Tag Archives: Green Party

Somewhere in England’s Green and Pleasant Land…

 

* Rising and falling stars: Aimee Challenor

(First appeared on Byline, September 2018)

Somewhere in England there is a girl who was raped, tortured and electrocuted by a well-known local Green Party figure in Coventry, David Challenor. During his criminal trial his victim described his rituals in which he dressed as a little girl or a baby in a nappy, at a house used as an official Green Party address in 2015. For anyone, this case is cruel and cautionary – for Greens it is a huge political crisis.

We know that nothing is more important than community respect and validation for the survivors of sexual crime. This girl didn’t get it. Her lonely journey to the criminal court was vindicated – last month the perpetrator, David Challenor, received a 22-year-sentence.

But she was denigrated and abandoned by the people who mattered most, her intimate community, the Challenors, well-known Green Party activists. It was the abuser they supported, not his accuser.

The police interviewed members of the family in October 2015, including Aimee Challenor,  who had just left the care system and began the process of transitioning to a girl. Aimee was an ambitious young trans activist who became Green Party equalities spokesperson in 2017 and a party candidate. Hailed as a ‘rising star,’ Aimee Challenor pitched into the party’s deputy leadership election.

She insists that despite the criminal charges she was ‘building bridges’ and attempting reconciliation with her father, who she twice appointed as election agent – there are no criteria regulating agents, according to the Electoral Commission. But she declined to inform the party leadership until Challenor was sentenced. Individuals knew, but didn’t act.

Coventry Pride took swift action after learning of the case in 2016. Why didn’t the Green Party or other organisations associated with Aimee Challenor, like Stonewall, follow its lead?

Members are now asking whether there was anything else Aimee Challenor didn’t disclose, they are alarmed by robust research by veteran social media monitors.

that reveals her own involvement in adult-baby fetish network

The scandal has scalded the Green leaders. An inquiry has been launched, David Challenor has been expelled. When mutiny among party members forced Aimee’s suspension in early September, Aimee Challenor quit, accused the party of transphobia and blocked Caroline Lucas on Twitter as a trans exclusionary radical feminist.

But the inquiry needs to do more than poke around the guile and cruelty of David Challenor and the Green Party needs to do more than lament its own misfortune in being gulled by the Challenors. And it needs to ask why the party’s initial official statements about the scandal pathetically paid more attention to Aimee Challenor’s need for support than the vindicated – but traduced – child.

The inquiry should ask how the party lost its marbles about gender and sexual politics and whether the party’s hard-line trans policies provided what sexual violence scholar Prof Liz Kelly calls a ‘conducive context’ that shielded the Challenors from scrutiny.

How did an open and democratic party sometimes behave like the Inquisition hunting trans heretics, particularly feminists, who have been harassed and disciplined, notably the lesbian activist Olivia Palmer, who has been expelled?

How could it come to pass that the Green Party has forced luminaries Rupert Read and Jenny Jones  to publically recant their scepticism.

Aimee and David Challenor mobilised Twitter widgets to block ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’  – last year Aimee Challenor proclaimed the campaign’s success in blocking 50,000 people deemed ‘terfs’ and bigots, and getting one vocal feminist transsexual, Miranda Yardley, being banned from Twitter for life.

When Miranda Yardley was invited to address North Surrey Green Party, they were forced to disinvite Yardley and then became the subject of a ‘transphobia’ complaint themselves. The Green Party executive didn’t protest against ‘terfblocking’. The party’s universally-respected leader Caroline Lucas hated it, but described herself as powerless to resist it. I myself complained to a senior member of the Party about terf-blocking and others did, too. Apparently no action was taken. Now Lucas herself has been terf-blocked.

The inquiry should ask who in the leadership supported Aimee Challenor’s legal action to silence Green Party activist Andy Healey – he launched Gender Critical Greens, a feminist resource, and insisted on identifying Challenor as a man. The legal action against Healey is still unresolved. Healey was not allowed to address the party conference, whilst David Challenor was given a platform to propose motions despite his impending trial on the most serious child sexual abuse charges.

Other political parties should not be smug about the Greens’ crisis and catharsis – they’ve tolerated a trans modus operandi and ideology that is bulwarked by a kind of religiosity, by claims that to debate its hypotheses is to eliminate trans people: debate is death.

The Working Class Movement Library in Manchester was aghast to find itself targeted by a trans campaign to staunch its funding.

