Tory leadership contender Penny Mordaunt has blasted critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’ amid a row over her stance on transgender rights.
The trade minister – who is being backed to become Boris Johnson’s replacement by a number of Conservative MPs – insisted she has ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she hit back at opponents.
Ms Mordaunt’s position as one of the bookies’ favorites to become the next Tory leader has led to a furious row over her stance on trans issues, including her past claim that ‘trans women are women’.
She has been accused of being ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’ and of risking ‘enormous harm to women’s rights and children’.
But Ms. Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, used a series of Twitter posts in the early hours of this morning to push back at opponents.
As well as highlighting her past work in government, including when she was women and equalities minister under Theresa May, Ms Mordaunt also stressed that there was a difference between ‘biological women’ and those who are ‘legally female’.
The Portsmouth North MP first declared that ‘trans women are women’ in a 2018 interview with the PinkNews website.
Ms Mordaunt repeated that stance from the House of Commons’ dispatch box in March last year, when she told MPs: ‘Trans men are men and trans women are women.’
Penny Mordaunt’s position as one of the bookies’ favorites to become the next Tory leader has led to a furious row over her stance on trans issues
Ms Mordant, pictured at the 2019 Pride parade in London, has been accused of being ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’
With the 49-year-old now tipped to do well in the Tory leadership race, there has been renewed scrutiny of her past comments on trans issues.
The subject could become a key debating point in the race to become Mr Johnson’s successor, with other contenders – such as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and current equalities minister Kemi Badenoch – also having made major interventions into government policy on the issue.
Some Conservative commentators claimed Ms Mordant’s previous remarks had ‘ruined her chances’ of becoming PM.
And the campaign group Conservatives for Women (CfW) also hit out at her ‘staunch views about trans rights’.
A spokesman said: ‘She has always been a committed warrior for the trans lobby.
‘Her promotion of mantras and failure to see how this may cause enormous harm to women’s rights and children raises questions about her judgment.’
The trade minister used a series of Twitter posts in the early hours of this morning to push back at opponents
Ms Mordaunt made light of how a photo of her in a swimsuit, from her spell on reality TV show Splash!, is regularly republished
With the row over her stance on trans rights threatening to derail her bid to become Tory leader, before she has even formally announced her candidacy, Ms Mordaunt launched an angry counterattack.
She posted on Twitter: ‘I hope in the next few days we’ll be able to discuss how we get our economy growing again and enable our citizens to live well. Right now, I’d like to address another question that I’ve been asked: Do I know what a woman is?
‘Yes I do. I am a woman.’
Ms Mordaunt made light of how a photo of her in a swimsuit, from her spell on reality TV show Splash!, is regularly republished, quipping: ‘I always dress in a swimsuit for the newspapers. Like many of you, I’m used to being patronized & misrepresented.’
She continued: ‘I am biologically a woman. If I have a hysterectomy or mastectomy, I am still a woman. And I am legally a woman.
‘Some people born male and who have gone through the gender recognition process are also legally female. That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me.
‘All my life, I’ve fought for gender equality. I’ve stood up for women. I’ve listened to them.
I’ve been right alongside them in every major battle. I make sure policy is focused on them. Just look at my track record.’
Ms Mordaunt highlighted how, as women and equalities minister, she ‘challenged the trans orthodoxy with real and genuine concern, especially the volume (of) girls (being) referred to trans services’, into which she ordered an inquiry.
She also backed a ‘science-based approach’ to trans issues in sport, insisting: ‘The biology is overwhelmingly important.’
‘It was me that changed maternity legislation that was drafted in gender neutral language (by another) to use female terms,’ she added.
I have also defended free speech on these issues.
‘Some want to damage my reputation for whatever reason. They want to depict me as ‘woke’. I was elected by the no-nonsense, down-to-earth people of Portsmouth North. It was a Labor seat.
I’ve increased my vote share at each election. I refer you to their judgment. I’ve fought for women’s rights all my life. I would NEVER do anything to undermine them. I will continue to protect them.
‘And those who purport to be champions of women while misrepresenting and undermining them might like to think again.’