Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

After Morning Star Apology for “cartoon which was offensive to trans people” controversy continues.

with 18 comments

Image result for morning star trans cartoon


There have been further strong reactions to this cartoon, followed by a belated retraction.

Last Sunday the Morning Star issued a statement.

An apology for the cartoon published last Tuesday

The Morning Star apologises unreservedly for the publication last Tuesday of a cartoon which was offensive to trans people.

The cartoon had not been authorised for publication and its appearance in the print edition represents a failure to follow our own procedures for approving submissions. It was removed from online editions of the paper the same day, as soon as it was seen by the editor.

A notice was sent round staff on Tuesday reminding them of the process by which cartoon submissions must be approved before publication and we are determined that such a lapse in standards will not recur.

Again, we apologise for the offence caused by this cartoon, especially to our trans contributors and readers whom we have let down.

The Metro picked up the story:

Newspaper apologises after transphobic cartoon sparks outrage.  Lucy Middleton

A newspaper has been forced to apologise after printing a transphobic cartoon this week. The picture, published in socialist paper The Morning Star on Tuesday, shows a crocodile slithering into a small pond containing newts. In speech bubbles, the newts can be seen saying, ‘But you can’t come in here! This is our safe space!’ The crocodile then replies: ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads! I’m transitioning as a newt!’

Critics of the cartoon, drawn by Stella Perrett, accused it of perpetuating false stereotypes about trans people being predatory and dangerous to others in society. One person on Twitter wrote: ‘Could barely believe my eyes seeing this dehumanising, fascist imagery in a socialist paper.

Mumsnet became involved in the controversy,

This statement is interesting:

Kristina Harrison (prominent gender. critical transwoman, WPUK supporter) just posted this on Twitter – apparently it was published in the Morning Star.

KH wrote “This cartoon appeared in The Morning Star earlier this week @M_Star_Online It is a horrific, generalised demonisation of trans people which does not belong in a civilised society, let alone a socialist newspaper. I condemn it utterly. Trans people & progressive opponents of identity politics are owed an unequivocal apology, an explanation & reassurance about what action is being taken to ensure that the line between fierce but legitimate argument and bigotry is never crossed again. Totally unacceptable. (not posting a direct link as I don’t want to facilitate any pile on against Kristina, clearly this is a sensitive personal issue for a transwoman).

Comments are supportive of KH so far. I thought it’d be a good topic for discussion here – does this ‘demonise trans people’ or does it baldly illustrate safeguarding concerns with self-ID? Is it different from the popular/accepted(?) ‘Fox identifying into the henhouse’ analogy? Hopefully we can keep things civil and respectful with no personal criticisms of Kristina.

The issue for many  has not been about the freedom to offend, but the why a self-identifying left daily chose to publish this material.

The Morning Star is no defender of the absolute right to say what you want about anybody.

This is what one of their columnists  said about the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper-Casher murders in 2015,

Muslims held to a double standard

….some faux-left journalists who gave enthusiastic backing to the Blair-Bush wars and are now equally gung-ho about giving the widest possible circulation of material intended to enrage Muslims.

B52 liberal Nick Cohen accuses of cowardice those choosing not to carry anti-Muslim cartoons and alleges that radical Islam is winning successive battles, including effective introduction of a blasphemy law by means of self-censorship.


Why should running images of Mohammed be seen as the acid test of commitment to press freedom?

Powerful people’s wealth has prevented more stories from being published than pressure from any religious quarter.

Charles Windsor’s recent success in the pulling of a TV programme examining his finances exposes the reality behind claims of unlimited media freedom.

Would our freedom of expression be enhanced by publication of cartoons depicting Jesus being buggered by the Holy Ghost or a naked Muslim woman with a piece of blue cloth protruding from her anus and the comment that burkhas can be worn but only on the inside?

The only thing worse than publishing such puerile work would be reacting repressively by banning it.


Why would any left-wing journalist or cartoonist jeopardise that essential by insulting fellow workers simply because they can?