Gay organisations, too, have been blasted by trans harassment, Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival Organiser, Jonathan Best, chronicles his grim experience. Gay people are increasingly alienated by the seemingly endless expansion of categories attached to ‘gay and lesbian,’ including trans, that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

A closed Facebook group was promoted to name and shame academics deemed transphobic, by Goldsmiths University trans researcher Natacha Kennedy. Kennedy is also Goldsmiths’ Mark Hellen – they are one person, two personas. They appeared as ‘joint’ authors of a paper on ‘transgender children’:

Sussex University philosophy professor Kathleen Stock became a cause celebre when she was pilloried for urging philosphers to engage in the gender debates flaring in social media. She was condemned as transphobic by the students union but in July the university’s vice chancellor Adam Tickell ventured where the Green Party does not tread by affirming both trans people’s human rights and academic freedom, ‘I hold a deep rooted concern,’ he wrote, ‘about the future of our democratic society if we silence the views of people we don’t agree with.’

The Liberal-Democrats, the Tories and Labour, gay organisations and mass media commentators across the political spectrum should all start asking how they fell for trans folly that is not sustained by science, that doesn’t enjoy consensus among many trans women and trans-sexuals, and certainly not among maybe most women.

The dogma has been assiduously promoted as a new civil rights frontier and fortified by no-platforming, bullying and what can only be called blacklisting of dissenting voices deemed ‘terfs’ and ‘bigots’ on the wrong side of history. The mantra ‘There is no debate’ is recited not only in the Green Party but across the political firmament.

It is as though nothing is real, there is only ‘gender fluidity’ and freedom of choice that synchronises marvellously with neo-liberal erasure of oppression and exploitation. The notion that anyone can be anything they want to be, that a man is a woman if he says he is, empties ‘woman’ of meaning  – some Greens refer to non-women to satisfy trans sensitivities.

The Challenor case is an arrow to the heart of Britain’s twisted sexual politics. Already gay activists are joining feminists and saying they are sick of the narcissism, misogyny of some trans activists:

The Green Party’s inquiry is, therefore, more important than the Green Party itself – it should open a window on the degradation of political culture.

The inquiry should also review the Green Party’s child safeguarding policy and processes. Although the party has vigorously promoted an extreme trans policy and practice, I have trawled through GP policy and can’t find a specific policy or protocol on child abuse and safeguarding, despite massive public concern in the wake of the Savile scandal in 2012, despite the work of Caroline Lucas and her Parliamentary colleagues in securing the launch of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and its public reports on institutional complicity in child abuse.

 

Aimee Challenor was a teenager undergoing transition with the support of Mermaids, an organisation chided by the High Court, and criticised by some for advocating medical interventions at puberty  that amount to child abuse:

The Challenor family had been subject to its own High Court proceedings because of the parenting the children in the family received. Whilst many children who exit the care system do so with dignity, independence, qualifications and readiness to enter the adult world, Aimee Challenor appears to have been in a family who fought against children’s services’ support and yet, by her own account, turned to the parents for support and reconciliation after leaving the care system.

The inquiry must ask: Did no one in the Green Party at the time recognise the consequential vulnerabilities which the leadership are at now at pains to stress? Did the executive consider duties of care towards a teenager going through profound personal changes, with an extreme trans ideology, being propelled into a leadership position?

Is the Green Party preparing for a possible Serious Case Review into the Challenor case, which would undoubtedly be interested in the context and culture of the child’s family and her abuser, his activity in other contexts and other institutions?

Did the leadership and executive’s support for Aimee Challenor’s trans agenda, and the party’s early, strident rush to endorse an extreme trans position, obscure child safeguarding responsibilities?

On a personal note, I should say that I am a Green Party member. I’ve stood as a candidate in local and parliamentary elections. My own journey into these debates was provoked more a decade ago by no-platforming and censorship of debate:

This forced me to address the issue itself.  I have benefited from feminist writing, obviously, the eloquent essay on gender, race, class and identity politics in the Jenner  and Dolezal cases in the US by political scientist Adolph Reed Jnr, and the intelligence of many transgender women and trans-sexuals. They are profoundly dismayed by the authoritarianism and speciousness of trans policy in the Green Party and the spectacular nastiness of some extreme trans advocates: Sarah Brown, a Liberal Democrats candidate in Cambridge, notoriously rebuked a fellow councillor Richard Taylor with ‘suck my formaldehyde balls’.

