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Ex-Tory MP accuses anti-trans groups of ‘Machiavellian’ lobbying in leadership race

Author: Patrick Kelleher

Either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will be named leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister of the UK. (UK Parliament/Getty)

Anti-trans pressure groups are muddying the waters behind the scenes in the Tory leadership race, according to a former MP.

Ben Howlett – who served as a Conservative MP for Bath from 2015 to 2017 – has said organisations including LGB Alliance and Sex Matters are lobbying Tory MPs and ministers on trans issues.

That lobbying – which he described as “Machiavellian” – has fed into some of the anti-trans talking points that have cropped up in the leadership contest, Howlett said.

There are also anti-trans Conservative MPs who are working hard to influence the leadership race between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, the gay former MP said.

“I think one of the core reasons why issues surrounding trans people are going high up the agenda is that there’s a lot of Machiavellian stuff going on behind the scenes,” Howlett told PinkNews.

“There’s an awful lot of lobbying going on by gender critical members of the Conservative Party with other members of the Conservative Party as well.”

Former Tory MP Ben Howlett pictured at Pride.
Ben Howlett pictured at Pride with Yasmin Benoit. (Supplied)

According to Howlett, anti-trans pressure groups Sex Matters and the LGB Alliance are campaigning to get senior Tories to listen to gender critical talking points.

“It’s complete nonsense, the majority of it, but MPs clearly don’t have the time to go through it and work out what is right and what is wrong.”

LGB Alliance and Sex Matters have both been contacted by PinkNews for comment.

Focus will be on ‘retention of the rights we’ve won’ under Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak

Howlett, who lost his seat to Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse in the 2017 general election, is still an active Conservative Party member, meaning he has a vote in the leadership contest.

While he voted for Sunak, he believes there will be little difference between Truss and Sunak on LGBTQ+ issues.

“Conversion therapy has been put into the public domain through a Queen’s speech, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll get time in the next parliament.”

What we need to do is protect what we’ve got so we don’t go backwards. I think that’s as much as you can hope for.

He added: “I suspect if the new prime minister is going to do anything I’d say it will be to do pretty much nothing on LGBT issues for the year ahead. If I was looking into my crystal ball I just don’t think they’re going to say anything.

“I think, sadly, for all parties – Labour and the Conservatives – you’re probably faced with treading water and retention of the rights we’ve won rather than enhancing rights at this stage.

“What we need to do is protect what we’ve got so we don’t go backwards. I think that’s as much as you can hope for.”

Ben Howlett and other members of LGBT+ Conservatives at Pride.
Ben Howlett and other members of LGBT+ Conservatives at Pride. (Supplied)

Trans rights quickly emerged as one of the big talking points in the Troy leadership race after Boris Johnson announced he was stepping down.

Shortly before he officially launched his campaign, an ally of Rishi Sunak’s said he would reverse “trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language” if he were to become the next prime minister.

Sunak has also said he would ban trans women from competing in women’s sports.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has spoken out against gender-affirming care for minors and pledged to protect “single-sex spaces” if she becomes the next prime minister, while her campaign director cast doubt on her support for a conversion therapy ban.

The new leader of the Conservative Party is expected to be announced on 5 September.


Actual Story on Pink News
Author: Patrick Kelleher

My name is David but my online nick almost everywhere is Altabear. I'm a web developer, graphic artist and outspoken human rights (and by extension, mens rights) advocate. Married to my gorgeous husband for 10 years, together for 24 and living with our partner of 1.5 years, in beautiful Edmonton, Canada.

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