SARAH VINE: Jo Swinson, the woman betraying women…

SARAH VINE: Jo Swinson, the woman betraying women by swapping principles for populism 

What is a woman? If you say it in a French accent it sounds a bit like the start of one of those silly perfume ads one sees too much of this time of year.

Expect Nicole Kidman or Emilia Fox to waft past in a gold bikini, flanked by leopards, or similar.

But it’s a serious question. However obvious you or I may think the answer is (that is to say, a human born with a womb and ovaries), the truth is more and more people seem to want to deny this reality. Including the leader of the Lib Dems.

Already Jo Swinson has proven herself one of those politicians the more people see, the less they like. That said, I’ve always quite liked her: she’s a smart, dynamic, go-getter — a woman in a man’s world.

Already Jo Swinson has proven herself one of those politicians the more people see, the less they like. That said, I’ve always quite liked her: she’s a smart, dynamic, go-getter — a woman in a man’s world

But watching her response to this simple question during a phone-in on Radio 5 Live, I must confess I felt a profound sense of betrayal. Because it seems obvious to me that Swinson, who styles herself as a proud feminist, has swapped principles for populism, and in so doing has backed herself into a very tight corner indeed.

In essence, the Lib Dems have pledged to scrap the Gender Recognition Act, which requires people to undergo a two-year process before they can legally change gender. Instead, they want people to be able to self-identify without the need for medical diagnosis.

Now I can perfectly understand that, for those unfortunate enough to suffer from gender dysphoria, any delay in being able to live life as they want must be agonising.

But there is a reason why barriers exist and it’s nothing to do with wanting to be cruel towards the trans community. It’s to protect vulnerable individuals from making irreversible decisions they may later regret; and it’s to deter those who don’t have genuine motives.

But none of that matters if you’re pursuing the increasingly large ‘woke’ vote, as Swinson and her party seem to be. In choosing to improve the lot of a very small minority of admittedly vulnerable individuals, Swinson has decided to ride roughshod over the hard-won rights of millions of women.

She would be allowing biological males access to women-only spaces with no regard for their motives, and with no respect or consideration for the feelings or fears of the women involved. Does she really believe the desires of a relatively small number of people should trump the safety rights of countless more? Apparently so

Because were she to get her way, anyone self-identifying as female could claim access to women-only spaces, be they the breastfeeding suite in John Lewis, or the women’s changing room at the local swimming pool. She would be allowing biological males access to women-only spaces with no regard for their motives, and with no respect or consideration for the feelings or fears of the women involved.

Does she really believe the desires of a relatively small number of people should trump the safety rights of countless more? Apparently so. When asked on Radio 4 if she believed people were born male or female, she said: ‘I don’t think things are as binary as is often presented.’

No wonder, then, that she looked so dismayed when the listener asked: ‘What is a woman?’ Because the answer, according to Swinson, is anyone who wants to be.

The teenage boy who uses the ladies’ loos at school to harass the girls? He’s a woman if he says he is. The criminal who self-identifies so he can get into a female jail and abuse fellow inmates? A woman.

Perhaps she thought that by pursuing such an achingly fashionable policy, no one would dare to challenge her. But we all should.

Not least because we learn the Lib Dems received a £100,000 donation from a company that manufactures puberty-blocking drugs used to halt the biological development of children. If that’s not a conflict of interest, my name’s John.

The job of a politician is not to do the easy thing, it’s to do the right thing. To pursue a policy that may result in harm coming to a member of her own sex is not right.

It makes her a bad politician. And an even worst feminist.

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Britain’s golden girls 

Whatever other problems we face, a paucity of talent in the creative industries is not one of them. There are no fewer than eight British actresses up for Golden Globes (Pictured: Jodie Comer, star of Killing Eve)

Whatever other problems we face, a paucity of talent in the creative industries is not one of them. There are no fewer than eight British actresses up for Golden Globes. 

Helen Mirren (Catherine The Great), Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman (The Crown), Emily Watson (Chernobyl), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Emma Thompson (Late Night) and, of course, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), recently named the ‘most powerful person in television’ by the Radio Times.

Not just one golden generation, but several. You go, girls. 