I support Gender Critical Greens and Woman’s Place_UK and their campaign for women’s places and safe spaces, I have chaired two of their public meetings. Trans activists have harassed the organisers and the venues, frequently obliging the organisers to change venues. In Newcastle this summer Northumbria University agreed to a last-minute booking of their out-of-town campus. A local trans activist put out an alert warning trans people that they’d not be safe in the city: watch out there’s terfs about

Many heart-sick Green Party members are now voicing their worries and urging a full review that goes beyond the Challenor debacle and reassesses policies on trans, gender and sexual politics generally, and the safeguarding of children specifically.

Some of us will give evidence to the Parliamentary committee on the Gender Recognition Act. Given the fate of others, and aside from my own decisions about whether I remain in the Green Party, we need to know whether this will this result in disciplinary action, and whether the party is prepared to forfeit seasoned and intelligent activists over bullying, misogyny and cultish trans dogma?

Members of other organisations should be asking themselves the same questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Dreams …Greens and Gender

July 2020

ON BEING NICE – DREAM ON

Green Party Visual Identity

Molly Scott Cato is one of the Green Party’s popular politicians, an economist, and until recently an admired Euro MP for the South-West. She is likely to be elected to the party’s executive in forthcoming elections where – many of her supporters have been hoping – she will confront the bitter conflict over gender politics and encourage a kinder, gentler temper.

Then on 29 June she tweeted an accusation: why was labour leader Kier Starmer being ‘so timid in defence of trans rights? Transwomen are women; transmen are men…’ Whoa, how did she know that Starmer was being timid? Maybe he didn’t want to be snared on admittedly ‘difficult’ terrain.

Like her, he urges people to be nicer. Unlike the Green Party, the Labour leader suggests that law reform to enhance trans rights ‘takes us into difficult questions,’ that should be considered ‘in a mature, calm way.’ By contrast the Green Party leaders say there is no difficulty, no debate.

Scott Cato’s assertion attracted over 100 responses in no time, unusually polite, and mostly challenging her recital of  extreme trans dogma that ‘transwomen are women; transmen are men’ and ‘no debate.’

Her tweet synchronised with an emission on the same day from the green direct action movement, Extinction Rebellion that typified what passes for political manifestos these days, it put up a pledge:

‘We do not believe that the existence of trans people…is a topic that is up for debate…transwomen are women, transmen are men…this is not up for debate.’ A torrent of protests followed and unhappy moderators found themselves having to defend a pledge the provenance of which was seemingly a mystery even to them.

Of course, trans people exist. And trans rights aren’t at risk from debate – people do not die from debate. But women’s rights and resources are at grave risk not only from the effects of ‘austerity’, funding regimes, but also from and extreme trans activism seeking to silence women and assail feminist organisations.

There is a fundamental problem – already evident in politics, in the institutions, from banks to publishers, in the voluntary sector, in sport, and in schools and universities – if a man is a woman because he says he is, then the category woman is emptied of meaning. How can we address the fact that women everywhere in the world are put upon, discriminated against, oppressed, under-paid, unpaid, raped and disrespected because they are women?

And how can we make the connections – vital for Green politics – between thoroughly gendered pillage, exploitation, pollution and patriarchy that is manifest from the Congo to the Amazon?

No sooner was the Extinction Rebellion pledge up than unhappy posts asked who decided this, what does it mean, what about women?  ‘If it helps I’m not enjoying it very much either,’ lamented a besieged moderator.

Scott Cato addressed the flood following her tweet by saying that yes, she too, wanted to end the toxicity that is stifling the Green Party. But telling members to play nicely is no match for bullying.  The authoritarian and narcissistic mantra ‘there is no debate’ is biblical not political, it is, in fact, the antithesis of politics.

The academic Sarah Ahmed goes so far as to defend ‘no debate’ and no-platforming of feminists in this way, ‘we do not agree that freedom of speech is freedom to speak unaccountably.’ But no-platforming, blocking and not-debating precisely prevents speaking accountably, it proscribes speaking, hearing and active participation in the  very production of politics.

 

IS THERE OR ISN”T THERE…?

Scott Cato and Extinction Rebellion were doing what they were simultaneously denying: they were participating in a debate it whilst prohibiting it.

Scott Cato clearly wants to heal a party suffering from septic shock, but her benign injunction is too late: playing nicely assumes that the players want to play, that they share an interest in the game, that they recognise politics as a context for necessary, peaceful, creative conflict – all of which is extinguished by ‘there is no debate’.

To understand this impasse, we need to go beyond the etiquette and structures of the Green Party to its sexual politics: it is liberal rather than radical and feminist, all about choice – choosing to sell sex, choosing to change sex. No doubt liberal goodwill to all men also motivated the party’s endorsement, without research, consultation or debate, of extreme trans dogma. Of course, people wanted to be nice and to support trans rights.

