Joanna Cherry was warned not to get involved in trans rights debate
SNP MP Joanna Cherry who is threatening to sue Fringe venue for cancelling her show in gender row reveals she was told in 2019 that speaking out on trans issues and women’s rights would ‘ruin any chance’ of her becoming party leader
- SNP MP Joanna Cherry is threatening legal action against The Stand venue
- Read more: Joanna Cherry gives Fringe venue seven-day ultimatum
MP Joanna Cherry, who has become embroiled in a row over trans rights, was warned that speaking out on the gender debate could ‘ruin any chance’ she had of becoming the SNP’s party leader.
The politician made the comments today after threatening to sue The Stand comedy club in the Scottish capital after it cancelled her Edinburgh Fringe event.
An ‘In Conversation…’ talk with with the MP for Edinburgh South was scheduled for August 10 as part of a series of political interviews, but the venue cancelled her appearance after staff said they were not comfortable with her views on transgender issues.
Some working at the venue, which was set up by fellow SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, threatened to not turn up for their shift if the discussion with the outspoken politician went ahead.
The MP, who was removed from the SNP frontbench in 2021, demanded an apology and called for the event to be reinstated, with her lawyers writing at letter to The Stand warning that if it does not back down she will seek damages and legal fees.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry (pictured) said she was warned by her political advisor in 2019 not speak out in the debate on trans rights
Yesterday, the MP for Edinburgh South revealed she would be taking legal action against The Stand comedy club after they cancelled her event scheduled to take place during The Fringe
Ms Cherry believes the venue was reluctant to continue with her event because of her outspoken ‘gender critical’ views and opposition to the Scottish Government’s attempts to reform how people can legally change gender.
Speaking today in an online event hosted by the think tank Reform Scotland, Ms Cherry said her political adviser warned her in 2019 not to speak out on trans issues and women’s rights.
The advisor said getting involved in the row ‘would probably damage (her) political career and ruin any chances (she) would ever have of putting (herself) forward the SNP leadership’.
Ms Cherry said that the time she did not believe her adviser but now thinks ‘he was right, actually’, noting the ‘absolutely appalling’ backlash herself and other gender critical feminists had received ‘over the last few years’ for their views.
The MP who is the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in the House of Commons added ‘I think it is really important for me to speak out’ accusing others of a ‘collective cowardice’ on the trans rights debate.
‘It is really important for people like me in public life to take a stand against, not just no platforming and an attack on free speech, but fundamentally discriminatory action against lesbians and feminists who don’t accept gender identity ideology,’ she said.
The debate of trans rights has become one of the most divisive in Scottish politics in recent years, involving a number of high-profile figures including Scottish author JK Rowling and ex-Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies who have both called for the proposed bill to be reconsidered.
Ms Cherry was removed from the SNP frontbench in 2021. Pictured: Ms Cherry with former First Minister and leader of the party Nicola Sturgeon
Last week Harry Potter author JK Rowling showed her support for Ms Cherry after her event was cancelled. Pictured: Ms Cherry and JK Rowling together
Last week the Harry Potter writer showed her support for Ms Cherry, who is a lawyer and lesbian activist, after the event cancelled one of its ‘In conversation with …’ events with the feminist politician.
She said her treatment was ‘like a new form of McCarthyism’ – the US phenomenon in the 1950s when unsubstantiated allegations were made about people suspected of being communists.
‘This is like a new form of McCarthyism where any lesbian or feminist who doesn’t subscribe to gender identity ideology is losing the ability to have a public platform and, in some cases, losing their ability to earn a living,’ she said.
Speaking about her proposed legal action, Ms Cherry said: ‘Unless The Stand acknowledge their unlawful discrimination, apologise to me, and reinstate the event, then I will take them to court.
‘Because I think it is really important that we have a clear statement in Scotland, in a case that has some publicity, that discriminating against women, and indeed men, like me who hold these beliefs is unlawful.
‘If people in public life, in positions of leadership, like university principals, employers in the public sphere, political leaders, were prepared to take a stand on this, then perhaps I wouldn’t find myself in this position.
Ms Cherry was warned that speaking out on the gender debate could ‘ruin any chance’ she had of becoming the SNP’s party leader, she claimed today
The popular comedy club The Stand is owned by fellow SNP MP Tommy Sheppard (pictured)
‘But the political class seem to have been seized by a collective cowardice on this issue, with a few honourable exceptions.’
She said she was prepared to take legal action ‘partly for myself’, adding that she had to challenge comments that were ‘very damaging to my reputation’.
A statement from the venue saying that it could not run the event ‘on a properly staffed, safe and legally-compliant basis’, has been cited by her lawyers as potentially defamatory ‘as it clearly suggests that our client represents some form of danger’.
The In Conversation … talk series has previously hosted the likes of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
In the letter to The Stand, her lawyers demand an agreed statement acknowledging the club has ‘acted unlawfully by discriminating against our client’ and an apology with a wording agreed by the MP.
David McKie, of Glasgow-based law firm Levy & McRae, said it was ‘the clear and unequivocal opinion’ of the firm that the decision to cancel the show was ‘unlawful and discriminatory’.
He told the club: ‘There is no defence available to you which would or could justify the decision as a matter of law.’
Mr McKie added that an action would be raised in Edinburgh Sheriff Court if The Stand did not respond within seven days.
Ms Cherry is a critic of Scotland’s gender recognition reform plans, which make it easier for people to change their legally-recognised sex.
Last week, she said she felt she had been ‘cancelled and no-platformed’ because she was a lesbian who holds gender- critical views. But she said was ‘greatly heartened’ by the support she had received.
Ms Cherry continued while speaking to the think tank: ‘I might not always be an MP, if I was to lose my seat next year there are various career opportunities that might be closed down to me if I don’t challenge this discrimination and this attack on my reputation.’
However, she also stressed she was taking action ‘for other women because I have come across many women in the course of work who find themselves not being no platformed, but losing their jobs, or their means to earn a livelihood’.
The MP stated: ‘Lots of these women are out of the public eye and aren’t necessarily in the position I am in to take this forward.’
The Stand – which was set up in 1995 by Mr Sheppard – has been approached for comment.
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