We have an election happening in the UK. In the past such things have often been of little interest to me. The town where I grew up, and the town where I lived until recently, were both in constituencies where the the Tories could have put up a corpse and still got over 50% of the vote. Ah well, at least I wasn’t in the Bath & North East Somerset constituency, where they did put up a corpse who kept getting elected. However, Rees-Mogg is one of many Tories too chicken the contest the election this time because he knows he’ll lose. That’s not the case for Trowbridge, where the incumbent Tory is still confident of winning.

These days, things are very different. To start with, my local constituency is known to be a hot bed of Plaid Cymru supporters. Secondly, it is one of the constituencies that the Tories gerrymandered. They have stuck us in with Carmarthen which has traditionally been solidly Tory. And with Labour on the rise across the country, people were initially predicting a three-way fight.

Earlier this week some friends and I headed into Carmarthen to see a hustings. It was being held at SERO, a community environment centre, and was therefore likely to attract a more progressive audience. Of the 8 candidates, only 4 turned up. The far-right (Reform) and far-left (Workers Party) candidates did not respond to the invitation to participate. The Green, very sadly, was sick and unable to attend. There was a place set for the Tory, but he didn’t show. It looks like he has given up. So maybe it is only a two-way race.

Ours is one of the few seats in the country to have a Women’s Equality Party candidate. I suspect that is because the incumbent for my town’s old seat was kicked out of Plaid when he was arrested for beating his wife, though he kept his seat in Parliament. However, he decided not to run, which left my new pal, Nancy Cole, with much less to do. It was her first time as a candidate, and with the election having been called in a rush she had no time to get any training. In view of that, she did very well, but I don’t expect her to retain her deposit. On the plus side, both the Labour and Plaid candidates supported most of her positions. Getting other parties to support their policies is one of main purposes of WEP.

The LibDem candidate, Nick Beckett, was the only man among the four candidates. He’s a local councillor, clearly an experienced politician, and he spoke very well. Sadly he has no chance.

The Labour candidate, Martha O’Neil, is very personable. She was born here, speaks good Welsh, and clearly knows the area despite now being part of the Westminster set. She’s young, very smart (won a scholarship to Cambridge), has worked for an animal rights charity, and knows a lot about IT (a skill sadly lacking in Westminster). She could win.

That leaves Plaid Cymru. Their candidate, Ann Davies, is also an experienced local councillor. She owns a small farm near Carmarthen. What I’d seen of her campaign before the hustings was all about being anti building new transmission links to connect renewable generation to the grid. Farmers have a reputation of being very conservative around here, so I was a bit worried.

Thankfully Ann was very different in person. She, along with Nick and Martha, had clearly researched options for getting more renewables online without building pylons through local beauty spots. She was well aware of the culpability of farmers in polluting rivers, and knew something had to be done. Despite being quite a bit older than Martha, she was equally vociferous in supporting the women’s rights issues raised by Nancy. Being a Plaid candidate, she was able to talk about advocating for Wales, whereas Martha, if elected, would be subject to the whims of the very English Labour establishment. And she was the only candidate to mention LGBTQ+ rights, unprompted at that.

To date no one has come to my door canvassing. I’ve had one leaflet from Labour and two from Plaid. The Tories sent a questionnaire asking about my political views, which seemed to be aimed at getting a list of people to be sent to internment camps should they actually win.

Given that it seems that kicking out the Tory is not going to be an issue here, we are more free to vote our conscience. Some of my friends will vote Green regardless. Personally I’d like to vote for Nancy, but I’m also very invested in the Plaid Cymru v Labour contest, because the thought of a government led by Kier Starmer with a massive majority fills me with terror.

Most people in the UK will be better off under Labour. There’s little doubt about that. A few groups of people will not be. That includes trans people. Starmer has been very clear that he supports all of the anti-trans policies put forward by the Tories. In his view, trans women are not women, even if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and he has promised to ensure that people like me are kept out of “women only spaces”. That means hospital wards, changing rooms, toilets, rape crisis centres and so on.

The hospital thing is interesting because NHS Wales is a separate organisation from NHS England. But this is probably one of the points where we will discover that Starmer does not believe in devolution. I’ll just have to hope that I don’t need a hospital stay any time soon.

Toilets and changing rooms are a different matter. There’s a case before the UK Supreme Court at the moment that will probably end up with a ruling that it is legal to exclude trans women from “women only spaces”, even if they have a GRC. That won’t be enough for the transphobes. What they want, and what Starmer seems prepared to give them, is to change the law so that it is a crime to allow a trans woman to use a “woman only space”.

This will put the onus on service providers–hotels, pubs, gyms, shops and so on–to enforce the law. They will end up getting lots of false positives, causing endless trouble for cis women who are not sufficiently feminine-looking. But they will, very reasonably, claim that the Gender Recognition Act is an obstacle to their upholding the law. I have government ID (passport and driving licence) that say very clearly that I am female. The government would have to demand that I surrender those so that I can’t use them to pee illegally. As I have no desire to have government ID that outs me as trans to anyone I have to show it to, that would be a major inconvenience.

As far as other constituencies go, I would still advocate voting Labour if the only alternative is the Tories. I’d probably be voting Labour if I was still in Trowbridge. But if, like me, you have the option to get rid of a Tory without giving the seat to Labour (or Reform), I hope you will do so. The country needs an opposition.

Friends in Bristol, please vote for Carla, she’s great.