Bridget Phillipson and Anneliese Dodds named as ministers for women and equalities

Bridget Phillipson is the new minister for women and equalities, while Anneliese Dodds has been named a minister for women and equalities in the Department for Education.

Education secretary Bridget Phillipson was named as minister for women and equalities on Monday (8 July), even though Dodds was the shadow secretary when the party was in opposition.

Dodds has instead been named as a minister for women and equalities within the education department, a junior ministerial position.

However, the prime minister’s spokesperson emphasised that Dodds would be the lead minister “for all intents and purposes”, with Phillipson having been named a minister for “constitutional purposes” because she is a secretary of state, The Independent reported.

The women and equalities role – previously held by Kemi Badenoch – is responsible for “promoting equality of opportunity for everyone, and reducing negative disparities” which includes oversight of “equality policy, for women, ethnicity and LGBT”, sponsorship of the Social Mobility Commission and Equality and Human Rights Commission and overview of the “overarching equalities legislative framework, including the Equality Act”.

The appointments come after some uncertainty about who would be offered the role. Many expected Dodds to be given the job because of her previous experience in Labour’s shadow cabinet. However, because the position holder was not officially named on Friday (5 July) when other positions were announced, it led to speculation that new prime minister Keir Starmer might choose someone else.

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Some social media users expressed concern that gender-critical MP Rosie Duffield was being considered.

    What has Bridget Phillipson said about LGBTQ+ rights?

    bridget phillipson
    Bridget Phillipson MP is Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities (GOV)

    During the recent general election campaign, Phillipson faced heat for refusing to answer a question about which toilets trans women should use.

    She was grilled on LBC on 27 June about her stance and, seemingly in a bid to avoid the contentious issue, said: “I believe single-sex spaces are important… my background before I became a politician was managing a women’s refuge. So, I understand how important it is that women have access to single-sex spaces, have that safety, that dignity, that opportunity to speak openly about traumatic events in their lives.”

    Pushed further, all she would say was there was a need for “common sense solutions” and “being practical”, adding: “I wouldn’t want that person to feel at risk. Equally, I wouldn’t want biological women to feel intimidated.” 

    Prior to that, in a BBC interview, she suggested Labour would review the Conservatives’ relationship, health and sex education guidance for schools, saying it should not be a “political football” or “culture-wars” issue. 

    “There are trans people within society and their existence should be recognised,” the Houghton and Sunderland South MP said.

    In 2011, as a member of the Home Office Select Committee at the time, she criticised the appointment of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe to the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs because of his anti-LGBTQ+ views.

    “It is an absolute outrage that Theresa May has appointed someone with such horrific opinions to this senior role advising the Tory-led government,” Phillipson said. “Her decision raises serious questions about judgment and whether she is fulfilling her role as minister for equalities effectively.”

    Farther back, Phillipson backed marriage equality for England and Wales and equal marriage in Northern Ireland, as well as voting for marriage equality to be extended to armed forces personnel outside the United Kingdom.

    What has Anneliese Dodds said about LGBTQ+ rights?

    anneliese dodds
    Anneliese Dodds is a new minister for women and equalities.

    Dodds was Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equalities from September 2021 until the party won last week’s general election.

    During a debate on LGBT+ History Month, moved by Labour MP Angela Eagle in February 2023, Dodds vowed the party would seek to restore the UK’s “reputation as a beacon of LGBT+ freedom and equality” rather than use queer rights as a “political football or an afterthought”.

    Her words came just two weeks after Labour failed to oppose the government’s move to block Scotland’s landmark reforms to its gender laws, by enacting Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act. In a statement shared with PinkNews at the time, Dodds used the same phrase. 

    “This is a failure of leadership from both the Conservatives and the SNP. Both governments should have worked together to sort out these issues in a sensible, grown-up way to avoid this constitutional row. Trans rights and women’s rights must not be used as political footballs,” she said.

    “Labour supports modernisation of the gender-recognition process but we would not have gone about it this way. For example, UK Labour does not support reducing the age at which you can get a [gender recognition certificate] to 16.

    “We need both governments to behave like adults and sort this situation out. That includes the Conservative government publishing its legal advice in full as soon as possible, as Labour has called for.”

    In June 2023, Dodds condemned the Conservative prime minister’s mocking of trans women, heard in a video leaked to PinkNews.

    “Rishi Sunak’s childish snickering at what is a sensitive and complex issue is certainly not becoming,” Dodds told PinkNews. “Trans people should not be used as a political football and these issues should not be trivialised for political purposes.”

    Writing in The Guardian a month later, the Oxford East MP all but confirmed the party had scrapped its plans to introduce self-ID for trans people, promising to “modernise, simplify and reform” gender-recognition law to “remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process”.

    In the past, she voted in favour of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

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