Photograph of Islington with a rainbow over buildings.

Prospective Labour Islington candidate accused of transphobic tweets

A former Labour parliamentary candidate, who has been criticised online for allegedly transphobic tweets, has announced his intention to stand for election in Jeremy Corbyn’s north London seat. 

Transport journalist and broadcaster Christian Wolmar, 74, called on the Labour Party to begin the selection process for a parliamentary candidate in Islington North.

Writing in LabourList, Wolmar said: “Potential candidates – myself included – are keen to get cracking.”

Wolmar’s ambition was met with anger from some X users who accused him of transphobia on the platform.

One critic was Toby Taylor, 37, who works as a Chief Technology Officer in Islington.

Taylor said: “How would you feel as a trans person going to his surgery as an MP when he’s saying stuff like that?

“You would not feel that you are going to be treated with respect.”

Islington North is part of the borough of Islington, where 1% of residents aged 16 and over do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, according to 2021 census figures.

This is a higher percentage than in London and nationally. 

Wolmar spoke to NWLondoner, defending his tweets and his position more broadly on the issue.

He said: “I’m not transphobic, I recognise that there are trans people, I totally support that.

“But a minority of people are vociferous about the fact that trans people ought to have the right to compete against women in sports and occupy female-only spaces, and I object to that. 

“What I really object to is the idea that we can’t discuss these issues. I don’t think that just because somebody wants to be female, they can self-ID as female.

“But the minute you criticise the notion of self-ID you’re immediately labelled a transphobe and I think it’s important to challenge that.”

Self-ID, or gender self-identification, means people can acquire a legal sex change without meeting specific medical criteria, such as a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Self-ID has been adopted in more than a dozen countries but is not permitted in the UK.

Articulating why he considers Wolmar’s comments transphobic, Taylor explained that by the very nature of being trans, one’s genitalia is secondary to their gender identity. 

Consequently, saying that women cannot have a penis effectively denies the existence of trans people.

Taylor said: “He is either very confused about what it means to be trans or he’s wilfully ignorant.”

Christian Wolmar is a renowned travel journalist.
CHRISTIAN WOLMAR: 74 year old former Labour candidate hopes to run again in Islington North

Wolmar was shortlisted in Labour’s selection process for the 2016 Mayoral election that was subsequently won by Sadiq Khan and selected as Labour’s candidate for the 2016 by-election in Richmond Park, won by the Liberal Democrats.

He now hopes to stand in Islington North, where Corbyn has been MP for more than 40 years and currently sits as an independent, following his suspension from Labour in October 2020. 

Corbyn is barred from representing Labour in future elections, though it is rumoured that he will run again as an independent.

Wolmar’s comments about trans rights and self-ID echo language used in the Labour Party more widely, including by sitting MPs and other former parliamentary candidates.

In July 2023, the Labour Party rescinded an earlier pledge to introduce self-ID if elected.

Labour for Trans Rights, a group of trans and queer Labour members, highlights self-ID as one of its demands for a trans-inclusive Labour Party.

Aiming to counteract misinformation about self-ID being a threat to cisgender women, the group’s website reads: “In Ireland, Malta and Pakistan, gender self-identification laws have been implemented without legal issues or any increase in sexual violence.

“It is simply untrue that trans people, who are vastly more likely to be victims of sexual violence than its perpetrators, present any more danger than anyone else.”

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