Staff at the equalities watchdog were tonight accused of trying to oust their chairman over her stance on trans issues.
Whistleblowers say Kishwer Falkner is the victim of a ‘witch-hunt’ driven by ideology.
Relations are said to have soured after she backed legal reforms guarding the rights of biological women in single-sex spaces such as hospital wards and toilets.
The employees at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are said to have compiled a dossier, setting out more than 40 complaints aimed at Baroness Falkner by a dozen current and former colleagues. A source said: ‘People within the organisation are deeply concerned that this is a witch-hunt.
‘The timing is extremely questionable. There is no doubt in my mind that this is ideologically motivated and is a way to take a scalp in revenge.
‘She is the woman breaking woke and now they are trying to break her.’
Staff at the equalities watchdog were tonight accused of trying to oust their chairman Kishwer Falkner (pictured) over her stance on trans issues
There was also an allegation that the baroness employed ‘discriminatory language’ by using the words ‘a bloke in lipstick’ when discussing the online trolling of trans quiz contestant Emma Laslett (pictured) who appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Brain of Britain
Baroness Falkner is said to have been left ‘heartbroken’ by the allegations but those close to her said her ‘conscience was clear’. They branded the move by EHRC staff a ‘failed coup d’etat’.
Trans TV quizzer caught up in the row
Among the accusations facing Baroness Falkner is that she referred to a trans quiz show contestant as a ‘bloke in lipstick’ during a meeting.
However, a source last night insisted the comment had been taken out of context and that Baroness Falkner had simply been highlighting the level of abuse directed at trans women online.
She allegedly made the remark when discussing Emma Laslett amid controversy over the BBC promoting her appearance in what it called the first ‘all-women final’ of Radio 4’s Brain of Britain last year. And Women’s Hour described it as a ‘historic occasion’.
But some listeners took issue with such declarations because Miss Laslett is trans. Maya Forstater, of campaign group Sex Matters, said at the time: ‘The sad thing is that whenever the first Brain of Britain contest with four female contestants really does happen it will go unremarked.’
The fallout prompted the BBC to clarify that the ‘list of women finalists included a trans woman, a detail which was not made available to the Woman’s Hour team when they covered the story’.
Miss Laslett, who studied French at Oxford University, finished third out of four in the Brain of Britain final. The 31-year-old disability charity worker from Milton Keynes has also appeared on the 2020 grand final of Mastermind, won Pointless, been a semi-finalist on Only Connect and taken part in Eggheads.
Members of the commission’s board, which is headed by Baroness Falkner, have called for an overhaul of the 2010 Equality Act, which refers to gender and sex interchangeably.
They argue it should be amended to explicitly define sex as ‘biological sex’ to bring legal clarity in areas including sport and ensure only ‘biological women’ can use single-sex spaces.
The whistleblower said: ‘The EHRC exists to regulate the application of all rights, but sometimes rights compete and you have to balance them.
‘But we see time and time again that there is a huge price to pay for the people who do speak up for women’s rights and they are cancelled.’
The move has seen the baroness and the rest of the commission’s oversight board vilified by trans activists online.
There have also been leaks to Left-leaning media outlets branding her a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and ‘transphobic’.
Staff from the executive team were said to having been pushing to allow for gender self-identification, allowing trans people to state their chosen gender without any medical diagnosis.
A second source said: ‘The executive just refused to accept the board’s decision. There were strenuous efforts to reject it and it was around this time allegations were starting to be made.
‘There is a very progressive, activist-inclined staff who are influenced by organisations and groups like Stonewall.’
The source said senior executives had grown accustomed to calling the shots at the commission but this changed when Baroness Falkner took over to provide ‘real leadership’.
They said the complaints felt like a move to ‘get her’, adding: ‘This process of finding fault with Kishwer is clearly political.’ The dossier is said to have made claims of discrimination, including transphobia, bullying and harassment.
There was also an allegation that the baroness employed ‘discriminatory language’ by using the words ‘a bloke in lipstick’ when discussing the online trolling of a trans quiz contestant who appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Brain of Britain.
