Labour councillor Kevin Price resigns from Cambridge City Council over transgender rights motion
A Labour councillor of 10 years and former deputy leader at Cambridge City Council has resigned over a motion on transgender rights.
The motion, brought by the Liberal Democrats to a session of the full council on Thursday (October 22), began with the words: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary individuals are non-binary.”
The ruling Labour group supported an amended version of the motion, which started with the three same sentences and received majority support.
Kevin Price , who represented King’s Hedges for the Labour party, said he could not support those words, saying they would “send a chill down the spines” of “many women,” and saying it is “foolish to pretend” there are not widely different views or concerns about women’s rights.
He said he has not voted against a Labour motion in his 10 years on the council, and said he did not intend to break that “principle”, and instead announced his resignation to the meeting, saying there are times when conscience “must be weighed against the pull of party”.
He said there was much to commend in the motion, and said “trans rights are human rights. Of course that is indisputable.”
But he added: “The inclusion of the first three sentences of this motion will send a chill down the spines of the many women who believe there is a conflict of rights and who want to be able to discuss those in a calm and evidenced-based way, as indeed was shown by world rugby in its recent decision to exclude transgender women in those areas of the sport which it controls on the grounds of safety and fairness for women.”
He said it is “foolish to pretend that there are not widely differing views in the current debate or that many people, especially women, are concerned about the impact on women’s sex-based rights from changes both in legislation and within society and who fear, not only that those rights are under threat, but that they are unable to raise legitimate questions and concerns without a hostile response. The treatment of Rosie Duffield and JK Rowling has made clear that those concerns are well founded.”
And he also criticised the public information pack supporting the motion, saying it “unbelievably” encourages the council to use its own communication channels to “counter transphobic reporting in the national media”.
“Coverage of government consultations, responses and issues around potential legislation is not transphobic but the role of journalism,” Mr Price said.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve the people of Cambridge,” he said.
In September Mr Price was accused by The Cambridge University Liberal Association of sharing transphobic comments online this year.
After Mr Price announced his resignation, the next speaker, Labour councillor Mike Todd-Jones said: “I have to say how sorry I am to hear that Cllr Price wishes to stand down.”
He said Mr Price “had a huge amount to offer, and has achieved a huge amount for the city, especially for our council tenants”.
He added: “I know how strongly he feels about it, and of course there are strong feelings on all sides.”
Lib Dem councillor Markus Gehring said: “I feel very sad that Cllr Price had to decide to resign rather than supporting what is a fundamental right, what is a human right for all people.
“I’m not fully understanding his motivation because I think inclusiveness is all over this motion.”
He criticised the government for not standing up for human rights, and said local government must do so.
Labour councillor Dave Baigent said he was in favour of the motion but expressed sympathy for those who struggle with change.
He said: “I respect people and listen to people who have difficulty with change, so I appreciate my comrade who has just resigned from the Labour Party for doing something because he wasn’t prepared to vote against what the Labour Party was suggesting, nor would I.
“That trans men are men and trans women are women is something that comes automatically to me because I have spent 30 to 40 years of my life fighting for people’s equality.”
He said he has seen a range of changes as different groups battled for equality during his lifetime.
He added: “It’s a very difficult area when things change in your life and your whole belief system is changed, so I understand people with difficulties over trans change, because I watched in 1965 when people said that black people were equal and people around me just couldn’t believe it, and I found that very hard at that time and I find it hard now that people have difficulty, but people do have difficulty.
“I thank Kevin for resigning, I’m sad about that, but I’m glad that he did, because I don’t want to see someone standing out against this sort of thing in this council.”
Liberal Democrat Cheney Payne said: “It’s been quite a shocking discussion with a very surprise event in Cllr Price’s resignation. I’m really sorry to Cambridge Labour that happened, I think it’s certainly been shocking for us all, and to lose a friend and a councillor and a colleague in that way over this issue, does indicate the great breadth of opinion and understanding on this issue.”
Cllr Cheney supported the motion, saying: “I think it’s very reassuring that on this issue we can work together as allies, and I think as a result we will be a stronger council.”
Mr Price served as a councillor between 1992 and 1994, and then again since 2011. He said he has resigned from both the Labour party and from his seat on Cambridge City Council.
There are now four unfilled seats on the city council, with elections suspended because of the pandemic until May 2021.
The motion to the council on Thursday called for councillors to attend “relevant training, such as Safer Spaces and trans awareness training,” flying the trans flag on international trans day of visibility and international trans day of remembrance, as well as other measures to reaffirm and support equal rights for the trans community and others.
Liberal Democrat Josh Matthews, who brought the original motion, used the bulk of his speech to criticise the government for not reforming the Gender Recognition Act.
He said the cross-party support for the motion was an example of “proactively using our platform as a council to push back against the Conservative government, when certainly parliament and the media won’t”.
He said the Conservatives have “created a storm of anti-trans disinformation across all forms of media, leading to a swell in hatred and violence”.
He criticised the government for scrapping plans to reform the Act “despite overwhelming support to de-medicalise the process, removing the spousal veto, and allowing non-binary individuals to gain legal recognition”.
“Campaigners tell us that Cambridge is a fantastically inclusive and empathetic city—and I genuinely believe that’s true. But that means there’s so much more responsibility on us to go further and further, and to try and use what influence we have on a far bigger scale,” he added.
Nationally, campaigners have been pushing for the government to reform the Gender Recognition Act, including introducing measures which would make it easier to legally change gender. But the equalities minister Liz Truss said last month that the current law provides the right “checks and balances”.
Cllr Anna Smith, who brought the Labour amendment, said “some issues are far bigger than party politics” and said the amendment was moved in a spirit of “cross-party co-operation”.
She said the amendment acknowledges “the excellent work by our council’s equalities team over many years to ensure trans rights specifically, and LGBTQIA+ rights more broadly are upheld”.
The amended motion was passed with 31 councillors voting for, no one voting against, with three Labour councillors, Robert Dryden, Mark Ashton and Rosy Moore abstaining.
The leader of the council and the Labour group, Cllr Lewis Herbert, did not respond in the meeting, but issued a statement afterwards, thanking Mr Price for his work on the council and representing his ward.
He said: “Councillors of all parties and King’s Hedges residents and council officers are going to miss Kevin. Kevin stuck up in last night’s debate as he always does for his principles, not a position this time that most councillors shared, but views he holds strongly. I’m sure he will continue fighting at all times for what he believes is right.”
He praised Mr Price’s contribution to the 2016 devolution negotiations and the subsequent government-backed project to deliver 500 new council homes in the city.
“Red Kev as some know him is Labour to his core and has huge compassion for people as shown in the numbers he helped as King’s Hedges’ councillor and helping disadvantaged families across north Cambridge through Red Hen and other projects. We will also miss his sartorial elegance by coming to council meetings decked in red from head to toe,” he said.