Ruling

01059-18 Lennox v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      24th May 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01059-18 Lennox v The Times 

Summary of Complaint 

1.    Sarah Lennox complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Labour’s purge of the trans-rights heretics,” published on 3 February 2018. 

2.    The article was a comment piece, reporting on the dispute within the Labour Party over gender identity, specifically gender self-identification, and all-women shortlists. The article discussed whether individuals who self-identified as female would and should be eligible for all-female shortlists, or if a gender recognition certificate was required. The article referred to the “opposing camps” within the Labour party on this issue, and reported that while  Jeremy Corbyn “had decreed, without conference debate, that gender self-identity is official policy,” a number of other party members disagreed with this position. It stated that when the shadow equalities minister had “announced that anyone who self-identifies as female can join all-women shortlists she was wrong: Labour rules require a gender-recognition certificate.” The article also appeared online with the same headline and was substantively the same as the print article. 

3.    The complainant said that it was inaccurate to state that the Labour Party required a gender-recognition certificate, as there was no reference to this in the Labour party’s current rules. While she acknowledged that a campaigner who sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) had said that the issue had been discussed at a recent meeting, she said that the campaigner had not stated that individuals was required to provide a Gender Recognition Certificate to the party, but that they may be required to obtain the legal document. 

4.    She also said that the article was inaccurate as she believed it would be illegal for the Labour Party to require an individual to produce a Gender Recognition Certificate. She said that a Gender Recognition Certificate was not a form of identification but simply required the Office of National Statistics to issue a new birth certificate for the individual.  Therefore, she believed that the newspaper should publish a correction acknowledging that the Labour did not, and could not, require an individual to provide a Gender Recognition Certificate, and apologising to the shadow equalities minister for stating that her position on the issue was wrong. 

5.    The newspaper said that the article was an accurate account of a recent meeting of a sub-committee of the NEC, the body responsible for deciding the party’s election rules. It said that a Facebook post by a participant in the meeting had stated that the party’s position as, “trans women with a Gender Recognition Certificate are welcome and encouraged to stand in AWS, as per the legislation. Guidance will be sent out to [Constituency Labour Party] Chairs and Secretaries soon.” The newspaper said it had attempted to contact the Labour Party for confirm if this was the party’s position, but it had declined to formally clarify its position. It then obtained off-the-record confirmation that this was an accurate reflection of the party position from a former Cabinet Minister and an expert on The National Executive Committee rules. It noted that after publication, a spokesperson for the Labour Party had stated that “the issued would not be discussed by the NEC until June at the earliest.” After receiving the complaint the newspaper had published a print correction on its letters page and as a footnote to the online article, stating:

“We said that Labour requires a gender-recognition certificate for those who self-identify as female to join all-women shortlists (Janice Turner, Comments, Feb 3). While an account of a closed NEC sum-Committee meeting in January suggested that this was the case, the party has yet to clarify its position on this point.”

Relevant Code Provision 

6.    Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.  

Findings of the Committee 

7.    The article discussed the issue of the eligibility of transgender women in relation to all-women shortlists in the Labour party. It discussed whether there should be a requirement for individuals to be in possession of a gender recognition certificate or whether individuals should be able to self-identify as any specific gender. At the time of publication, a public statement from someone who had been present at the NEC meeting, stated that trans women with Gender Recognition Certificates were welcomed and encouraged to stand in all-women shortlists. The NEC is the governing body for the Labour Party, and sets the rules for the selection of candidates and decides issues of party policy. The newspaper had also tried to contact the Labour party for comment, and confirmed with two sources within the party, that this reflected Labour party policy. In these circumstances the newspaper had taken care over the accuracy of the claim that the party required trans women to have a Gender Recognition Certificate. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i) on this point. 

8.    Where the body that decided the party rules on this issue appeared to support this position at the time of publication, reporting this, in an article that had made clear that this was still an ongoing dispute within the party was not significantly inaccurate. While there was no breach of Clause 1 (ii) on this point, the Committee welcomed the clarification the newspaper published, making this point clear. 

9.    The article did not state, as the complainant suggested, that the Labour party required an individual to provide a gender recognition certificate, but simply to be in possession of one. This was an accurate characterisation of the statement given by the NEC member. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

Conclusions 

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required 

11. N/A 

Date complaint received: 04/02/2018 

Date decision issued: 03/05/2018