Gordon Brown’s press secretary has today defended the Chancellor of the Exchequer after a PinkNews.co.uk investigation revealed the minister has consistently failed to turn up to vote for gay rights.
Research published by PinkNews.co.uk this week has shown that Mr Brown has never attended Parliament when gay rights have been voted on whilst Labour has been in power.
The article calls on potentially the next British Prime Minister to explain why he has failed to vote for gay rights on the last fourteen occasions during his tenure as a senior member of the Labour government and to clarify whether his absence is merely coincidence or if he disagrees with gay equality.
His press secretary in the Treasury, Damian McBride, told PinkNews.co.uk: “This is a ridiculous, irresponsible and shameful piece of garbage from a newspaper which does not understand the Parliamentary process.
“If The Pink News wants to portray Gordon Brown as homophobic, can they explain why he has done more than any politician in history to reform the tax system in favour of gay couples – at every stage of which he has been opposed by David Cameron and his anti-gay cronies.
“If The Pink News believes its readers would be better off back in the hands of the Section 28 Tories rather than a Chancellor who has ensured equal tax rights and employment laws for gay people, they are barking mad.”
Conservative party leader, David Cameron, recently told PinkNews.co.uk: ” We want the gay community to look at us and hear what we have to say so that they can decide if we look and sound like their kind of party.”
“We are an open and inclusive party and we are passionate about acting to ensure that at every level, we are representative of modern Britain.
“I want the Conservative Party to be an open and inclusive party which speaks for everyone in Britain regardless of their race, background or sexuality and I am determined that we will act to ensure that at every level, we are representative of modern Britain.”
The spokesman went on to explain that: “On the votes you mentioned, he was not asked to attend by the Whips, whereas some of the other Ministers you mentioned are expected to attend all votes, and the PM was explicitly asked by the Whips to attend a handful of votes for what was regarded as ‘flagship’ Government legislation.”
PinkNews.co.uk News Editor Marc Shoffman said: “PinkNews.co.uk does not believe the report was irresponsible, whilst we understand the time pressures of the Chancellor, the fact is that if the Whips believe the legislation was ‘flagship’ this suggests that someone who themselves seeks to become Prime Minister should also attend.
“We did not want to portray Gordon Brown as homophobic it was a question which we aimed to answer, and we are perfectly aware of the political process.
“The Treasury is a 5 minute walk from the House of Commons, if you passionately believe in something you can take some time out of the day to vote for it, especially as many of the votes were conducted outside of office hours.”
Mr Brown has on 14 separate occasions failed to attend the House of Commons when issues relating to gay equality were voted on. He failed to support the government’s equalisation of the age of consent, the abolition of Section 28, gay couples being able to jointly adopt, civil partnerships and the Equality Act.
The registration of civil partnerships are the responsibility of the Treasury, the department that Mr Brown heads.
In late July, the Labour rebel John McDonnell, MP for Hayes Harlington declared his intent to challenge Mr Brown for the leadership of the Labour party. Unlike Mr Brown, Mr McDonnell has voted positively in every one of the fourteen divisions relating to gay equality held since 1997.
Whilst Mr Brown is considered the front-runner to succeed Mr Blair, he may face challenges from Cabinet colleagues David Miliband, Alan Johnson, or Dr John Reid.
Mr Miliband, considered to be Mr Blair’s own choice of heir was only elected in 2001 but has risen quickly up the ministerial ranks to find a place at the Cabinet table. Of the ten divisions he could have attended since entering the House of Commons, he has attended nine and voted in favour of gay rights on all of those occasions.
Mr Johnson attended eight of the fourteen divisions relating to gay rights since 1997 including votes to equalise the age of consent and allow gay couples to hold civil partnerships. Whilst Dr Reid attended only five votes, he did support allowing gay couples to jointly adopt amongst other measures.
Mr Brown could possibly argue that he was “too busy” to attend the votes. However, even with his greater work load, Mr Blair managed to attend four divisions relating to equalising the age of consent and allowing gay couples to jointly adopt.
Indeed, Mr Brown could be considered to posses a worse record than Mr Cameron.
Mr Cameron did vote against gay couples adopting but did vote for the introduction of the Civil Partnerships Act. Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats has voted in favour of gay rights on ten separate occasions since 1997.