The big issue of the day seems to be transgender rights. Equalities Minister Justine Greening has announced proposals to allow people to change their legal gender without any medical intervention. A consultation on reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act will begin in the autumn. I suspect it will be impossible to express even the slightest concern about this without being accused of a host of "isms" - but I am going to try.
It is an absolute given that we should show understanding and compassion towards anyone confused about their gender. We should not discriminate against them in any way, nor should we tolerate verbal or physical abuse towards them or anyone else. However, we cannot consider the rights of transgender people without considering the rights of others.
If a man decides to register him/herself as a woman, should he/she have the right to use women's toilets, changing rooms, hospital wards, etc.? This would clearly have an impact on the rights of women using those facilities.
Some might say I am on the "wrong side of history" and "bigoted". But I would maintain that anyone in possession of male genitalia should be expected to use male facilities regardless of what gender they feel they are.
Politicians rightly criticise each other when they disagree, yet rarely offer words of praise when they know someone has done the right thing. I would like to publicly thank Labour’s Welsh Economy Secretary Ken Skates for having the good sense to properly check the claims being made by developers behind the Circuit of Wales project, then having the courage to turn down their application for over £200m of taxpayers’ money based on his findings. The test of a strong and competent minister is a willingness to put the public interest before a narrow political advantage and Ken passed with flying colours.
We Were Warriors by former Army captain Johnny Mercer, now the re-elected Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View, is easily one of the best books I have ever read. I know him in Parliament as a thoughtful and self-effacing man far from the stereotype of the macho solider. This compelling story of brutal combat details the horror of war, the fear felt by those in the middle of it, and the idiosyncrasies of the British Army. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 31 July 2017*