Voters in the constituencies of Bromley and Chiselhurst and Blaenau Gwent have been choosing a new representative today after their politicians died recently.
The campaign in the former Conservative stronghold of Bromley has had some elements of homophobia after Independent candidate John Hemming-Clark pledged to stop the BBC broadcasting homosexual activity, and questioned Conservative candidate’s Bob Neill’s sexuality.
His by-election flyer states, “The BBC should be brought to account for showing homosexual acts on TV.
“Since the death of Mary Whitehouse the BBC thinks its open season on what it shows on our television screens, with a particularly keen interest to show everything from the expletive-filled, blasphemy-laden “Jerry Springer-The Opera” to homosexual oral sex on BBC2.
“If elected I would not stand by whilst the BBC squirms and wriggles its way out of broadcasting such, what shall we call it? – filth, encouraging it to become, once again, a family channel.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay charity Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk: It’s strange that Mr Hemming-Clark feels upset about homosexuality on the BBC as most gay people cannot find it.
“The BBC has an obligation to serve all licence payers including gay people.”
Mr Hemming Clark told PinkNews.co.uk he is not against gay people but was referring to a specific BBC programme which showed oral sex between two men, “It’s the morality angle, it’s the promiscuity bit I am against, it’s what someone does with that orientation.”
The programme in question was BBC2’s In The Line of Beauty, a spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “BBC2 is committed to adaptations of contemporary novels and Alan Hollinghurst’s critically acclaimed and Booker Prize winning novel ‘The Line of Beauty’ is a modern day classic which gives an honest account of a period in our recent history which is relevant today. The three-part serial complies with BBC Editorial Policy Guidelines and is appropriately scheduled for an adult TV audience on BBC-2.
“The Line of Beauty was appropriately signposted for its content, and was broadcast post watershed.
Last year Bromley Council was threatened with legal action by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone after initially refusing to allow civil partnerships in the local authority.
Mr Hemming Clark said that while he does have a problem with the whole idea of civil partnerships, he promised not to exclude anyone from it.
Rachel Reeves Labour’s candidate in the by-election said: ‘My view is that this Labour Government has done more to establish and promote equality of rights across all groups in society than ever before, including that of the gay and lesbian community. This is a record I am proud of and fully support.
“‘This is in marked contrast to the Tories of Bromley Borough council who consistently opposed the right of a civil partnership ceremony for same sex couples.
“I will continue to fight for the rights of all groups and people of Bromley Chislehurst rather than promote prejudice and discrimination.”
Ben Abbotts, Liberal Democrat candidate in the Bromley by-election said: “John Hemming-Clark’s comments regarding the BBC only serve to remind us of the clear choices in the forthcoming by election.
“The Liberal Democrat’s are talking about the real issues affecting Bromley residents, anti-social behaviour, high levels of crime locally, health services, and the mixed bag of Tories and independent Tories are using the election to highlight their own prejudices.
“Bromley wants an MP who will fight for all of our community, and spend their time improving things on the ground in the constituency.”
A spokesman for the Conservatives Party, who are being represented by Bob Neill, former Conservative Greater London Assembly leader, said: “We intend to run a positive campaign focused on the issues that really matter to the people of Bromley, like crime and the local environment.”
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell last week accused Mr Hemming-Clark of “gutter politics” after he raised questions of Mr Neill’s sexual orientation, Mr Hemming-Clark said on his website, “Leaflets are dropping aplenty through the letter boxes of Bromley and Chislehurst with the main candidates extolling their married with children credentials.
“Except there is no such extolment from the Conservative Candidate. An email to Conservative Campaign HQ elicits no response. An email to Bob Neill’s own campaign office elicits no response either. So I try the direct approach. One of my team collars
him on Saturday as he wanders up and down the High Street in Bromley. He’s about to press a leaflet into their hand. “Are you gay?” they ask him. No reply and off he marches.
“They then ring his campaign team on Monday. ‘Is Bob Neill gay?’ they ask. ‘He has a partner,’ they reply, Male or female? ‘Female.’ But he can still be gay. Is
he gay?” No reply, just a giggle.”
He claimed it is the Bromley Conservatives who care whether Mr Neill is gay, referring to the controversy over Tory Party leader David Cameron’s A list of parliamentary candidates.
“Is it important if he’s gay or not? Some may say “yes.”
The site refers to a quote in a Daily Telegraph article last May, “A member of Bromley Conservative Club said “We need a traditional man like him [Eric Forth] that has good values. There would be a real problem if we had a gay person”
“So maybe David Cameron has got his way after all, and the Conservatives of Bromley and Chislehurst have a real problem,” he said.
Mr Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk: “Trying smear Bob Neill as gay is real gutter politics. Any candidate who uses homophobia to win votes is unfit for public office. A candidate’s
sexuality or race is irrelevant. Politicians should be judged on their policies, not their private lives.”
Mr Hemming Clark told PinkNews.co.uk, “To me it doesn’t matter, but the Conservatives obviously think it does.
“I’m just asking the question and haven’t got an answer.”
Mr Neill, 53, has a partner, Daphne, and has represented the Bromley area as its Greater London Assembly member for the last six years
A spokesman for Mr Neill told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s a great shame when people are reduced to making false claims about people’s sexuality however ridiculous they may be.”
Mr Hemming Clark, the Liberal Democrat’s Ben Abbotts, Labour’s Rachel Reeves, and Mr Neill, along with UK Independence Party candidate Nigel Farage, will discover the result early
Mr Forth died of cancer in May, the Conservative MP was known for his strange dress sense and campaigns to limit gay rights and keep fox hunting.
Voters in Blaenau Gwent will choose an AM from Independent Dai Davies, Monster Raving Loony Alan “Howling Laud” Hope, Liberal Democrats Amy Kitcher, Plaid Cymru Steffan Lewis, Labour’s Owen Smith, and Conservative Margrit Williams
Former AM Peter Law died in April after suffering from a brain tumour.