Keir Starmer backs ban on transgender athletes in female competition: ‘Common sense has to prevail’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Lioness Fara Williams during a visit to Haverstock School in Chalk Farm, north London
Sir Keir Starmer said common sense had to prevail in terms of the safety and integrity of sport - PA/Stefan Rousseau

Sir Keir Starmer has backed the banning of transgender women from women’s sport – after previously refusing to do so publicly.

The Labour leader said he was “supportive” of moves to protect the female category of sporting competitions and that “common sense has to prevail in terms of safety and integrity of sport”.

Starmer had previously refused to state whether trans women like Lia Thomas should be allowed to compete in women’s sport amid accusations from Harry Potter author JK Rowling that his party could “no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights”.

But following warnings last year that Labour’s plans to update the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for trans people would cost it the next general election, Starmer’s public stance on the issue has shifted dramatically.

‘Common sense has to prevail’

Speaking after announcing his party’s plans to get more girls active during a visit to a school in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency, Starmer told Telegraph Sport: “I think the important thing is that the sports governing bodies take a lead on this. And they are doing that, and we’re supportive of what they’re doing, particularly in elite sport. So, that’s where the decision should be taken. They’ve taken a number of decisions. And, in the end, common sense has to prevail in terms of safety and integrity of sport.”

Starmer’s comments come almost two years after he declined to state whether Thomas, the swimmer at the centre of one of sport’s biggest trans storms, should be allowed to compete at the Olympics.

In an appearance on LBC, he also refused to say whether a woman could have a penis or whether trans women should be banned from using female changing rooms.

Last year, one of Thomas’s rivals, Riley Gaines, claimed she and others had not been “forewarned beforehand that we would be sharing a locker room with Lia” at events.

“We did not give our consent; they did not ask for our consent,” Gaines told Fox News. “In that locker room, we turned around and there’s a 6ft 4in biological man dropping his pants and watching us undress, and we were exposed to male genitalia.

“Not even probably a year, two years ago, this would have been considered some form of sexual assault, voyeurism. But now, not even are they just allowing it to happen, it’s almost as if these large organisations are encouraging it to happen.

“That to me was worse than the competition piece.”

Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy for the 500 Freestyle finals as second place finisher Emma Weyant and third place finisher Erica Sullivan watch during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships
In the past Sir Keir has refused to say whether he thinks trans athletes such as Lia Thomas, left, should be allowed to compete in women's sport - Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Government told the UK’s sports governing bodies to ban trans women from women’s sport after the row over Thomas’s bid to compete at the Olympics and the revelation by Telegraph Sport that cyclist Emily Bridges was aiming to take part in the Commonwealth Games.

Since then, the likes of swimming, cycling and athletics have fallen into line but football and cricket have yet to follow suit and are to be summoned by ministers to explain why they have not done so.

The Government has repeatedly sought to make political capital out of Starmer’s position on trans rights, with his comments last year that “99.9 per cent” of women did not have a penis used against him last month by Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Sunak’s jibe that Starmer’s shifting position of “defining a woman” represented “99 per cent of a U-turn” came on the day the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey had visited Parliament.

Starmer replied: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.

“Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility.”

Sunak refused to apologise despite calls for him to do so by the victim’s father, saying: “To use that tragedy to detract from the very separate and clear point I was making about Keir Starmer’s proven track record of multiple U-turns on major policies, because he doesn’t have a plan, I think is both sad and wrong, and it demonstrates the worst of politics.”

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