Tories are using ‘transphobia and racism’ to ‘keep control’, Labour MP Zarah Sultana warns

Labour’s Zarah Sultana has criticised the government for using “transphobia and racism” to divide communities and “whip up” a US-style “culture war”.

The Coventry South MP warned that this is not something that the Labour party can “sit out of or be complicit within”.

Sultana’s comments come after Tory equalities minister Liz Truss announced in December that ministers would be moving the UK’s equalities agenda away from “fashionable” issues of race, sexuality and gender, and in the wake of fierce criticism of the government’s recent race report, which Sultana accused ministers of using to deny that the UK is institutionally racist.

The left-wing MP also said that Tory vows of action on gender-based violence in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death and police violence at her vigil amount to nothing more than “spin and empty promises”.

Sultana, 27, warns that the Conservative government is using inflammatory rhetoric against minorities to divide communities, reminiscent of recent US political discourse, in a bid to “keep control”.

“From a Labour Party perspective, this is not something we can just sit out of – or be complicit within based on what we think red wall [voters] or focus groups think when it comes to equality,” Sultana told The Independent. “These are all issues of social justice, which is within the DNA of the Labour Party.”

Zarah Sultana said: “When you look at the phrase ‘culture wars,’ it is about human rights, it is about racism, it is about transphobia. It is about marginalised communities and their right to be able to live with dignity, respect and human rights.

“The government is instrumentalising it to divide communities.”

And she added that the Tories’ “culture war” had real-world impacts. “Words have power,” she said. “They don’t just operate in a vacuum. Islamophobic incidents increased by almost 400 per cent in the week after Boris Johnson compared veiled Muslim women to letterboxes.”

Sultana has spoken out against Truss and her equalities priorities before, asking the Tory equalities chief “for answers” on trans healthcare and her plans for reforming the process of legal gender recognition in the UK in June 2020.