Trans politicians election results: May 2019

It has been a few months since the local elections, but my usual post on what that means for trans politicians has been delayed by health and other political activities. But with today being the closing day for nominations for the forthcoming snap general election and politics on everyone’s minds – whether they want it to be or not – it’s a good time to look back at the last set of elections.

But before we do that, in the interests of completeness there was another election of particular interest in September 2018. A local Labour councillor in Cambridge resigned from both the council and her party after it emerged the Labour-run council could not block trans people from using toilets appropriate to their gender. This triggered a by-election in Petersfield Ward, Cambridge – which some may recognise as being the ward previously held by trans councillor Sarah Brown.

The result was, perhaps, never in much doubt with Petersfield having been a comfortably Labour ward for some time. But local Labour activists will not have been particularly happy to see the 16% rise in the LibDem vote in a supposedly safe seat.

Sarah Brown
Cambridge, Petersfield Ward
September 2018 by-election
2nd place, 36.4%
+16.4% from May 2018
Winners majority: 11.5%
(Link to source)

Sadly, that was not the end of the saga. Under pressure from anti-trans activists on Twitter, Cambridge City Council later rolled back protections for trans people that had been in place since the days of the Liberal Democrat administration.

Moving on, let’s remind ourselves of the situation prior to the elections. There are more trans people holding public office than are listed here but the focus is, as ever, on people who are openly trans at principle council level or above.

Six openly trans people held office, a record, but whatever happens three will remain in office after the elections as their terms have some time to run. That leaves three people standing down or standing for reelection – Kirk-Robinson in Bolton, Larkins in Thanet and myself. 

Osh Gantly
Islington, Highbury East Ward
Term expires May 2022
Zoë Kirk-Robinson
Bolton, Westhoughton North & Chew Moor
Term expires May 2019
Sarah Larkins
Thanet, Eastcliff Ward
Term expires May 2019
  Gregor Murray
Dundee, North East Ward
Term expires May 2021
Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Term expires May 2020
Zoë O’Connell
Cambridge, Trumpington Ward
Term expires May 2019

Of those, only Kirk-Robinson and Larkins were re-standing. Larkins had originally stood under the UKIP banner but a breakup of the council group in 2018 means she was standing this time as a member of “Thanet Independents”.

Also in the running for council seats were Brown, standing again in Petersfield and Kirk who again is an experienced candidate in Bolton. Finally, Pascoe stood in the European elections on the same day.

The relative lack of first-time openly trans candidates is almost certainly due to recent hostile media about trans people coupled with a general decline in the tone of political debate, which as we saw in 2018 led to candidates being targeted both online and offline. This will certainly have lead to openly trans people being reluctant to stand, and those who are not out to remain “closeted” and instead focus on the election.

More worryingly for diversity, no BAME, trans men or non-binary people appear on our list. Hopefully, this is an aberration and we will see some excellent diverse candidates and office-holders in future years.

Sarah Brown
Cambridge, Petersfield Ward
May 2019
2nd place, 29.2%
-7.2% from by-election
(Link to source)
Jennifer Kirk
Bolton, Farnworth
4th place, 3.5% (-1.0%)
(Link to source)
Zoë Kirk-Robinson
Bolton, Westhoughton North & Chew Moor
2nd place, 31.7% (-10.9%)
(Link to source)
Sarah Larkins (Thanet Independents)
Thanet, Eastcliff Ward
5th of 3 elected
25.6% (-7.9% from 2015)
(Link to source)
Sue Pascoe
European Parliament
Yorkshire and the Humber
6th on party list
7.2% (-12.0% from 2014)
No party candidates elected
(Link to source)

On the day, none of the candidates were successful, reducing the number of openly trans elected politicians down to just three. In most cases, this was not a surprising result. Petersfield and Farnworth wards were clearly not targeted seats, and whatever happened in the European Elections, no party was likely to gain their 6th place in Yorkshire and the Humber. And Larkins was always going to struggle to hold her place in Thanet, given the breakup of the UKIP group.

The one surprise, however, was Bolton. Despite a small net increase in seats for the Conservative group, a surge in the independent and LibDem votes across the town resulted in Kirk-Robinson being the only sitting Conservative councillor to lose her seat.

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