Women’s Place UK  criticised the cartoon on reasonable grounds:

The crocodile cartoon that appeared in the Morning Star this week works against the respectful debate and discussion to which WPUK is committed – it was misjudged and offensive and it is right that the Morning Star has apologised.

WPUK has been calling for respectful discussion since our inception and it is to their credit that the Morning Star has hosted many articles from different viewpoints on the subject which have enabled this discussion to take place. These articles have brought a clarity to such discussions.

We are grateful to those trans people who have worked with us, spoken at our meetings and supported the sex based rights of women and girls. Their solidarity has meant so much to so many and we stand beside them now.

We have been the subject of much offensive imagery and we have always condemned it. We are happy to do so now.

Let’s move forward progressively and in solidarity.

23rd February 2020

UNISON has responded:

Left-wing newspaper that published ‘vile transphobic cartoon’ slammed by UK’s largest trade union

Pink News.

The Morning Star was condemned this week for printing a “dehumanising, fascist, transphobic” cartoon – and now, Britain’s largest trade union has said that the newspaper has sunk to “a new low”.

UNISON, which represents staff who provide public services, said the “shocking, vile, transphobic cartoon” saw “the paper sink to a new low”.

“When I saw the image shared on social media over the weekend, I assumed it had been published in the Daily Mail, not for one moment did I think the dreadful drawing had appeared in the Morning Star,” wrote Liz Snape, UNISON’s assistant general secretary, in an open letter to the newspaper’s editor, Ben Chacko.

Snape added: “Images like this peddle the dangerous myth that trans people are a threat, when they’re the ones whose safety is most at risk. The irresponsible publishing of such appalling images does nothing to make them feel more secure.

“By publishing this hurtful cartoon, the publication so many trade unionists support and hold dear risks appearing no better than the right-wing media they despise.”

Solidarity has published this analysis:

The Morning Star (linked to the Communist Party of Britain) has been forced to apologise for printing a transphobic cartoon by Stella Perrett, published in the print edition of Tuesday 18 February.

The cartoon depicting a slavering, slithering crocodile ogling terrified and defenceless newts and invading their “safe space” with the excuse that the crocodile is “transitioning to a newt”. The cartoon is grossly offensive, showing trans people as predatory and deceitful and cis women as weak and in need of protection.

As the cartoon circulated online, trade union LGBT+ groups began to organise against the Star, calling for withdrawal of union funds. A petition was set up by PCS Rainbow Collective which attracted hundreds of signatures in a few hours. The Morning Star was called out on Twitter.

The cartoon was removed from the online version of the paper with an apology claiming it “had not been authorised for publication and its appearance in the print edition represents a failure to follow… procedures for approving submissions.” The apology doesn’t explain how the cartoon was commissioned and printed without the editor noticing. The apology also skirts around the fact that the cartoon was not an aberration, but a logical conclusion of a longstanding pattern of the Morning Star publishing transphobic articles. The moral panic around “protecting women’s spaces” from trans women stems from seeing trans women as innately dangerous and threatening to cis women.


The cartoon has shone a light on the official labour movement’s extensive funding and support for the Morning Star. According to the Star, Community, CWU, FBU, GMB, NUM, POA, RMT, and Unite are represented on its management committee.

It has yet to be seen if the apology is enough to dampen the calls for unions to distance themselves from the paper. I certainly hope not. The Morning Star should be made to account for its scapegoating of an oppressed minority, dividing workers against each other and propagating the myth that our rights run counter to each other.

Though our unions fund the paper, most of us do not regularly read it and would be shocked by the lies that flow readily from its pages. As well as transphobic cartoons, activists in Boycott the Morning Star have unearthed cartoons by Stella Perrett containing antisemitic caricatures which were published in 2016.

The paper repeats Chinese state lies to cover the persecution of the Uyghur people, one of the Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. It celebrated the “liberation” of Aleppo by Assad. It repeated right wing lies about migrants driving down wages.

Reactionary, conservative politics dressed up as left-wing are the bread and butter of the Morning Star. It is about time our unions stopped paying for it.

While this furore continues the following event in planned.

