Commons Committee Points Scoring

The Women and Equalities Select Committee hearing this morning was concentrating on women in politics and the various measures the political parties were taking to improve the number of women in parliament. As a prospective parliamentary candidate myself, and a female one at that, it’s a subject of specific interest to me.

It was surprising, therefore, to suddenly find myself as the subject of part of a question aimed at Tim Farron by Ben Howlett. It meant that the rest of today has been “interesting”, and has resulted in me sending the letter below to the chair of the committee, the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP.

While the BBC iPlayer has the coverage, the relevant part starts about 1 hour, 15 minutes in on this link –


Dear Maria

I watched this morning’s committee proceedings, and was surprised and shocked when Ben Howlett confronted Tim Farron over the Liberal Democrat record on LGBT rights.

Ben asked “How can we trust the Liberal Democrats to promote equality of opportunity when … currently your transgender member of parliament who is a woman at the moment in Chippenham is facing deselection because she’s ‘a bit freaky’?

I am the Lib Dem PPC for Chippenham. As you know, having appeared before your committee myself, I am a woman with a trans history.

Leaving aside the fact that Ben erroneously thinks I’m currently Chippenham’s MP, I would like to clarify two things:

Firstly, I am not facing deselection. The Lib Dems have selected candidates in a large number of seats, including Chippenham. If no general election is called by the end of May 2017, all of those selections will be redone, not just Chippenham. Tim Farron clarified all of this to your committee this morning. There are no moves within the constituency party to initiate a deselection and my understanding is that any such move would be roundly defeated.

Secondly, no-one in the Chippenham Liberal Democrats has referenced me as being “a bit freaky”. I am not sure where Ben has got this quote from, but it does not appear to be any member of the Chippenham Liberal Democrats.

Given that the basis of this question to Tim was misleading, and Ben alleged facts which were and are untrue, I would be grateful if the committee would quickly and publicly clarify the situation.

Additionally, however, Ben also seemed to refer to me as being “a woman at the moment”. This would imply that I am considering reassigning to male or a non-binary identity. This is simply untrue. I would have expected much better from Ben given his exposure to many trans people, including me, and their concerns in your initial inquiry.

The executive of the Chippenham Liberal Democrats have expressed outrage at Ben’s question, and are reporting this matter to the House authorities, with the expectation that a full apology will be forthcoming from Ben.

I would appreciate your urgent attention in this matter, and look forward to meeting you again next week.

Helen Belcher

Liberal Democrat PPC for Chippenham

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