Tory leadership race reaches final two – and neither look good for LGBTQ+ people

Tory leadership candidates Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak

Penny Mordaunt has been knocked out of the Tory leadership race, leaving Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to battle it out for Conservative Party members’ votes.

The fifth and final round of voting by Conservative MPs took place on Wednesday afternoon (20 July) to whittle the three remaining candidates down to two finalists.

Mordaunt was eliminated from the race after receiving 105 votes, with Truss narrowly beating her with 113 votes. Sunak came out on top with votes from 137 MPs.

Truss and Sunak will now spend the summer campaigning for around 150,000 party members’ votes, before the new leader of the Conservative Party, and Britain’s new prime minister, is announced on 5 September, just as parliament returns.

Mordaunt faced criticism for her u-turn on her apparent support for Gender Recognition Act reform and self-ID for trans folk, both from the opposition and her own party.

While Mordaunt was serving as minister for women and equalities under Theresa May, May announced plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would have demedicalised and streamlined the process of gender recognition.

Mordaunt was once thought of as a strong LGBTQ+ ally, having stood up in the House of Commons last year to declare that “trans men are men and trans women are women”. But since announcing her bid for Tory leadership, Mordaunt had heavily leaned on anti-trans rhetoric, in an apparent effort to win votes.

During her campaigning, Mordaunt hit out at “trans orthodoxy”, insisted that while trans women can be considered “legally female… That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me”, and denied that she ever supported self-identification for trans folk, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

While the LGBTQ+ community may be relieved that Mordaunt is out of the running to lead the country, the final remaining candidates are certainly not any better.

Truss has spent much of her time as Minister for Women and Equalities looking to stall trans rights, and was responsible for scrapping Gender Recognition Act reform, and for failing time and time again to deliver a comprehensive conversion therapy ban to protect LGBTQ+ people.

She even went on record saying that the war in Ukraine would hopefully end “the culture of self-doubt, the constant self-questioning, and introspection – the ludicrous debates about languages, statues, and pronouns”.

Similarly, Sunak’s first policy pledge was to crack down on trans rights when it comes to sports and gender-neutral language.

Earlier this month, an “ally” of Sunak’s told the Mail on Sunday that the MP for Richmond planned to launch a “manifesto for women’s rights”, which would include a commitment to ban trans women from women’s sports for the sake of “fairness” and urge schools to be “more careful” on how LGBTQ+ topics are taught.