Nicola Sturgeon pressed on row with JK Rowling over gender

COVID, the crisis in social and health care, the state of the post 9/11 world – the Sunday politics shows are hardly short of subjects to explore. Their chief concern yesterday, however, was how to jump on the increasingly crowded Emma Raducanu bandwagon.

They were not alone. The achievement of the 18-year-old in winning the US Open was such that everyone from the Queen down wanted to have their say.

On Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday, the host praised the finalists’ “graciousness and poise”.

From there he moved on to Boris Johnson. “Known to wield a racquet” occasionally, said Phillips, the Prime Minister had finally “served up” his social care proposals and next week would come forward with “a volley of new ideas” on managing Covid.

“Enough of the tennis already,” Phillips finally said, as if reading viewers’ minds. As if. His first question to Sajid Javid was about the US Open. “What a phenomenal performance and what a huge inspiration to all of us,” said England’s Health Secretary.

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Nick Robinson, standing in on The Andrew Marr Show, said Raducanu had “put a smile on the nation’s face”.

The deserved praise did not squeeze serious matters out of the Sunday shows. Among the highlights:

– Sajid Javid putting plans for vaccine passports in England in the shredder;

– Nicola Sturgeon being asked if she agreed with JK Rowling on sex and gender;

– And a valuable lesson from Martin Geissler on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show on the wisdom of sometimes hauding one’s wheesht.

First, vaccine passports. Last Sunday, Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, went on the Sunday shows to carefully construct the case in favour.

A week on, Mr Javid, appearing on Marr, dumped the idea, telling Robinson the UK Government should not be doing things for the sake of it, or because “others” were doing so.

Those “others”, of course, include the Scottish Government.

“I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead,” said Mr Javid.

Yet asked earlier by Phillips if vaccine passports were on the way, the Health Secretary had said: “We haven’t made a final decision as a government.”

What had changed in the space of an hour? Whatever the reason, one would understand if Phillips felt hard done by.

Phillips also had a tricky time in his interview with Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, leading to a bizarre exchange between the two men.

“If you stop interrupting me I will tell you,” said Mr Ashworth when pressed on Labour’s social care policy.

“Well if you tell me then I’ll stop interrupting,” countered Phillips.

“Well, you’ve just interrupted me again, Trevor …”

They might have been there all day, but thankfully Mr Ashworth had an appointment with Nick Robinson.

Sometimes it pays to take a gentler, easy like Sunday morning approach in an interview, as Martin Geissler demonstrated on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show.

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The guest was Andrew Wilson. A confidante of Scotland’s First Minister and the man in charge of making the economic case for independence, the former MSP is always worth a listen.

Geissler, wisely, largely left him to it. No scoops, but some interesting strategic pointers, including Mr Wilson pressing the line that the risks of doing nothing on independence had never been greater.

Contrast this softly-softly approach by Geissler to the one taken with the First Minister last Friday.

The former ITN correspondent showed his Paxmanesque appetite for a scrap when questioning the Scottish Government’s payment of £12,000 to Janey Godley to front a Covid-19 health ad. The comedian had, in her own words, sent “horrifically despicable” tweets about black people and disabled people.

From initially telling Geissler that “these things happen”, Ms Sturgeon condemned Godley’s tweets as “completely beyond the pale”.

Trevor Phillips may have missed out on the vaccine passports scoop, but he had a notable exchange with Scotland’s First Minister about gender recognition.

Phillips asked: “Do you agree with JK Rowling that there is a biological basis to sex and that you, for example, are a woman, not a person with a womb but a woman?”

The First Minister replied: “I am a woman, and yes I do think there is a biological aspect to sex.” There were many things she agreed with Rowling on, she added, but on some of the “nuances” they might take a different opinion.

The Scottish Government’s bill on gender recognition was about making an existing process for trans people to legally change gender “less degrading and traumatic”, said the First Minister.

While critics of the bill fear the reforms will jeopardise women-only spaces, Ms Sturgeon insisted: “It does not in any shape or form remove the legal protection that women have, and that is important to me as a feminist.

“There are real threats to women across the world right now – abusive men, predatory men, misogyny, sexism, places like Texas trying to reduced the right to abortion. Let’s focus on the real threats to women’s safety rather than things that might be perceived threats, but in reality, in my view, are not.”

A debate definitely to be continued.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992