Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 13 April 2024


Gagging of the brave has let gender ideologues seize control

Public institutions are meant to be independent and free from politics but senior leaders ignore the law and allow ideological groups to misrepresent it

Kemi Badenoch
The Sunday Times

Reading much of the commentary on the Cass review, it is clear some think the battle over gender ideology is won. Sadly this is not the end of the matter, merely the beginning.

Much of what Dr Hilary Cass exposed in her report has been known for some time. I set out some of the evidence in a letter to the women and equalities select committee that many trans-identifying children turn out to be gay or autistic and do not always retain the identity into adulthood. Yet, again and again we have been confronted with institutional resistance.

Cass has made important recommendations but they are largely focused on managing NHS services better. None of this will happen until we address the underlying problem of ideological capture. It has become almost impossible to question fashionable theories if they are promoted under the banner of progressivism or social justice. Dissent is treated as evidence of bad faith, bigotry or a lack of intellectual sophistication.

The most obvious victims in this heartbreaking scandal were the detransitioners. Those young people were subjected to irreversible medical procedures while too vulnerable to give meaningful consent. Now they no longer believe themselves to be born in the wrong body but many have been left deformed or unable to have children.

There was another group: the brave clinicians and whistleblowers who put their careers on the line to alert politicians and the public to what was going on. Even now they are terrified that some of their colleagues will try and ruin their careers. One of the most serious revelations in Cass’s report was the refusal of many treatment providers to co-operate.


This is why I am cautious about celebrating victory too early. There is plenty of evidence that Stonewall and its allies are simply hoping for a change of government before continuing with their crusade. They misrepresent the law, pretending it says what it does not, and they will misrepresent the Cass report.

Over three decades, politicians of all parties have outsourced power to so-called independent institutions. They were meant to take the politics out of decision-making but have themselves become politicised often with little to no ministerial oversight. They are no longer impartial. As politicians ceded control, many institutions became captured by a minority of ideological activists. When ministers raise the alarm or intervene this is demonised by Labour MPs such as Yvette Cooper as engaging in “culture wars”.

It is good to hear Labour politicians admit culpability in failing to challenge extreme gender ideology. But I don’t believe this change of heart is real.

For anyone wanting to imagine what a future Labour government might do, look at the behaviour of the party in Scotland who voted for the Gender Recognition Reform bill that would have allowed men into women’s prisons and enabled rapists to legally change gender.

That bill was only stopped by the direct intervention of ministers such as myself in Westminster with the support of the prime minister. Sir Keir Starmer would not have done the same.


It takes courage to risk social stigma, loss of income or physical violence by challenging the progressive consensus. Facts and evidence are no defence against ideological capture.

In the case of trans ideology, those who first publicly questioned its tenets were subjected to hysterical abuse and calumny. Brave people including Kathleen Stock and Graham Linehan were hounded out of their jobs. James Esses lost his role at Childline. The Labour MP Rosie Duffield was harassed by her own party members and fellow MPs while Starmer looked away.

Worse than the ravings of the militants was the cowardice of those in positions of influence. How many university administrators, media editors, police officers and politicians preferred to keep quiet for fear of becoming the next target or in the hope of maintaining their progressive credentials?

We need more bravery and less cancel culture.

At the heart of the Cass review is a failure of institutions to self-regulate. Ministers have intervened time and again but it is now time for leaders to step up and recover impartiality. It is time that the clinicians who refused to co-operate with Cass were held to account.


It is also time for an in-depth review of decision-making across the public sector. How is it that senior leaders ignore the law and allow groups like Stonewall to make up what it should be?

We must continue to protect both vulnerable, often gay, children from medicalised child abuse and those clinicians doing the right thing in challenging it. The Cass report will also have serious implications for future legislation on conversion practices where clinicians continue to raise concerns.

For those who ask how this happened under a Conservative government, they should look at the spread of extreme gender ideology across the western world from America and Canada through Europe to Australia and New Zealand. The reality is that Britain is leading the charge against it.

The tendency to censor, shout down and punish unfashionable opinions offends the principles of a free society. It also ruins lives by stopping people raising the alarm. Had those who warned that gender services in the NHS had been hijacked by ideologues been listened to instead of gagged, children would not have been harmed and the Cass review would not have been required. Our responsibility is to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

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