Why Liberal Democrats must oppose any criminalisation of sex workers

This post was orig­i­nally pub­lished on Lib Dem Voice.

On Tues­day, Par­lia­ment will debate the Report Stage of the Mod­ern Slav­ery Bill, and in par­tic­u­lar, an amend­ments that would crim­i­nalise the pur­chase of sex in Eng­land and Wales, sim­i­lar to the one that was passed in North­ern Ire­land just a cou­ple of weeks ago. It’s impor­tant that, as Lib­eral Democ­rats, we oppose those amendments.

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What I said at the Liberal Democrat Conference, Pt. 2: On Trans Equality

As well as mov­ing the sex work motion on Sat­ur­day, I had also writ­ten a speech regard­ing the fed­eral pol­icy paper on equal­ity, which had been writ­ten and drafted by sev­eral peo­ple includ­ing the lovely Cantabrid­gians Zoe O’Connell and Belinda Brooks-Gordon (who had helped with, and sum­mated, on the sex work motion). It’s a really good, and rather rad­i­cal, motion, and I put in a card to speak on the trans aspects of the motion. Most of the debate cen­tred around a Human­ist and Sec­u­lar­ist Lib­eral Democ­rats amend­ment regard­ing faith schools admis­sions, but I was even­tu­ally called… imme­di­ately after Zoe, who had already cov­ered parts of my speech. As pre­vi­ously, the speech is below the cut.

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What I said at the Liberal Democrat Conference, Pt. 1: On Sex Work

I had two oppor­tu­ni­ties to speak at the Lib­eral Democ­rats’ Autumn Con­fer­ence; the first was mov­ing the pol­icy motion Towards Safer Sex Work on Sat­ur­day evening. I had never moved a pol­icy before, so it was rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent to in Spring when I made a sup­port­ing speech to a third-party pol­icy motion. Although I was given seven min­utes, I was called for time after four, hope­fully by error of the chair of the debate, lead­ing me to cut out some of the speech.

We also had to see off an attempt to wreck the motion from Oxford East, which would’ve deleted all lines regard­ing the Nordic model and weaken the pol­icy regard­ing bod­ily auton­omy. Thank­fully, in the attempt, we suc­ceeded, incred­i­bly annoy­ing arch-transphobe Julie Bindel in the process.

Due to devo­lu­tion­ary aspects, the pol­icy only applies to Eng­land and Wales, although sev­eral Scot­tish speak­ers spoke in favour of it, includ­ing a hilar­i­ous rant by Kirkcaldy-based Cal­lum Leslie, which makes me rather happy that the Scot­tish mood is the same and I expect that the Scot­tish party will pass its own pol­icy at their own Con­fer­ence in Dun­fermline next month.

The text of the full speech is below the cut:

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My speech about Clegg at my local Liberal Democrat EGM

So Calderdale was one of the local par­ties who sched­uled an EGM to dis­cuss Clegg’s lead­er­ship under §10.2(f) of the party con­sti­tu­tion, in which an elec­tion for the leader can be trig­gered if 75 local par­ties call for one. If you’re look­ing for the result: sorry, but I’m not going to divulge it myself. This post should be read in con­junc­tion with Sarah Brown’s post about her local party EGM in Cam­bridge, and is pub­lished in con­junc­tion with it. So here’s the speech I wrote for the EGM: I got called for time near the very end, but I was still able to get the points across.

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Appropriating equality

There’s been a flurry of news sto­ries in the past week, most likely to coin­cide with the country’s first same-sex mar­riages start­ing next Sat­ur­day, regard­ing how the bill came to pass. Firstly, we had tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Paul O’Grady describe David Cameron as a “twat” and state the Lib Dems were “as much use as men’s tits”. Then, a few days later, Ben Sum­mer­skill tried (very uncon­vinc­ingly) to attack the Lib Dems for being “oppor­tunis­tic” on same-sex mar­riage. And finally, Tony Blair said that “in hind­sight”, he would’ve pushed for mar­riage equal­ity whilst Prime Min­is­ter. All this leads me to think one thing: both Labour and Stonewall seem to be very keen to take the credit on LGBT equal­ity, espe­cially with a gen­eral elec­tion round the cor­ner. But this credit is per­haps unde­served, espe­cially as they both seem to have done every­thing they could to stall it.

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My speech on digital freedom to the Liberal Democrat Conference

Mak­ing your first speech at a polit­i­cal con­fer­ence is tough, espe­cially when you know that the media are watch­ing you as well as del­e­gates there. That didn’t stop me, as a first-time con­fer­ence attendee, from mak­ing a speech to the Lib Dem Spring Con­fer­ence in York last Sun­day, on the Dig­i­tal Bill of Rights motion. Hav­ing been per­suaded to by Julian Hup­pert and Tim Far­ron to men­tion dig­i­tal free­dom at Con­fer­ence, I decided to make such a speech, which I repro­duce below:

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Deconstructing “male violence”

I know the statistics.

I know that when a woman is attacked, it’s often at the hands of a man. The same applies for when she is raped, or killed. And that goes dou­bly so for trans peo­ple. Our mur­der­ers tend to be, more often than not, men.

And it has an effect on some women, includ­ing myself. Try as I might, even though I know that most men mean me no harm, I can’t be com­fort­able around men the way I can be com­fort­able around women. It’s a fear that crip­ples many of us.

So why, then, do I feel so much wary about the term “male violence”?

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Section 28, or, how to start a revolution from your bedroom

As every­one will no doubt be aware by now, espe­cially through the Independent’s front page on Tues­day, 45 schools stood accused of rein­tro­duc­ing the homo­pho­bic Sec­tion 28 through their sex and rela­tion­ship edu­ca­tion poli­cies. Whether it’s through delib­er­ate mal­ice or lazy copy-and-pasting of out­dated advice — and I’m strongly inclined to believe it’s the lat­ter in most cases — it couldn’t come at a more oppor­tune time, espe­cially when eyes are on Rus­sia for their sim­i­lar (but much more enforced) law on “homo­sex­ual pro­pa­ganda” and in the wake of a pro­tracted mar­riage equal­ity debate where sev­eral reac­tionar­ies were claim­ing, above NUT advice, that teach­ers were in dan­ger of being forced to teach about homosexuality!

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Equal marriage is a transgender issue

Some­thing I note with some despair is the asser­tion that mar­riage equal­ity is not a trans­gen­der issue. The argu­ment goes that it’s pri­mar­ily an LGB issue and trans peo­ple only get con­se­quen­tial ben­e­fits from it. Well, that’s not really accu­rate, as our his­tory, and the his­tory of oth­ers, shows.

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The spousal veto is still a veto, even if you pretend it isn’t

So, the Mar­riage (Same Sex Cou­ples) Act got given Royal Assent yes­ter­day and, while I’m happy at the gen­eral idea of peo­ple in same-gender mar­riages being able to marry, I’m not singing Danc­ing Queen and wav­ing my pride flag just yet. Because the leg­is­la­tion con­tains a rather insid­i­ous prej­u­diced open secret: the spousal veto. The lovely Sarah Brown, who should be thanked for her tire­less cam­paign­ing for trans mar­riage equal­ity, has a bril­liant blog post about it here. I don’t want to dupli­cate her too much, so if you haven’t read it, do so now. And while gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and even some oppo­si­tion MPs alike are pre­tend­ing it’s not a veto, the way it works means it is.

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