By Natalia Cassidy
The National Education Union's Officers Group has nominated Debbie Hayton for the position reserved for a trans representative on the TUC LGBT+ Council. This has caused much outrage in the union given Hayton’s views that she has consistently aired about trans people and trans women in particular; Infamously wearing a shirt with the slogan “Trans women are men. Get over it!” on it. This attracted numerous complaints against her and calls for her removal from the TUC LGBT+ Council.
It is often the way in today’s labour movement that flouting of democratic norms is tolerated, particularly if the beneficiaries of the flouting of these norms is relatively inoffensive. The fact that Hayton as an individual represents such transphobic views has brought this issue to light & allows us greater opportunity to cast light on the root of the problem, though it should be stressed that the same process carried out to a more inoffensive end would still be worthy of condemnation. It is; fundamentally, a complete lack of democratic procedure that has allowed a bigot such as Hayton to gain the NEU’s nomination in the first place.
The NEU’s National Executive (NEC) has not had a decision making meeting since the beginning of lockdown & there is little to no democratic activity within the union at a national level. This was seized upon and opportunistically used as a justification for the process of deciding who should be voted onto the TUC LGBT+ Council out of the hands of the union’s LGBT+ workers section and into the hands of a very small group occupied by at least one of Hayton’s close allies through Women’s Place UK’s Kiri Tunks, who has a position in the Officers group.
The decision of who the union should vote for at elections such as these should be subject to a vote at the relevant conference, in this case the NEU’s LGBT+ conference. Given that this was not done, at the very least the elected LGBT+ representative to the NEC should have been able to give a recommendation that could then be ratified by the NEC as a whole. Alternatively, the LGBT+ National Organising Forum could have been asked to set up a meeting to come to a decision on who the union should lend its vote to. The excuse of the current circumstances limiting the options to a meeting of 6 people, none of whom are directly accountable to the LGBT+ membership of the union, is a matter of anti-democratic opportunism that should be opposed all the way.
Democracy is the lifeblood of the labour movement & without it we will continue to suffer bigots such as Hayton, who have friends in convenient places.