Sports Minister Dawn Bowden ‘likes’ X posts attacking MP Tonia Antoniazzi
A clash between two Welsh Labour politicians has reignited, with Deputy Sports Minister Dawn Bowden liking a series of social media posts by third parties that are hostile to Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi.
In December Ms Bowden referred herself for investigation under the Ministerial Code over her alleged failure to look into allegations of sexism at the Welsh Rugby Union.
Ms Antoniazzi, an Opposition whip at Westminster, urged Ms Bowden to “consider her position” following the Minister’s appearance on a BBC programme in which she offered an explanation as to why she had not contacted victims of the WRU scandal when alerted to its gravity by the MP.
Ms Antoniazzi has accused Ms Bowden of a “cynical attempt to rewrite history”.
The WRU apologised last year after a report found sexism and racism was not properly challenged within the organisation. The report followed a BBC Wales documentary in which a former boss at Welsh women’s rugby said she considered suicide because of the organisation’s culture.
Ms Antoniazzi raised concerns about issues within the WRU in March 2022, both in the House of Commons and directly with Ms Bowden. Ms Bowden did not meet WRU executives to discuss the concerns until after a BBC Wales documentary highlighting a “toxic culture” of sexism and homophobia was broadcast in January 2023.
Ms Bowden told the BBC’s Politics Wales programme that she could not intervene sooner because she needed “details of their complaints” to give her “assurances that what was being said was actually real”.
But Ms Antoniazzi said she did not accept that, saying it was “extremely upsetting” and “offensive” to learn that Ms Bowden had denied she had received the details.
During the period between Christmas and the New Year Ms Antoniazzi retweeted a graphic with the message: “Female Single-Sex Spaces Are Not Yours To Give Away”.
Ms Bowden responded by liking a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, that disagreed with Ms Antoniazzi’s stance on women-only spaces. Among them were these:
* Bridgend Labour councillor Rhys Goode stated: “It’s so sad to see Labour MPs getting sucked into a false culture war created by conservatives. Trans rights and women’s rights aren’t opposed to each other, we should all be pulling together for equality & equity not fuelling hate.”
* A post from Maria Pollard which said: “Really disappointing to see such blatant transphobia from an MP I used to look up to, growing up in Swansea. How can you claim to be a voice for women in the party when your feminism is exclusionary by nature.”
* A post from Bethia Tucker saying: “Excluding trans people from our Labour mission goes against everything we stand for. This needs to be rooted out now.”
* A post from Chloe Brooks stating: “Posting inflammatory statements with horrible implications for no reason. Once again, how on earth can we be a party that champions equality when MPs are given free rein to be consistently openly transphobic?”
* A post from Sybil Sykes which said: “Tonia, as a queer Labour Party member I’m disgusted by this. If you were a Tory this crap would be par for the course, but I expect better from the party which abolished Section 28 & made Civil Partnerships a reality, and paving the way for equal marriage. Labour should do better.”
* A post from Dave Cross who wrote: “A Labour MP posting anti trans nonsense that is a betrayal of the whole LGBTQ+ community.”
* A post from trans TV presenter India Willoughby saying: “I have zero interest in what’s in another woman’s knickers when I’m in the loo. Not interested in them. Tonia Antoniazzi, however, is. Yet she’s painting ME and other women as the danger. Messed up and sooo offensive.”
* Someone called Myron posted: “This isn’t socialist. It’s exclusionary to a persecuted minority. The Labour Party I believe in sas we have more in common. We can do better and we must do better.”
* Issy Waite posted: “It’s rhetoric like this which creates further division. I’m a proud feminist but I know that our movement cannot be progressive if it excludes trans women. Really disappointing to see this from a Shadow whip – we must do better.”
* Paul Ilett posted: “Oh come on @KeirStarmer – the LGBTQ+ community expects this from the right wing – the Tories, the Daily Mail etc – but we don’t expect it from you. DO BETTER!”
Ms Antoniazzi said: “I think it is entirely inappropriate for Dawn Bowden to engage in this kind of social media activity at a time when a complaint I made about her conduct is under investigation.”
The MP said her views on single sex spaces were in line with Labour Party policy. The party shifted its stance on trans rights last July, abandoning its support for gender self-identification – which would allow people to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis.
Citing his own experience prosecuting violence against women as director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer told The Times he felt “very strongly” about the need for safe spaces and that “biological women who have been subjected to violence against women and girls want a safe space where they can feel . . . that they are properly supported and protected”.
Asked what women needed to be protected from, Starmer raised the case of Isla Bryson, a rapist who was moved from a female to a male prison after a public outcry.
“I think the Scottish prisoner case probably answers that question,” he said. “I’m not saying there are a lot of examples of that, but I do think the principle of safe spaces is very important for women.”
Later a majority of Labour members (62%) said they believed there are some cases in which transgender women should be excluded from single-sex services and spaces, with 22% disagreeing.
Meanwhile, despite the party’s changed approach to the issue, Ms Antoniazzi has continued to be pilloried by some Labour members, including calls for her to lose the party whip.
Swansea Labour Students also issued a statement condemning the Gower MP.
Ms Bowden was invited to comment, but did not respond to our message.
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