But liberalism became host to tyranny and misogyny. When damned feminists and gays, and people whose job it is to think, debated sex (bodies) and gender (cultures), and power; about prostitution, sex trafficking child sexual abuse, they met a wall of denial and harassment; when they queried cultishness and the injunction ‘there is no debate’, they were maligned as terfs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), disciplined and even sued.

Outside the pale of the Green Party, feminists and their supporters have been harangued –  J.K. Rowling’s careful and candid exploration of the issues is the latest in  a long and honourable line  – picketed, gigs cancelled, venues barred, some organisations’ funds have been threatened, funds lost; jobs have been threatened, jobs lost.

Amidst all this, the Green Party leadership either stayed shtum, or, like co-leader Sian Berry, were intransigent defenders of the dogma.

CHILD TORTURE  – THE CHALLENOR CASE

It was when a case of child rape and torture by Green Party member David Challenor became public in 2018 that the implications of this sulphurous state of affairs hit the party. He was the father of trans woman Aimee Challenor, a Green equalities spokesperson – notorious for abusive social media denunciations of ‘terfs’, and for improvising a social-media mass ‘terf’ blocking mechanism,  her boast was that 50,000 people had been blocked. Hardly an exemplar of online democracy.

Teenage Challenor had returned to Coventry (the Challenor siblings had been in care) in 2014, joined the Green Party, and embarked on ‘gender transition’. Aimee Challenor became a Green Party candidate and equalities spokesperson with ambitions to become party leader.

However, unknown to the party at the time, her rise and rise was shadowed by her father’s offence: David Challenor was arrested in 2015 for the kidnap, rape, and electrocution of a ten-year-old girl, whilst dressing up himself as a girl, at the Challenors’ home, which was also Coventry Green Party’s registered address. Apparently, he was also a fetishist who enjoyed dressing as a little girl in nappies and frocks.

Aimee had been interviewed by the police in 2015, and therefore knew about the case, but nevertheless appointed him to be her election agent in Coventry in May 2016.

After a radical High Court ruling in October 2016, which referred to Mermaids, a ‘charity’ that facilitates sex change in children, David and Aimee Challenor mobilised an open letter supporting Mermaids. Green party leaders Sian Berry and Amelia Womack were among the signatories.

In 2017, Aimee Challenor returned to the family home. In 2018 David Challenor stood trial, was convicted and jailed for 22 years. The party’s response was to condemn him, of course, and to extend support to….no, not the tortured child, but to Aimee Challenor, who had failed to warn the party of this looming disgrace, and who claimed to have not known the ‘full details’ of his offences.

This was a clear breach of party rules: candidates and officers are required to inform the party of anything that might bring the party into disrepute; it also ignored the child safeguarding implications.

During this time Aimee Challenor’s partner, based in Aberdeen, was Nathaniel Knight.They later moved to the US, married and Challenor took Knight’s name.

Subsequently, the party and Challenor were criticised by the Verita independent report, commissioned by the party and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse report on abuse linked to Westminster, published in February 2020. Both were stern critics of the party’s low level of safeguarding awareness.

It was the Challenor case and Aimee Challenor’s performance as equalities spokesperson and the anti-feminist discourse promoted in the Green Party from 2014-15, including the public humiliation of a philosopher who was only doing his job: thinking, and finally the lack of awareness of child abuse, that provoked many party members to challenge the trans agenda – myself included.  I wrote a critique, urging the party to ask itself whether it had been induced into a  – witch-hunting and cultishness, to which the Challenors had vigorously contributed – that not only shielded them from scrutiny but created a kind of political coma about the misogyny and McCarthyism in the party.

This was only one flank of a larger reification of offended sensibilities and censorship spreading across organisations in the US and the UK. One of the protagonists,  Richard Firth – ironically Leeds Green Party’s equality, diversity and inclusion officer – participated in a little scam designed to get the feminist campaign Women’s Place UK banned from Leeds Civic Hall: WPUK had organised a celebration the 2018 centenary of (some) women getting the vote. The group was accused of transphobia – for insisting on women’s right to safe spaces – and the reservation was revoked at the last minute.

CROWDED COMPLAINTS

It was Richard Firth who lodged a formal complaint against me in 2018. A similar complaint was lodged against former deputy leader Shahrar Ali for tweeting a reference to my Byline piece. Firth’s complaint was focused on a couple of blogs and tweets which, he alleged, attacked trans people and party policy. Readers can see for themselves.

