Lib Dem Ed Davey defends party's trans rights stance amid activist row

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey insists party ‘absolutely’ believes in free speech amid trans rights row over activist barred from standing for Parliament for wearing T-shirt featuring ‘problem’ slogan ‘Woman: Adult, Human, Female’

  • Party leader quizzed over the action taken against mother-of-two Natalie Bird 
  • Mum-of-two, 40, barred from running in Wakefield after complaint about clothes
  • Sir Ed said ‘Woman: Adult, Human, Female’ slogan on her T-Shirt was a ‘problem’  

Ed Davey insisted the Liberal Democrats believed in free speech today as he was grilled over the party’s decision to bar a member from running for Parliament over her views on transgender women. 

Ahead of his party conference speech this afternoon the party leader was quizzed over the action taken against mother-of-two Natalie Bird earlier this year.

The 40-year-old was blocked from standing in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and  banned from the party office for 10 years after a complaint about her wearing a T-shirt reading, ‘Woman: Adult, Human, Female’.

She is now taking legal action under the Equalities Act against the Lib Dems, claiming she was ‘hounded’ by trans activists who accused her of ‘disseminating transphobic material over a prolonged time’. 

Grilled on the case on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme today he was asked what was wrong about the phrase ‘woman, adult, human female’.

‘The phrase actually doesn’t really encapsulate the debate, to be honest,’ he said.

‘That’s what’s the problem with it. The issue that we have been really is that a trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man. And that is the issue that we’re fighting on. We believe trans rights are human rights.’

He later added: ‘We absolutely believe in free speech, but we also believe that we need to protect human rights and we need to believe in equality.’

Ahead of his party conference speech this afternoon the party leader was quizzed over the action taken against mother-of-two Natalie Bird earlier this year.

The 40-year-old was blocked from standing in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and banned from the party office for 10 years after a complaint about her wearing a T-shirt reading, ‘Woman: Adult, Human, Female’. 

Ms Bird, 40, was banned from the party office for 10 years after a complaint about her wearing a T-shirt saying ‘Woman: Adult, Human, Female’. Ms Bird previously faced allegations of transphobia in 2018 when trans woman Zoe O’Connell (left) allegedly complained about her suggesting women refuges should be segregated based on biological sex rather than chosen gender

Ms Bird, who escaped an abusive partner, told the Telegraph in June she was the victim of a ‘sinister’ witch hunt, adding: ‘Within day to day life I’ve got trans friends, and if you’ve got somebody who wants to be treated as a woman socially, I believe everybody should do that, be polite and give them their preferred name. 

‘But that does not automatically mean that you become a woman.’

She previously faced allegations of transphobia in 2018 when trans woman Zoe O’Connell allegedly complained about her suggesting women refuges should be segregated based on biological sex rather than chosen gender.

A disciplinary hearing found no evidence of transphobia at the time but she lost her position as chairwoman of the Radical Association after a vote of no confidence.

The furore came as House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle condemned threats made to a Labour MP after she was forced to pull out from her party conference amid threats from trans rights activists. 

Sir Lindsay said politicians should be able to appear publicly ‘without fear of harm’ after Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield revealed she would miss the upcoming Labour event in Brighton.

Ms Duffield, who won her seat in 2017 from the Conservatives, claims she has been branded transphobic for ‘knowing that only women have a cervix’.

The 50-year-old MP has also previously waded into the debate about access to female-only spaces.

She told the Sunday Times today that she has been the victim of threats and ‘misogynistic attacks’ online, including being branded a ‘bimbo’. 


House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured left) has condemned threats made to a Labour MP after she was forced to pull out from her party conference amid threats from trans rights activists. It comes after Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield (pictured right) revealed she would miss the upcoming Labour Party conference following threats from transgender activists

As a result, she will not attend this year’s Labour party conference, which begins in Brighton on Saturday. 

Now Sir Lindsay has waded into the safety row, saying MPs should be able to attend their party conferences ‘without threats of intimidation’.

 Sir Ed used his conference speech in Canary Wharf today to issue a rallying cry to his party to drive Boris Johnson from No 10 saying he was not ‘worthy’ to be Prime Minister.

In his keynote address to his party’s annual conference, Sir Ed said the Tories could only be ousted from power if the Lib Dems take seats from them at the next general election.

He launched a bitter personal attack on Mr Johnson accusing him of a ‘total lack of shame or decency’, saying the Conservative Party had become an ‘ugly, ugly sight’ under his leadership.

Sir Ed also used his speech to call for a £15 billion Covid catch-up plan for education with vouchers worth £200-a-year issued directly to parents to spend on their children’s learning.

In his first live address since becoming leader last year, Sir Ed said the Lib Dems’ win in the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election, where they overturned a 16,000 Conservative majority, showed they could take seats in the so-called Tory ‘blue wall’ across southern England.

Speaking to around 150 activists in London’s Canary Wharf, he said part of the reason for their victory was a ‘groundswell of frustration and discontent’ among voters who felt ignored and taken for granted by the Tories.

‘They just don’t feel that Boris Johnson represents them,’ he said.

‘Or shares their values. They’re not convinced the Prime Minister is competent, or worse still, decent,’ he said.

‘Wherever you look in this shocking Government, the truth is, that over the last few years Boris Johnson has remade the Conservative Party in his own image.

‘And it is an ugly, ugly sight. His casual disregard for facts or truth. His trail of broken promises from ”No border in the Irish Sea” to ”No tax rise”.

‘And his total lack of shame or decency. Boris Johnson is not a Prime Minister worthy of our great United Kingdom.’ 

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