Baroness Falkner (pictured) is said to have been left ‘heartbroken’ by the allegations but those close to her said her ‘conscience was clear’
However a source said the comment had been taken out of context and she had simply been highlighting the level of abuse directed at trans women online.
Quango promotes ‘fairness for all’
A quango set up by New Labour, the Equality and Human Rights Commission opened its doors in 2007. It was designed to provide ‘fairness for all’, providing a single discrimination watchdog to replace existing bodies that focused on race, disability and equal opportunities.
Although independent of government, the EHRC is led by a board of a dozen commissioners who are appointed by ministers.
It aims to help organisations reduce inequality but also has the power to investigate suspected discrimination, intervene in court cases and require organisations to improve their conduct.
In an early case, it challenged the British National Party over its whites-only constitution.
But its most high-profile inquiry concerned anti-Semitism in Labour, and ended with the damning verdict that the party under Jeremy Corbyn had broken the Equality Act.
However, the EHRC has also had more than its fair share of battles behind the scenes.
Founding chairman Trevor Phillips was dogged by complaints about his ‘divisive leadership’, which was said to have led to six commissioners quitting. And lawyer and former Stonewall chairman David Isaac, who was chairman of the EHRC from 2016, faced conflict of interest claims because his law firm Pinsent Masons carried out ‘significant work for the Government’.
His successor Baroness Falkner was a Lib Dem peer for 15 years – yet has been accused of backing Conservative ministers in the trans debate. Early in her tenure she declared that women must have the right to question gender ideology.
‘The pettiness of the allegations is unbelievable, including someone rolling their eyes at a certain time and someone speaking on a topic for too long,’ they added.
‘We’ve been sucked into a school playground vortex.
‘There are pages of it – on one page it says she didn’t control the meeting well enough, and on the other it says she was too controlling.’
Both sources the Mail has spoken to say the complainants failed to raise the issues via the correct channels at the time, instead choosing to compile the dossier, which has led to a costly independent KC-led investigation.
‘All sort of errors have occurred. The board was never consulted when some complaints were eventually made,’ one said.
‘The whole thing was escalated and lots of external bodies have been brought in and we’ve ended up with this KC.
‘The whole thing has mushroomed at enormous cost.’
The allegations against Baroness Falkner have been leaked to Channel 4 News, which is believed to be planning to run a report on the issue this week – something the sources say could ‘jeopardise’ the investigation.
The news programme, which has been accused of Left-wing bias in the past, is thought to have interviewed as many as 20 people.
The Channel 4 News special is expected to suggest staff fear the EHRC is no longer independent and has colluded with the Government to undermine trans rights.
The complainants say a number of workers have quit in protest at the board’s stance on trans issues but one source told the Mail the majority of the departures predate the complaints.
A source close to the baroness said: ‘She feels robust and determined to address any issues but distraught as anyone would be to have such allegations made against them.
‘She is determined to clear her name and she is in good company with people like JK Rowling et al but it’s a huge price to pay for public service. She’s utterly heartbroken.’
Women’s rights campaigner Maya Forstater said: ‘Kishwer Falkner has turned the EHRC around from being an organisation that was committed to gender ideology to one that is doing its job to protect everyone’s human rights.
Women’s rights campaigner Maya Forstater (pictured with JK Rowling) said: ‘Kishwer Falkner has turned the EHRC around from being an organisation that was committed to gender ideology to one that is doing its job to protect everyone’s human rights.’
The allegations against Baroness Falkner (pictured) have been leaked to Channel 4 News, which is believed to be planning to run a report on the issue this week – something the sources say could ‘jeopardise’ the investigation
‘We have seen Kishwer Falkner and the EHRC come under the same kind of bullying and harassment that ordinary women at work face.’
EHRC chief executive Marcial Boo, said: ‘We treat allegations of bullying and harassment with the utmost seriousness, following the proper process, and instructing independent investigators where appropriate, in order to provide assurance to all parties concerned.
‘It would be wrong to comment on specifics when investigations are ongoing.
‘The EHRC will continue to protect the rights of everyone in Britain.’
Baroness Falkner last night refused to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.