'It's a woke war': Government LGBT+ adviser quits over trans exclusion in conversion therapy ban

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand explains the significance of Iain Anderson's resignation

A key LGBT+ adviser to the government has quit over its plan to exclude trans people from a ban on conversion therapy, accusing ministers of waging a "woke war" on the community, ITV News can exclusively reveal.

Iain Anderson said he was resigning from his role as the LGBT business champion because the government is "trying to drive a wedge" between trans and lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

"Britain needs a strategy for trans people and I can’t see one at the moment," he said.

"We have a tabloid debate going on about people’s lives. It’s not a respectful debate, it's turned into a woke war. It's turned into a wedge issue... I was LGBT Business Champion not LGB or T, and that’s why I’m walking away."

The resignation comes after 100 leading charities and organisations pulled out of a government-run LGBT+ conference following reporting from ITV News which revealed ministers were planning to renege on their promise to ban conversion therapy in its entirety.

UK Editor Paul Brand was leaked a document showing Boris Johnson had decided not to outlaw the practice, despite making repeated promises.

The government soon performed a partial U-turn, saying it would go ahead with the plan, but was excluding trans conversion therapy from the ban because it's a "legally complex area...particularly in the case of under-18s".

Mr Anderson told ITV News that not even Equalities Minister Liz Truss (who is also foreign secretary) was aware of plans to drop the conversion therapy ban, nor were any of the government's team of LGBT+ advisers - until ITV News published its report last Thursday.

The plan to scrap the ban was revealed on Transgender Visibility Day, on which Mr Anderson made commitments in public that the government had an inclusive approach to a flagship conversion therapy ban to include all LGBT+ people - "until it changed twice on Thursday".

"I do feel undermined," Mr Anderson said, adding: "This came as a complete bolt out of the blue. Not just to me but to Liz Truss and the government's LGBT envoy. It came on the very day of International Transgender Visibility. I was completely shocked."

Parliament's first and only trans MP said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the government's partial U-turn.

Tory MP Jamie Wallis, who just last week came out as trans, said the government had broken a promise.

"I'm bitterly disappointed at the government’s decision not to include gender identity in the ban on conversion therapy."

He added: "If the conversion therapy ban passes through parliament without any protections for the transgender community, it cannot be described as anything other than a broken promise."

Mr Anderson said the government's LGBT+ conference - Safe To Be Me 2022 - cannot go ahead in June this year as planned after more than a hundred organisations pulled out.

"Given what has happened, the conference can’t take place, trust has been eroded."

He said he "took this job on the basis there’d be a policy for everyone in the LGBT community, but apparently that’s not going to happen".

"This is a matter of principle. I’ve attempted to lobby government but they don’t want to move. When you disagree with policy you step away and that’s what I’m doing," he said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the government sought to clarify why it had decided to exclude transgender people from the ban.

“The government has a proud record on LGBT rights, and the prime minister is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy,” a government statement read.

“Recognising the complexity of issues and need for further careful thought, we will carry out separate work to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further.

“This is a legally complex area and we have a responsibility to ensure unintended consequences are not written into legislation, particularly in the case of under-18s.”