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Green Party Baroness Supports Petition Call for Local Councillor to Apologise

Published on: 28 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 28 Aug, 2021

Cllr Potter’s name and photo were originally included on the petition but have been removed.

By Martin Giles

A comment on Twitter by a Guildford borough councillor has resulted in a petition being raised demanding he apologises for his description of Surrey’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, as “a dishonest, transphobic bigot”.

The Twitter comment from Lib Dem county and borough councillor George Potter (Guildford East and Burpham) was made following an interview with Lisa Townsend in the Mail Online.

She said she had “felt compelled to speak out on behalf of the women in Surrey who have contacted her” and that she was “not opposed to the hard-won rights of the trans community.”

The petition was set up by Daniel Hill, who has been in the local news recently as the son of the owner of the Stoney Castle dump, and has crossed swords with Cllr Potter before on social media when he failed to take up his complaints over GBC’s handling of that issue. He said he was “utterly appalled to see a Twitter comment from Cllr Potter throwing insults at Police & Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend [Conservative] because of what she said in an article about safe spaces for women”.

Mr Hill added: “In the past, Cllr Potter has made many sarcastic and nasty remarks on social media but this time I think he should apologise. The self-proclaimed ‘voice of all women’ began blocking women that disagreed.”

Sarah Stephens responded on Twitter: “Yep, blocked me too. I wasn’t abusive, I was just trying to make clear that he definitely does not speak for all women (as he’s raised semantics, nor is he speaking up for all women).”

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

So far, Mr Hill’s petition has attracted 164 signatures including Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green Party, who has previously spoken of her fears over trans issues and in March controversially suggested a curfew for men be instituted as a reasonable response to a violent crime.

Following a request to support the petition from Mr Hill, she wrote: “This does look like a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct, let alone a display of deep misogyny from @georgepotter so yes, am happy to sign the petition.” But her stance does not reflect Green Party policy.

Responding to the criticism, an unrepentant Cllr Potter said: “Despite the fact that serious crimes take two or three years to go to court, despite the fact that most crimes in Surrey go unsolved and despite the fact that sexual harassment, assault and rape are hardly ever prosecuted, our Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner has written an article for Mail Online claiming that the ‘single biggest issue’ in Surrey is trans people being allowed to live as the gender they identify as.

Cllr George Potter

“Strangely she failed to mention her extreme views on this topic in her election literature, and the only actual action she is taking to deal with this ‘issue’ is to publicly ask Surrey Police to cancel their membership of a training programme on making their workplace inclusive for their own LGBT+ staff.

“Given that trans people are no threat to anyone and that trans people are disproportionately likely to be victims of violence, rape and assault, I don’t see any reason other than bigotry and prejudice for our Police and Crime Commissioner to demonise them and paint their very existence as being a threat to women (something which is categorically, and provably, not true).

“And, for context, let’s remember that women’s rights groups and women’s refuges up and down the country are categorically clear that they have no problem whatsoever with accepting trans women and consider this whole topic to be a complete non-issue. Let’s also remember that the law provides ample provision for the exclusion of anyone, regardless of gender, from any service if they pose a threat or are acting inappropriately.

“The only other possible explanation for Ms Townsend’s media broadside is that it is an attempt to stir up phoney outrage to distract the public from the appalling Conservative record on crime and policing.

“This being my view, I said as much on Twitter, albeit more succinctly.

“I do indeed block people on Twitter who are abusive or harassing to myself or to others.  I do not have the time or inclination to debate any topic until the cows come home with every anonymous Twitter user who disagrees with me.

“Oh, and I’ve never said or claimed to be the ‘voice of all women’. What I have said is that I, and the Liberal Democrats, speak up for the rights of all women and will continue to do so.”

PCC Lisa Townsend

Explaining her position in a statement issued on her Surrey PCC website, Lisa Townsend said concerns about gender self-identification had been first raised during her election campaign and continue to be raised now.

She said that whilst her views were personal and something she feels passionately about, she also felt she had a duty to raise them publicly on behalf of those women who had expressed their concerns.

And she wanted to clarify that despite what has been reported, she hasn’t, and would not, demand that Surrey Police stop working with [campaigning charity] Stonewall although she has made her views clear to the Chief Constable.

The commissioner said: “I firmly believe in the importance of the law in protecting everybody, regardless of sex, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. Each of us has the right to voice our concerns when we believe a particular policy has the potential for harm.

“I do not believe, however, that the law is clear enough in this area and is too open to interpretation which is leading to confusion and inconsistencies in approach.

“Because of this, I have severe concerns with the stance taken by Stonewall. I want to be clear that I am not opposed to the hard-won rights of the trans community. The issue I have is that I don’t believe Stonewall recognise there is a conflict between women’s rights and trans rights.

“I don’t believe we should be shutting down that debate and should be asking instead how we can resolve it.

“That is why I wanted to air these views on the public stage and speak up for those people who have contacted me. As police and crime commissioner, I have a duty to reflect the concerns of the communities I serve, and if I can’t raise these, who can?”

“I don’t believe we need Stonewall in order to ensure we are inclusive, and other forces and public bodies have clearly also come to this conclusion.

“This is a complex and very emotive topic. I know my views will not be shared by everyone but I believe we only ever make progress by asking challenging questions, and having difficult conversations.”

See also: Reactions to PCC’s Mail on Sunday Comments on Trans Women in Female-only Environments

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Responses to Green Party Baroness Supports Petition Call for Local Councillor to Apologise

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 28, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    As a mere man in this, it is a razor’s edge discussion. But the introduction of pre-surgery men into female-only areas should be the threshold for the safety of everyone involved.

  2. Mike Dent Reply

    August 29, 2021 at 10:29 am

    It’s interesting to see that this story (which in effect is about Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner targeting against a minority group, when that is not her role) warrants a long and detailed article in The Guildford Dragon, whereas there’s been no coverage of Guildford’s MP libelling and writing abusively about a national radio presenter last week, to the point where she was forced to publish a retraction and a grovelling apology.

    Never have I felt so embarrassed to have Angela Richardson as my MP. The indecent language she used was utterly unbecoming for someone holding a publicly-funded role and those who voted for her may wish to assess whether she represents their values.

    • Mark Lotinga Reply

      August 30, 2021 at 2:29 pm

      If anyone is interested, the facts and actual Twitter exchange are easily and readily available, you may find that they do not tally with the rather excitable description above.

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