The presence of  anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner and stalwart of the Arron banks backed ‘Trade Unionists’ Against the EU (supported by the Morning Star and the Socialist Party)   Paul Embery is causing concern.

This is a recent Embery tweet:



Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2020 at 2:10 pm

18 Responses

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  1. A joke is a joke, it’s not supposed to be taken seriously.
    At least they had the decency to apologise.

    Steven Johnston

    February 27, 2020 at 2:21 pm

  2. Andrew Coates

    February 27, 2020 at 2:32 pm

  3. Any of those about being in favour of the “rozzers” unlawfully killing a homeless man?

    I mean the person that made that joke would be truly beyond the pale?

    Steven Johnston

    February 27, 2020 at 3:36 pm

  4. What sort of uncouth Philistine would make a tactless joke about the unlawful killing of a homeless man, Steven? Certainly not on this blog!

    Miss Jones

    February 27, 2020 at 4:02 pm

  5. Err…over to you to answer that one Andrew!

    Steven Johnston

    February 27, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    • Andrew Coates

      February 27, 2020 at 6:48 pm

  6. There is a Russian-American expression… “the sanction of the victim.” What is it that requires such sanction?


    February 27, 2020 at 8:56 pm

  7. Oiltranslator, I hope your comments here have been “sanctioned” by the Objectivist central committee.

    I’m sure your name is rational but why does oil need to be translated?

    Steven Johnston

    February 28, 2020 at 10:13 am

  8. Very true, Steven. It is like those dimwits who ask: “Is the comedian joking?” A comedian on the comedy stage at a comedy festival. Of course they are joking! For crying our loud!

    Miss Jones.

    February 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm

  9. I hate Jim Davidson but I’d never try to stop someone from seeing him. If he makes you laugh then fill your boots! Who wants to live in a World where comedians are constantly apologising for their jokes?
    I grew up in a Mary Whitehouse era, where she was taken seriously. Though years later I would come to realise there are (sadly) Whitehouse’s across the political spectrum. How dare you censor what I can laugh at. Talking of censorship I wat watching the documentary on the video nasty scandal of the 80s. My son was laughing thinking it was a mockumentary. I had to explain him, no, they were serious…

    Steven Johnston

    February 28, 2020 at 1:09 pm

  10. Send them to a Jerry Sadowitz gig, I am showing my age there!

    Steven Johnston

    February 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm

  11. Who on earth wants to be a left-wing version of Mary Whitehouse?

    If the joke offends you that much just change the channel, walk out of the venue, stop reading the newspaper.

    Steven Johnston

    February 28, 2020 at 1:41 pm

  12. “Very true, Steven. It is like those dimwits who ask: “Is the comedian joking?” A comedian on the comedy stage at a comedy festival. Of course they are joking! For crying our loud!”: but it helps if the jokes are funny and the comedian has some sense of wit, irony and timing.

    Jim Denham

    February 28, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    • Free speech” group creates hit list of people they disagree with
      February 27, 2020
      By Sam Bright

      A group that supposedly champions free speech has created a hit list of academics it disagrees with.

      In a move that definitely isn’t reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the pro-Trump student group Turning Point UK has created something called “Education Watch” – to collect information about the perceived left-wing bias of university lecturers.

      The group invites students to submit an example of political bias from their academic staff, promising to “publish the examples we receive here.”


      Andrew Coates

      February 28, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      • Morning Star:


        WHEN my friends saw the Stella cartoon that you published on Tuesday, they were angry, and asked me if I, too, was angry. I surprised them by telling them that I felt nothing in particular.

        I’ve become numb to the sort of sentiment that the cartoon you published conveys. It’s simply a part of my life: trans people are frequently portrayed as predatory and invasive, and that’s just something I have to live with. There’s not very much I can actually do about it.

        I am 32 years old and I came out as transgender last July, after years of struggling with myself and an adulthood spent dealing with depression and reactionary ideology.

        Long before I came out or even accepted to myself that I was trans, I was well aware of the immense difficulties faced by trans people, from the lack of adequate medical care to the pervasive and often violent bigotry, even from left-wing groups that should logically be standing in solidarity with us.

