Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

Mark Damazer defends decision to axe Baroness Nicholson

Booker prize chairman claims Baroness Nicolson was axed for ‘bullying’ tweet and NOT anti-trans views as she apologises to transgender model and asks her out for dinner

  • Mark Damazer said the Baroness did not represent the Foundation’s views at all
  • The Baroness has asked trans activist and model, Munroe Bergdorf to dinner 
  • Mr Damazer stressed the decision was not about contested views on trans rights 
  • But that it was clear the tweet ‘would cause considerable effects to trans people’

Mark Damazer (pictured) stressed the decision to axe the honorary role was not because of Baroness Nicholson’s position on certain trans rights that are often contested

Chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation, Mark Damazer, defended the foundation’s decision to abolish honorary roles after Baroness Nicolson sent ‘transphobic’ tweet.   

Baroness Nicholson called trans activist and model, Munroe Bergdorf, ‘a weird creature’ and then tried to justify it by saying it was a reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 1. 

In another, now deleted tweet, Baroness Nicholson misgendered the model and said it was a typing error, according to PinkNews. 

Chair of the Foundation Mark Damazer said they made the decision not only because of the ‘troubling’ tweet but because people thought Baroness Nicholson’s title meant she represented the Foundation. 

‘Baroness Nicholson is more than entitled to her own views but that tweet caused some confusion about the difference between an honorary title and something that symbolises the Booker,’ he said on Radio 4 this morning.   

Baroness Nicholson, who has been an honorary vice president since 2009, said she never meant any tweet to cause sadness but realises her tweet has and issued an apology today.

The Tory peer (pictured), whose late husband Sir Michael Caine helped establish the prize, had been honorary vice president since 2009

She said did not recognise Munroe Bergdorf’s eminence and career and respects the work the model and activist has done for other people. 

‘I’m asking her if we can have a meal together maybe we might find a lot in common you never know,’ said Baroness Nicholson. 

Mr Damazer stressed the decision to axe honorary roles was not because of Baroness Nicholson’s position on certain trans rights that are often contested. 

He said it was not to do with ‘her stance on the relationship between trans rights and the issues about spaces and facilities which I know many, not least amongst them JK Rowling, think should be for biologically determined, as it were, women. ‘ 

He said the Booker Foundation had no role in deciding or censoring her views on those things but it was easy to see her tweet would ’cause considerable effects to trans people’. 

Bergdorf welcomed the foundation’s decision to do away with Baroness Nicholson’s role and said: ‘See what happens when we all stand up TOGETHER against bigotry!’ 

Baroness Nicholson insisted she is not transphobic as many booker trustees have publicly called her. 

She said: ‘I am not transphobic. 

‘I work with all sorts of people everywhere and I fully support their rights and everyone else’s rights.

‘I have a lifetime commitment to equality and diversity. 

‘I’m a feminist in the broadest sense of the word.’ 

Mr Damazer underlined that Baroness Nicholson’s views did not represent the Booker Foundation’s and wanted to clarify that honorary positions have nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the organisation. 

Baroness Nicholson said it saddened her that the Foundation does not see her as someone who embodies equality and diversity. 

She was disappointed in the Foundation’s distancing itself from her and said there might not be a Booker if she had not suggested turning the company into a charitable foundation. 

Monroe Bergdorf welcomed the decision to axe the baroness and said on Twitter: ‘See what happens when we all stand up TOGETHER against bigotry!’ 

After the clash on Twitter Monroe Bergdof said on Instagram:  ‘In addition to calling me ”a weird creature” and sharing transphobic memes featuring abuse that I received three years ago, reframed as if I said it myself.

‘She has also deliberately misgendered me and begun retweeting dangerous propaganda from anti-trans hate group Transgender Trend, who actively go into schools to disseminate anti-trans rhetoric.’

The Booker Prize statement in full:

We, the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, met today (June 25) and wish to reiterate that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender people are her own personal opinions.

The issues are complex, but our principles are clear. We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia – and do not discriminate on any grounds.

Literature is open, plural and questioning. We believe every author’s work should be approached by readers in the same spirit. Integrity is central to both Booker Prizes, whose judging process is conducted at all times in keeping with these values.

Upon her retirement from the Board in 2009, Baroness Nicholson was made an honorary vice president, a role that gave her no say in the governance or operations of the Foundation or prizes. In recent days there has been some confusion about the nature of honorary titles used by the Foundation. Too many believe that these titles in some way symbolise the prizes. That is not the case.

We have today decided that these titles and roles should, with immediate effect, cease to exist. Those holding them have been informed and thanked for their longstanding interest.

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