Senior Tory peer thinks plan to fight next election on ‘trans debate’ is ‘really, really dumb’

Conservative peer Ian Duncan at the PinkNews Westminster Pride reception

A Tory peer has lambasted the idea of the Conservative Party fighting the next general election on a “mix of culture wars and trans debate” as “really, really dumb”. 

Ian Duncan, Baron Duncan of Springbank, said at the PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception on Wednesday (7 June) that he believes the next general election – which is scheduled to take place no later than January 2025 – should not focus on any single minority group as a core issue. 

Back in February, Conservative Party deputy chair Lee Anderson said the Tories should include a “mix of culture wars and trans debate” at the heart of their next campaign, in order to garner votes. 

Anderson, who represents Ashfield, said he believed in the last election the Tories won because they had Brexit, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn as “great ingredients” – and next time round they will have none of these.  

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews at the reception, Ian Duncan – who is a peer in the House of Lords – rebuked the idea of using trans rights and culture war issues as any major part of a campaign.  

“Never take any single minority and believe that that is how a debate should be started,” he said. 

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“No minority should ever be the centre of attention to the point at which a whole election will be fought on the basis of addressing the minority issue.” 

He continued: “You wouldn’t pick out a minority of religion, you wouldn’t pick out a minority of ethnicity.

“Why on earth would we try and pick out a minority – a very small minority – and say the election has to centre on their rights? It would be extraordinary, and wrong.” 

The deputy speaker of the House of Lords, Ian Duncan, has spoken poignantly of losing his trans brother to ovarian cancer
Ian Duncan, Baron Duncan of Springbank. (Ken Jack/Corbis/Getty)

Lord Duncan, whose trans brother passed away from ovarian cancer aged 48, said the debate around trans lives has been polarised and the “middle ground has been vacated”.

“That debate is now in the hands of the very edges [the far-left and far-right] and I think that is very painful to watch,” Duncan explained. “You need more people in the centre who can ask questions, seek to answer the questions and break bread with the other side and try to find a way of arranging community discussion.

“And I think that has been missed.”

Lord Duncan believes the government needs to take a leadership role in returning the discussion of trans lives to the middle ground, but must also work with other parties to ensure discussions are less extreme. 

He said: “We need to have less dog whistling, less use of the word ‘woke’ – which is a device that can be used to hurt – and more attempts to find that common ground and middle way, to get the right things done.

“We probably know what they are, we’ve known what they are for years. The fact we are not doing them is because, I believe, some people think there is a benefit in electoral terms.” 

Wednesday’s PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception also saw speeches from the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Anneliese Dodds, minister for equalities Stuart Andrew, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper and co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer.

The event recognises the immense contribution of the LGBTQ+ community in England in advance of the 2023 PinkNews Awards later in the year.

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