Tory MP Caroline Nokes says Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s trans ‘jokes’ are ‘unacceptable’

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes has branded Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s “jokes” about trans people “unacceptable” and “dangerous”. 

Nokes, who chairs the women and equalities committee, shared her disgust at the PM and home secretary’s comments with the What the Trans? podcast on Monday (10 July).

On 3 July, Braverman took aim at Labour leader Keir Starmer with an anti-trans dig in the House of Commons, saying: “We cannot rule him out from running to be Labour’s first female prime minister.”

In June, Sunak came under fire after footage leaked to PinkNews revealed him mocking Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, for “trying to convince everybody that women clearly had penises”, during the weekly meeting of the influential 1922 Committee.

Nokes told the podcast: “I think it’s hugely othering, it’s very dangerous and it’s seeking to make a group of people the butt of jokes. It’s unacceptable.”

‘We should be setting ourselves higher standards’ 

Addressing Braverman’s comment, the MP for Romsey and Southampton North said: “To be quite frank, it was a ridiculous comment. It was very telling that there was silence in the House [after Braverman’s comment], there was tumbleweed rolling down the aisles… let’s not use the chamber to poke fun at marginalised groups or [as] some sort of school debating society, we should be setting ourselves higher standards.”

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Referring to Sunak’s remarks, she said: “We need to be better than that, we really do.”

Nokes stressed that some Tory MPs are supportive of trans people.

‘It is not a happy ship’

In May, Channel 4 revealed claims of toxic culture at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which Nokes said gave her reasons for grave concern. 

“I get reports from EHRC staff anonymously that it is not a happy ship,” she said. 

According to Nokes, since Baroness Falkner was appointed as the organisation’s chairman in 2020, by Liz Truss, who was equalities minister at the time, there was a “very particular direction of travel when it comes to gender-critical views”. 

She went on: “I look at the appointment now through the prism of this was an appointment by Liz Truss, who had a very particular agenda when it came to equalities.”

A hooded individual with a trans flag wrapped around them walks in the rain.
The EHRC has been routinely criticised for its approach to trans issues. (Getty)

The EHRC came in for heavy criticism in April after it published a letter addressed to present equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, advising on a possible amendment to the Equality Act to define “sex” as “biological sex”.

The EHRC said changing the definition would result in “greater legal clarity in some areas”.

Nokes, who has been an MP since 2010, said: “We have a general election coming in the next 18 months… and I do not understand why anybody would think that this was a good issue to make front and centre in any campaign.”

In August 2022, both Truss and Sunak declared that trans women are not women. Two years earlier, Truss announced that she would not be meaningfully reforming the Gender Recognition Act. She also failed to ban conversion therapy, further disappointing the LGBTQ+ community. 

Nokes said that attempts to exclude trans people from single-sex spaces is a “classic bullying tactic”. 

A government spokesperson told iNews: “Transgender people, including those who are going through the process to change their legal sex, deserve our respect and support. 

“They are rightly protected through the comprehensive and robust legislation in the Equality Act. The government is also committed to protecting women’s rights and access to single-sex spaces.”

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