Grant Shapps refuses to debate trans rights as he joins Tory leadership race: ‘Let people live’

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps leaves 10 Downing Street

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced he is vying to become the next Tory party leader – and he’s not debating trans rights anytime soon.

After Boris Johnson pledged to step down as prime minister once his successor is chosen, Shapps threw his hat into the ring on Saturday (9 July).

Shapps said he will offer a pragmatic option to the 100,00 Tory members who will vote for the next leader, running on a hands-on platform of lower taxes, less red tape and higher defence spending.

But as Tory leader candidates increasingly squabble over trans rights, Sky News‘ Sophy Ridge asked Shapps on Sunday morning: “Are trans men men and are trans women women?

Shapps replied: “First of all I should say if there’s a Shapps administration where I’m prime minister, I will not be spending most of my time on these kinds of issues.

“I think we owe everybody love and respect. People should be able to get on and live their lives. There’s clearly a biological basis on your birth but if people want to … transition gender, that is their choice and they will always have my support for me.

“I think the country is far more interested in things like the cost of living, the bread and butter issues, jobs and the rest of it.”

Ridge brought up that Shapps’ rivals have spoken “a lot about the war on woke”.

“Do you think that’s not actually where people’s heads are at?” she asked/

Shapps hit back that if the people want a premier that talks about “woke issues”, then he’s not the leader for them.

“Don’t vote for me,” he said with a chuckle. “I am interested in the bread and butter issues that your viewers are thinking about every single day of the week. I am a libertarian, I’m a liberal both economically and socially – let and let live.”

Shapps said Britain must not become like the US, where trans rights have been aggressively reduced to a wedge issue by the Republican Party. With state legislators busy passing or proposing laws to ban trans people from sports, strip their healthcare away or ban the mere mention of LGTBQ+ issues in classrooms.

“Let people live their lives,” Shapps stressed. “I just don’t think we need to get caught up in some US-style debate and a sort of almost aggressive war on these issues. It’s just not necessary.”

Despite Ridge’s insistence that because candidates such as Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahwai and Suella Braverman are discussing so-called “woke issues” this means it’s in the voter’s interest, polls suggest otherwise.

A June survey by More in Common Initiative found that among the top issues that Brits are concerned about, trans rights are at the bottom of the list.

Compared to the nearly seven in 10 that cite the cost of living crisis as their biggest worry, only three per cent of the 2,000 surveyed by the pollster said the “debate about transgender people”.

The majority of Brits also oppose the government’s decision to exclude trans people from its long-sought conversion therapy ban, a YouGov poll showed.

Indeed, poll after poll after poll has shown that the bulk of Brits support trans rights, even as the press and politicians make out the nation is deeply divided on the issue.

Nevertheless, Tory leader hopeful and former chancellor Sunak will reportedly announce a “women’s rights manifesto” that, among other things, commits to blocking trans women from sports and curbing gender-neutral language in healthcare.

Sunak’s successor, Zahawi, has vowed to protect children from “inappropriate nonsense being forced on them by radical activists“. Attorney general Braverman bluntly said there is a “collective frenzy” on trans rights and she wants to “get rid of all this woke rubbish“.

Trade policy minister Penny Mordaunt, meanwhile, backpedalled on her once moderate support for trans rights by launching into a 10-part Twitter thread to stress that she is anything but “woke”.