The Green Party has been defeated in court, after a tribunal found it illegally discriminated against its former deputy leader over his ‘gender critical’ belief that sex is immutable and biological. Dr Shahrar Ali, who served as deputy between 2014 and 2016, took legal action against the party over what he described as a “fanatical clampdown on legitimate debate by trans rights activists”.
Speaking to the Times before his landmark trial, Dr Ali described the Green Party as having “completely lost its way”.
“It has become an oppressive space for free speech,” he said, adding that “the importance of debate and the protection of debate is a major reason for me refusing to shut up”.
As reported by the Mail, the case is the first known civil trial of its kind, where a political party member sues their own party after being persecuted for expressing their perfectly lawful gender critical beliefs.
Dr Ali claimed that he was discriminated against by the left-wing group when he was sacked as its policing spokesman on February 5th, 2022, in the wake of complaints from activists that his tweets about women’s sex-based rights were ‘transphobic’.
Dr Ali also claimed to have been harassed online and targeted by the Young Greens over his views. The youth body passed a motion to have him removed from his spokesman role.
In one of the tweets at issue, dated July 2020, Dr Ali issued a statement titled “What Is A Woman?”, detailing his thoughts on the rights of women and girls.
“A woman is commonly defined as an adult human female and, genetically, typified by two XX chromosomes,” he said. “These facts are not in dispute, nor should they be in any political party.”
He continued: “We campaign for the rights of women and girls to be treated equally on the basis of the protected characteristic of biological sex, as enshrined in the Equality Act.”
Party officials later ruled his “decision to champion a highly controversial position in the trans rights debate is not compatible” with the position he held.
The trial largely centred on the decision by the party’s executive committee, which included its current co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, to remove him as its spokesperson for domestic safety. Dr Ali’s legal team argued that party members who labelled him “transphobic” and ordered his removal from his post did not respect his freedom of expression.
In the subtle, 61-page judgment handed down this week, Mr Justice Hellman said he agreed with Dr Ali’s core complaint that his removal as spokesperson discriminated against him because of his gender critical belief, and that this was contrary to section 101 of the Equality Act – but he also made clear that he only did so “on the narrow ground that [the Green Party] discriminated against him by removing him as spokesperson in a way that was procedurally unfair”.
The key phrase there is “procedurally unfair”. Political parties may sometimes need to discriminate on the basis of belief, the judge was careful to make clear, but what they cannot do is ride roughshod over their own rules and procedures in order to single out for punishment those whose views other party members may find distasteful.
In the judge’s view, Dr Ali’s removal was “procedurally unfair” in the sense that he was dismissed for breaches of the Green Party’s Spokesperson’s Code of Conduct despite the party having failed to “identify any specific breaches of the provisions”, or “to consider, or make findings in relation to any such breaches”.
Reacting to the ruling on X, Dr Ali wrote: “Wow! Just wow! This is HUGE!! Our gender critical beliefs Are worthy of respect in a political party!! Thank you!”
The Green Party acknowledged “procedural shortfalls in how we deselected one of our spokespeople” and apologised for “failing […] to live up to the standards that both we and the court expect”. Not that the court’s ruling should have come as much of a surprise to the party’s executive committee – as long ago as February 2023 they apparently received legal advice confirming that, because the party is an “association” as defined by the Equality Act, it must therefore abide by its anti-discrimination rules and not discriminate against or censure members for holding gender critical beliefs
Writing for Unherd, Joan Smith describes the judgment as “a warning for political parties that have allowed trans ideology to run riot in their ranks, genuflecting to ideologues who equate a belief in biology with hate speech”.
But will the Green Party heed this, its latest warning?
In August last year, grassroots members of affiliate group Green Party Women held a special meeting, inviting members to describe their experiences of holding gender critical views in the party. Having done so, they encountered what party member Nathan Williams, describes as “a harrowing litany of accounts from women (and a few men)” who had faced waves of abuse, harassment, insults, threats and deselection attempts “simply for expressing their honestly held (and to most people uncontroversial) beliefs”.
The response to these revelations by Chesca Walton, one of the co-chairs of Green Party Women, was to tweet: “Expressing Gender Critical views is transphobia. Like any form of hatred, transphobia has no place in a modern political party.”