        I was fully aware of just how difficult my life would be if I tried to transition. I was willing to accept the possibility that friends would abandon me, that strangers would begin looking at me as a threat, that I might experience strife with my loved ones.

        I was remarkably lucky, in that I have been able to start my transition in relative comfort, with the support of friends and family. Most of my friends did not have this luxury. The vast majority of trans people I know are working class and struggling to make ends meet.

        The NHS’s inefficient and highly prejudiced trans healthcare system has left many on years-long waiting lists to even see a specialist, let alone obtain medication — this is why so many had to turn to the grey market to obtain transition healthcare.

        Many have to crowdfund basic procedures like hair removal — as a matter of fact, some of my friends bought an electrolysis kit and learnt to use it simply so that other trans people nearby could have access to the process affordably. Trans people suffer immense employment discrimination.

        Throughout all of this we are subject to a brutally hostile media environment which paints us as fakers, perverts and predators, interpreting everything we do in the worst possible light and confronting us with an endless carousel of baseless accusations.

        As socialists yourselves, that — if nothing else — should be a deeply relatable experience.

        I knew all of this before I transitioned. I knew it would happen. I knew there’d be tremendous hardship. I did it anyway, because for me it was never a choice. I didn’t have an alternative, because the misery of pretending to be someone I wasn’t is not something I was willing or able to go back to.

        I was absolutely willing to subject myself to all of these hardships even when I wasn’t sure transition would actually work for me, and given how well it has worked for me, I’d do it all again in a second.

        These are the lives trans people live. We’re human beings.

        I know that media organisations often have to put out apologies as a matter of practice, but I want the Morning Star to really understand what it’s doing when it encourages this sort of portrayal.

        I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt in that you simply didn’t understand how much harm you’re doing to us when you perpetuate these ideas, but nobody goes through the hardship of transition and the difficulty of living as a trans person to prey on other people.

        When you spread that idea you make life harder and more dangerous for all of us.”

        Andrew Coates

        February 28, 2020 at 7:22 pm

  13. “A joke is a joke, it’s not supposed to be taken seriously.
    At least they had the decency to apologise”: ah! That makes everything OK, eh? Like when I make a racist/anti-Semitic/mother-in-law joke, and then, when no-one laughs, I apologise? That makes it OK? DO YOU REALLY THINK SO, STEPHEN???

    Jim Denham

    February 28, 2020 at 11:01 pm

  14. Jim is no hypocrite, he realises the offence the film Life of Brian caused to Christians. I take it when it ever comes on the TV, he switches the channel in disgust?

    Steven Johnston

    March 2, 2020 at 1:20 pm

  15. WE ARE writing on behalf of Unite to condemn in the strongest terms the printing of a deeply discriminatory, offensive, transphobic, sexist, and divisive cartoon in the Morning Star.

    Our members feel betrayed and let down, particularly given our long-standing relationship with the Morning Star, as the only daily paper actively supporting the struggles of trade unions and working people.

    Our trans members suffer daily discrimination and pressure as working people and as trade unionists — it is abhorrent that the Morning Star has added to this in such a disgraceful and unacceptable way.

    We welcome the editorial that was printed in the morning star on Friday February 28, setting out a clear commitment to put in place an independent inquiry.

    We do welcome the recognition that more than an apology is needed. The steps being taken to identify how this could have happened are essential. However, Unite and Unite’s LGBT+ members in particular need to be assured that any commitment we make to assisting the Morning Star in this process is genuinely respected and will ensure that this can never happen again.

    Jenny Douglas Executive Council LGBT+ representative
    Phil Jones Chair National LGBT+ Committee
    Jane Stewart Executive Council Women’s representative and Chair National Women’s Committee
    Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary Equalities
    Siobhan Endean, Harish Patel National Equalities Officers
    Tony Burke Assistant General Secretary and TU Coordinator People’s Printing Society

    Andrew Coates

    March 3, 2020 at 1:42 pm

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