Helen Mirren (Catherine The Great), Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman (pictured, The Crown), Emily Watson (Chernobyl), Jodie Comer  (Killing Eve), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Emma Thompson (Late Night) and, of course, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), recently named the ‘most powerful person in television’ by the Radio Times

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Post-menopausal women are being advised to hop on one leg for five minutes a day to increase hip strength.

Right. As if we didn’t have enough trouble as it is persuading the world we’re not completely bonkers.

I’d rather increase the strength of the contents of my hip flask. 

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It’s not the rich who’ll suffer under Corbyn  

Billionaire Phones 4U founder John Caudwell told John McDonnell this week that every rich person he knows is thinking of leaving if Labour wins on Thursday. But it won’t just be the rich.

Billionaire Phones 4U founder John Caudwell told John McDonnell this week that every rich person he knows is thinking of leaving if Labour wins on Thursday. But it won’t just be the rich

The reason my parents emigrated to Italy in the Seventies was because Britain was on its knees as a result of a Corbyn-style Labour government, led by Harold Wilson.

They left with less than £100 in their pockets and two small children to live in a foreign country where they had no relatives and didn’t speak the language. It was not easy, but still infinitely preferable to punitive taxes, constant industrial action and class hatred — all of which are likely if Corbyn wins.

The wicked irony is that the wealthy are going to be the only ones unaffected by a Corbyn government: they’ll just take their money elsewhere.

It’s the ordinary people; those with mortgages on modest houses and bills to pay, and elderly relatives they can’t just abandon, who will have no choice but to stay and suffer.

The ‘few’ will be fine; it’s the ‘many’ I worry about.

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Terrifying figures this week show nearly 800 children under ten were operated on last year after being mauled by dogs.

If I had my way, anyone wishing to buy a dog, whether it be a dachshund or a rottweiler, should be required to join a national register of keepers. 

This would encourage responsible ownership and ensure that if an animal does cause trouble, the owner — not the animal — takes the blame.

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Last weekend I walked to the hairdresser via my borough’s annual Christmas market, a cheery set-up of local businesses and artisans. 

In pole position was an Extinction Rebellion stall, recruiting and handing out leaflets.

On my way back, I was surprised to see it empty. 

Where had they vanished to, these tireless warriors against global warming, I asked the next-door stallholder?

‘What, that lot?’ she said. ‘Got too cold for them.’ Oh, the irony.

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As a mum. I know how good the NHS is.  

There seems to be some question over the exact circumstances of the photograph of a sick child lying on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary. Some claim it’s a searing indictment of the state of the NHS — a desperately ill boy forced to sleep on a coat. Others say the picture was taken out of context.

Which is why a Labour government would be such a disaster for the NHS. They want to make that queue even longer with an open-door policy on immigration, with virtually no curbs on who can come to Britain

Either way, thankfully the child is fine. But the fact remains: we all know how upsetting it is to be kept waiting when your child is ill. This time last year my son fell through a plate glass window and was badly injured, requiring 60-plus stitches (he maintains it was 68, I counted 65).

At every stage — from ambulance to surgery — we encountered long delays (at one point they cancelled the ambulance because we didn’t seem ‘panicky enough’), with the result that we spent the best part of eight hours on Christmas Eve trying to get the boy stitched up. Would I dream of complaining? Certainly not. The staff did a fantastic job, and we were extremely grateful for the care he received.

The truth is that because the NHS, quite rightly, never turns anyone away, the chances of there always being someone more urgent than you are very high.

That is both the joy and the downside of a system that judges patients according to medical need not the size of their wallet. So the idea that there is never going to be anyone at the back of the queue is ridiculous. What you have to do is try, where possible, to make the queue shorter.

Which is why a Labour government would be such a disaster for the NHS. They want to make that queue even longer with an open-door policy on immigration, with virtually no curbs on who can come to Britain

Which is why a Labour government would be such a disaster for the NHS. They want to make that queue even longer with an open-door policy on immigration, with virtually no curbs on who can come to Britain.

Exactly how many would take up this offer is unknown; but what’s certain is that many of them will be attracted by the prospect of a health service that, for all its problems, is still the envy of the world. 

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Following the special under-30s Question Time, and in the interests of impartiality, can the BBC now stage a grumpy middle-aged equivalent? 

On tonight’s agenda: the misuse of commas, should ‘like’ be banned from the English language — and why is it that one’s arm is never quite long enough for you to be able to read the menu in restaurants?

 

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