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Sunak seeks to tackle ‘confusion’ on gender while Starmer goes on defence

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer (Henry Nicholls/Victoria Jones/PA)
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer (Henry Nicholls/Victoria Jones/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will vow to amend equality laws to prevent “confusion” on sex and gender, while Sir Keir Starmer will focus on defence as the General Election campaign enters its second full week.

The Conservatives have pledged to change the Equality Act to define the protected characteristic of sex as “biological sex”.

They claim the change will make it simpler for service providers for women and girls, such as those running sessions for domestic abuse victims, to prevent biological males from taking part.

The party says the proposed change to the law will not remove the existing and continuing protections against discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment provided by the Equality Act.

Mr Sunak said: “The safety of women and girls is too important to allow the current confusion around definitions of sex and gender to persist.

“The Conservatives believe that making this change in law will enhance protections in a way that respects the privacy and dignity of everyone in society.”

Minister for women and equalities Kemi Badenoch has spoken frequently in the Commons on the issue and said the change in the law needs to occur because public bodies are now acting out of “fear of being accused of transphobia”.

CityUK International Conference – London
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch delivers a keynote speech during the CityUK International Conference at St Paul’s, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer will pitch Labour as the “party of national security” as he seeks to switch attention to defence.

The Labour leader is expected to meet forces veterans and a group of his party’s candidates when he campaigns in the north west of England on Monday.

He will be hoping to be able to avoid questions on Diane Abbott, after she announced that she will be standing for the party in Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Ms Abbott wrote on X that she intends “to run and to win as Labour’s candidate”, as she dispelled rumours that she had been offered a peerage in return for stepping down.

The lack of clarity over whether Ms Abbott would be allowed to stand for the party after she had the whip reinstated last week dominated the Labour campaign, despite their desperate efforts to stay on message.

Labour Party Conference
Diane Abbott addressing the Labour Party annual conference at the Brighton Centre (Victoria Jones/PA)

As part of his defence pitch on Monday, Sir Keir will reaffirm his commitment to a “nuclear deterrent triple lock” as well as his ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy.

Mr Sunak has made clear he wants to meet the 2.5% target by 2030 although Labour has so far declined to outline its timeline, only noting it would do so when economic conditions allow.

Sir Keir has been attempting to shift perceptions of Labour’s defence stance following the party’s time under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a long-standing critic of Nato and Trident.

The Labour leader said: “National security will always come first in the changed Labour Party I lead.

“Keeping our country safe is the bedrock of stability that the British people rightly expect from their government.

“My message to them is clear: Labour has changed. No longer the party of protest, Labour is the party of national security.

Keir Starmer visit to BAE Systems
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a campaign visit to BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (Danny Lawson/PA)

“The excellent former service personnel that are standing as Labour candidates are a testament to that change.”

He added: “In the face of increasing threats to national security, actions will speak louder than words.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats will seek to prevent damage closer to home, as they call for new protections for rivers and coastlines to end “environmental vandalism”.

The party has announced an expansion of marine protected areas and a new Blue Flag status for rivers will be included in its General Election manifesto.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Our precious rivers and coastlines have been destroyed after years of a Conservative Government letting water firms get away with environmental vandalism.”

He added: “The Liberal Democrats will have the boldest manifesto on cleaning up our rivers and coastlines. Families should be free to swim safely in the knowledge that our waters are not polluted with sewage.”

General Election campaign 2024
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey falls into the water while paddleboarding on Lake Windermere (Peter Byrne/PA)

The SNP will seek to build on the rhetoric of its General Election launch campaign in Glasgow on Sunday, as party leader John Swinney faces off against fellow Scottish party leaders in a TV debate.

On Sunday Mr Swinney said Westminster decision-making has meant “austerity, Brexit and a cost-of-living crisis being imposed on Scotland”.