled “Evidence Supporting the Biologic Nature of Gender Identity.”. This is a literature review of evidence that there is a biologic basis for gender identity. Before this gets too meta for words, this apparently mainly involves (1) data on gender identity in patients with disorders of sex development (DSDs, also known as differences of sex development) along with (2) neuroanatomical differences associated with gender identity.

So we already got to the part where intersex people are used in the service of this then.

The conclusions of this review are “Although the mechanisms remain to be determined, there is strong support in the literature for a biologic basis of gender identity.”

The paper that isn’t about trans people that didn’t identify the mechanisms of gender identity has definitely got to be perfect for MPs to use to justify sweeping statements in online articles. Glad that was all cleared up, then.

Blunt and Pascoe take time to “really wonder if the good people of our great nation realise they are being manipulated through fear and false information to roll-back the basic dignity, privacy and safety of trans people who are just trying to live ordinary lives.”

Us women and our hysterical concerns about male violence. Golly. What are we like!

One wonders who exactly would be making trans people unsafe, if the concerns women have about the existence of Male violence can be so easily handwaved away.

Regardless, when it comes to Crispin Blunt, I’m not sure we can really expect any better from a man who consistently manages to be on the side of a given issue that fails to protect the most vulnerable.

One only worries about what discussion our hero may turn his attention to next.

[1] In the 1990s the rate of false accusations of child abuse was considered to be around 10 percent. In line with false accusations of other crimes. Many of these false accusations however occurred during child custody battles, and most of the false accusations were made by adults. I.e we can conclude based on factual information as well as the instinctive sense of most people that when a child comes forward to say they are being hurt by an adult, in the vast majority of cases, they are telling the truth.

Nick Drewett, it should be noted, was accused by a boy and not by adults. Given what we know about false accusations then, this is not a case one would logically choose when highlighting the burning issue Blunt seems to think exists here.It should also be noted that nowhere in Crispin Blunt’s consistent speeches on this subject does he mention any awareness of crucial information like this:

Female Class Politics

Speech at Women’s Equality Party Assembly, 23 September 2020

To lay out my thoughts about women’s political representation, I want to first outline my socialist and radical feminist analysis of women’s politics. What I most want to underline is that from my perspective, feminism is a form of materialist class politics, not a form of identity politics. That is, my analysis of the position of women is rooted in understanding that female people have a particular type of body and reproductive capacity and are subject to a system of power on the basis of being female. This power structure exists because of the historical development of a hierarchical system of extraction of the reproductive and socially reproductive labour of female people, otherwise known as patriarchy. Consequently, women have a range of shared material political interests. Most obviously these pertain to issues around reproductive and sexual autonomy, and the violences women are subjected to by male power’s effort to control their bodies as a sexual and reproductive resource. This then extends to how women’s labour is devalued, invisibilised, and appropriated by the intertwined structures of patriarchy and capitalism. This includes women’s disproportionate poverty, the wage gap, maternity cover and child-care, the undervaluing and feminisation of all forms of care labour, the concentration of women in low-paid and low status occupations, and the ways all these issues disproportionately impact working class and racialised women. Lastly, this leads to the demand for a fundamental structural transformation in order to challenge extractive relations, undertake a just accounting of women’s labour, and do away with the symbolic representations and psychological conditioning that undermines women’s humanity by positioning them as a sexual, reproductive, domestic and emotional resource for males. The fundamental structure of patriarchal gender is then a matter of socialising women into the role of a service-class orientated to male needs, and socialising males into a mode of dominance and entitlement. Feminist politics which reinforces female socialisation and de-centers the needs and interests of female people is thus antithetical to challenging gender in its deepest sense.  

On the question of why women’s political representation matters, let’s focus on two key areas. The first involves the symbolic importance of women’s representation, the way it serves as a role model and opens possibilities for other women, and the fact that ‘representational justice or equality’ is an important value in and of itself. With respect to the inclusion of trans women in women’s representation, this immediately forces a confrontation with the bitterly contested ontological question of ‘what is a woman.’ As should be apparent from what I’ve just said, my answer to this question is informed by materialist class analysis. That is, women are a sex-class. This matters not only because it frames women’s class interests, but because the alternative interpretation, from our perspective, relies on essentialising gender, which we consider to be the mechanism of the oppression of women as a sex-class. At the heart of this conflict is the fundamental question of the definition of women being changed from a sex class to a gender class. Given that we think that gender is how women are oppressed on the basis of sex, we consider it regressive for women to be recognised in public life as instantiations of gender, and to be redefined on the basis of an identification with gender that not only bears little relation to our experience as female human beings, but diminishes the way patriarchal gender profoundly harms our humanity.

I think it’s worth briefly thinking this under the rubric of ‘Diversity and Inclusion.’ The aim of inclusion is actually structurally contradictory to the aim of diversity. If everyone is included inside one category, then many salient differences between groups get lost, and we undermine diversity. Much present identity politics is focused on a possibly over-stated emphasis on difference, while conversely, the relation of women and trans women is being thought under the sole political directive of inclusion, which is undermining the recognition of important political and social differences. What we should be aiming towards is a model that honours both similarity and difference. We need to recognise that female people and people who identify as women are not identical, and stop trying to erase this difference in a way which many women feel is overwriting their political existence and interests,. This will allow us stand in solidarity with each other, in areas where our political interests are aligned.

This leads to the second area where representation matters, the expression of women’s political interests. This is not simple, because under patriarchy women have the most fractured class consciousness of any oppressed group, and it is far from evident that women in positions of political authority are in the business of representing women’s interests. I would hope, however, that this is less true of the political consciousness of women inside a party set up by and for women. The question then is to what extent women and trans women share political interests. My claim here would be that trans women who respect the difference between trans women and women, and understand why women resist being redefined on the basis of gender, can stand in real and meaningful solidarity with women, although our interests still do not completely coincide. However, at present, given the effort to erase differences, redefine women by gender, and demand access to all sex-based spaces with no gatekeeping, the interests of women and those aligned with the present trans rights project, are, in fact, diametrically opposed. This was evident in Munroe Bergdoff’s much criticised injunction that women shouldn’t centre reproductive issues at the Woman’s March because it was ‘exclusionary’. It is also starkly illustrated by how often advocates of present trans rights discourse diminish the impact of male violence on women’s lives – as indeed Judith Butler did yesterday –  and the extent to which being raised in a society that sexualises women from their early teens, demands that female people have sex-based spaces to preserve their dignity and humanity, as well as their safety. This is source of great regret, as opposition to male violence is one of the places where women and trans women’s interests should most closely align. On the basis of all these factors I would argue that – especially under current circumstances – it is not appropriate for trans women to represent women politically, and I hope in time we can move towards a place where we can stand in close solidarity with each other.