A furious row over the right of men who identify as women to use female-only train compartments has pitted Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson against the might of Mumsnet.
The dispute erupted after the operator of the Caledonian Sleeper, which runs overnight between London and Scotland, said that passengers who were born male but ‘self-identify’ as female could sleep in cabins reserved for women.
The move caused uproar on the Mumsnet internet forum, where users complained that their safety could be endangered.
Mumsnet argued that the safety of women could be compromised if passengers who were born male but ‘self-identify’ as female sleep in cabins reserved for femalesiPhone transfer software
Mumsnet argues that they do not share the same faith as Mr Soames when it comes to 'male train passengers' behaving themselves in women-only berths
Mr Soames argued on Twitter that people would not say that they are a woman when in fact they are a man - because Caledonian train passengers are not that deceitful
An attempt to defuse the row by Rupert Soames, the chief executive of Serco – which took over the running of the sleeper service three years ago – led to claims that he had been ‘patronising’.
Mr Soames, whose grandfather was the great wartime Prime Minister, was reduced to pleading that the cabins had emergency buttons.
It is the latest controversy over transgender rights and follows the decision by a female-only swimming pond on Hampstead Heath, North London, to welcome men ‘transitioning’ to women.
Proposals to make it easier for people to change gender also prompted two feminists to protest by attending a men-only swimming session at a leisure centre in South London.
The Caledonian is one of only two railway sleeper services left in the UK - it shuttles between London and stations in Scotland including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen
Serco took over the franchise of the Caledonian service from ScotRail - a £150 million revamp is due in October which will introduce en suite cabins and double beds
Mr Soames argued that if a single woman was uncomfortable with the other person with whom they shared a cabin, they would be entitled to move
The sleeper service row began after a Mumsnet user posted Serco’s response to an enquiry about whether women could be forced to share cabins with men who define themselves as female.
It said: ‘Guests travel with the Caledonian Sleeper in shared accommodation for men-only or women-only; the service is provided on the basis of the gender that the individual self-identifies with.’
The Mumsnet user wrote: ‘I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with this at all and it’s yet another example of women’s spaces being erased.’