The complaint loitered in the crowded complaints system for almost a year. In September 2019 I was informed that the committee took no position on my views, only on the way they were expressed, ‘Given the respondent’s acclaimed mastery of language, she should have been more careful about causing distress, not just offence.’ I was urged to treat other Green Party members ‘with more courtesy in the future.’

There was no reference to whom – if anyone – I had caused distress. For the record, disagreement does not equate to distress. The complaint rested on the idea that I should have pursued concerns through the party’s clogged channels and, presumably waited and waited for a non-result.

So, I would not be suspended, but I would take a proverbial slap for not being nice to the clique that, in my opinion, brought the party into disrepute.  And I would be prohibited from standing for public office for a year. Irony upon irony, Richard Firth himself was suspended for a year and banned from holding off ice for two years in 2020.

Complaints saturated the party’s disciplinary process. One of the most egregious was against Sheffield activist Andy Healey, a promoter of the feminist site, Gender Critical Greens.

Clearly, there is a debate and there isn’t: it is mangled in the party’s disciplinary – rather than democratic – processes. Attempts to address the decline of democracy in the party, the toxic culture, and the implications of the trans modus operandi *at the party’s spring 2019 party conference – despite a clear majority in support of debate – were thwarted: no time was allocated for a conversation that most of the people at the conference wanted to have.

Therein lies madness and tyranny. So, we come back to the Extinction Rebellion and Molly Scott-Cato.

Without consulting supporters – difficult to do in intensely-devolved movements – a coterie in Extinction Rebellion introduced a polarising trans commandment for which it has no mandate. Scott-Cato’s sincerely-held wish for everyone to be nice and bring an end to nastiness is an impossible dream if she holds to the prohibition: there is no debate.

Be Nice is no answer. The party is polarised and it must take a risk: acknowledge the divisions, admit that though they may never be resolved they can be addressed; create the opportunity for collective contemplation of the evidence, the science and the politics, the theory and practice of sex and gender. That is, to do politics properly.

Post script  After this piece was posted, the very experienced Green activist, Dee Searle, wrote a searing critique of Green inner-party democracy on London Left Green Blog: http://londongreenleft.blogspot.com/2020/07/can-green-party-be-saved-from-its.html

  • Theo Simon proposed a late motion to the 2019 party conference to address a perceived crisis:

“Review and renew the democratic culture of the Green Party”. It was initially ruled out, but an overwhelming conference vote decided it should be ruled back in for debate. It was not given time, however. It proposed a safe, decisive and contained way to re-evaluate recent events – particularly in response to ‘gender critical positions’, and re-establish democratic principles: ”Conference acknowledges concerns that a culture has arisen in the party which may have lowered standards of civil debate, marginalised members complaints, and silenced members voices around particular policies. In particular we note allegations of the following: Pressures brought to bear from outside the party to have members suspended; Prejudicial suspensions, without prior warning, including of a parliamentary candidate; Court action being pursued against a member by party officers; Complaints of misogynistic bullying and of complaints going unanswered; Language-policing of members in discussion forums accompanied by legal threats; Blocking of members electronic communications and other access to party bodies; Disciplining of local parties over their wording of resolutions. We affirm that a culture of respectful, inclusive and transparent enquiry and debate is essential if we want to develop effective Green policy, retain membership, and build a democratic party worthy of office. We also affirm that all party officers and internal procedures must be seen to serve and protect these ends. We recognise that, in parallel to the independent Verita enquiry, work must now be done to re-establish trust in our democratic culture, policy-making and governance, both within the party and beyond. Conference therefore instructs GPRC, as guardians of party well-being, as follows: 1) To commission an expeditious internal enquiry into how this divisive culture has arisen and been perpetuated and what measures should now be taken to restore political health and amicable debate. 2) To invite submissions to this enquiry, relating to the period September 2016 to September 2018, from members and former members, with guarantees of confidentiality if required. This Internal Enquiry Into The Party’s Democratic Culture to be established within no more than one month of this motion, and to be concluded no later than the week before Spring Conference 2019, with findings and recommendations to be made available to members at that time. 3) To restore confidence in the ‘no fault’ suspension mechanism by confirming the procedure that GPRC is using to reach decisions on requests for immediate suspension. 4) To ensure that plans are drawn up by 14th December, and communicated to all members, for a Disciplinary Review process whereby members or former members can submit requests that suspensions, expulsions, complaint adjudications or other disciplinary sanctions from this period be reconsidered, such that any remedial action which is necessary may be taken.”

 

Personal note: It is with the greatest regret that I am leaving the Green Party.

J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues