Imagine, if you will, the common or garden house brick. Wikipedia tells me that they have been around for over ten thousand years and they have many useful features, including strength and a convenient size for a bricklayer to handle.
And then we have Stonewall, who have about as much political ability as a brick as well as being used similarly constructing barriers to progress.
But what has spawned this new found interest in politically active house bricks? The events of last week: If you announce something in a meeting and that creates a storm of protest, then anyone with political ability developed much beyond that of a house brick might realise that it would be good to back-pedal a bit or at least not mention it again. But not Stonewall. Summerskill mentioned during the LGBT Labour fringe on Monday that they’d been consulting with government ministers over the Gender Recognition Act, an event which immediately spawned a Facebook group for a protest outside their awards ceremony next month. For those that don’t know the history, there was already a protest outside their awards in 2008 over nominating a transphobic journalist for an award, but Stonewall’s sole defence at the time was “we don’t represent Trans people and don’t claim to”. For those of us manning the barricades during that 2008 protest, having Stonewall now talk to people about Trans issues is a major insult.
OK, so Summerskill is under pressure because he apparently messed up by announcing the “five billion pounds over then years” figure as a cost of equal marriage at the Liberal Democrat fringe event a couple of weeks ago. That figure is something that it now appears may well be a complete fabrication. Perhaps he just misspoke under intense questioning? But no. Last week saw the publication of a long awaited letter in response to the “Why the silence Stonewall?” campaign. Stonewall have had weeks to work on this and you’d think would be carefully worded to calm the storm but the claim is repeated:
While writing, we should mention that weâ€™re as concerned as you are about the gross unfairness of transgender people having to divorce upon changing gender. Our clear view is that there is a much simpler, and quicker, method of resolving this unfairness than through gay marriage. We have raised face-to-face with both ministers and officials in recent months the minor amendments we believe could be made to the Gender Recognition Act to secure this.
Stonewall, meet brick. It will be your mentor during your Applied Politics 101 course.
This has now gone mainstream, with an couple of articles in the Independent this morning – one from their own reporter and one from Scott Roberts from Gaydar Radio news. Jae Kay has already covered the problems with the reporting, which pretty much boils down to it being weak on facts and the paper having only spoken to Stonewall for a quote and nobody else. What I’d like to see, and this is probably more of a Guardian than an Independent style, is running a few hundred words from Stonewall and a few hundred words from one of us on the same day.
Sadly, I know this won’t happen as actually engaging with the community and in debate is not the sort of thing Stonewall do. We could ask someone else… only there is nobody else as on this, Stonewall stand alone.
We do get one interesting snippet from the Independent coverage though: Stonewall have said of their mysterious “consultation” with their 20,000 members – none of whom anyone seems to have ever met or conversed with online – that it “will finish…later this month.” Are Stonewall leaving themselves an out? It seems odd that after all this pressure they’ve only just mentioned that there is in fact a deadline on this supposed consultation. Perhaps there are hints of non-brick behaviour after all although I won’t hold out much more than a small hope that Stonewall will finally back Equal Marriage after all.
To close, I should mention that tomorrow is the LGBTory fringe event. Having apparently gaffed with the five billion pronouncement at the Liberal Democrat fringe and claiming to speak to the government on behalf of the Trans community at the Labour event, is there some new and exciting pronouncement to spring forth from the lips of Stonewall and further enrage the LGBT community? If anyone can make it to the Broad Street Novotel in Birmingham at 12:45 then you may be the first to hear.