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Gay charity boss Ben Summerskill to receive OBE in New Years Honours List

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  1. Mark A. Sperry 31 Dec 2008, 2:55am

    The last Chief Exec of Stonewall was made a labour peer, I believe. Stonewall made a hideous compromise over Gay Marriage versus Civil Partnerships, and even criticised the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association for its insistence at the time that Civil unions would be a cop out. Stonewall has always sucked up to New Labour and is Middle class and London-centric. It does not represent radical queer thought, nor does it have much relevance outside the Capital.

  2. Let’s just get one point straight: Summerskill, like Nick Partridge of THT, is being rewarded for being a New Labour stooge, nothing more, nothing less. They both receive their directives from Whitehall, and will continue to head these pseudo charities (i.e. quangos) and receive their six-figure salaries and executive perks for so long as they continue to do so. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise!

  3. Correct, Rod. And let us not forget that Stonewall charges an employer a four figure amount to get on its so-called Diversity Champions list. Tatchell for the Lords, I say.

  4. unfortunately all grass-roots movements (like THT, Stonewall) eventually get colonised by aparatchiks seeking advancement. THT sold out gay men ages ago and went mainstream. Stonewall is also now legitimate and represents the “cosy” lgb community who don’t want to shake things up TOO much.

  5. Not-Impressed 31 Dec 2008, 11:08am

    Ben has made even more concessions, in a shorter space of time, than Angela “Bomber” Mason ever did. Hardly suprising that his reward has been speedy.

    “We’ve been ‘ad”

  6. Isn’t there something a bit sad (and even self-hating?) about gay men, like those above, who always seem to joy in attacking other LGBT people. No organisation is perfect but Stonewall has done a lot to transform peoples lives in Britain and we look to them from overseas. (And, by the way, it was Stonewall under Ben Somerskill which fought tooth and nail AGAINST New Labour to secure introduction of the 2007 goods and public services protections.)

  7. “Isn’t there something a bit sad (and even self-hating?) about gay men, like those above, who always seem to joy in attacking other LGBT people.”

    Crabs in a barrel, always reaching up from the bottom to drag back down anyone who tries to climb up and achieve something, anything.

  8. Gino Meriano 31 Dec 2008, 1:47pm

    Cant say Im surprised, what a shame it could not go to someone else that has had a real impact towards the fight for Equality and Diversity

    But politics is politics and as Ben said himself, perfect timing for the OBE

    We may not all share personal views and opinions, but I was always under the impression that Stonewall was there to listen to all and serve the community as a whole and not to glorify what was once a well established and pillar to the community name, I just cant see how Ben getting an OBE encourages people that support and pay money to Stonewall

    maybe Im missing something

  9. As a successful businessman trading through “Pink Weddings Ltd” on the advent of civil partnerships, I believe, how much money have you given to Stonewall, Gino?

  10. Let’s put aside all carping. He’s done a tough job- WELL DONE!

  11. What a strange reaction from you guys! Surely this is what we’ve always wanted isn’t it? To be integrated with society? To be part of the establishment? Not everyone on the Honours List are political stooges – some are decent people who have contributed much to our society and the communities in which we live. Ben Summerskill has been instrumental in influencing policy in government. Surely this is what we want – isn’t it? He’s got a gong and you’re all attacking him!

    And, to respond to the very first comment on this thread, it was not a “hideous” compromise to accept civil partnerships over gay marriage. It was necessary because without it, we would never have had any protections for couples in committed relationships. This is the mistake that the American GLBT movement are making over and over again.

    Honestly, I despair sometimes!

  12. A Supporter 31 Dec 2008, 3:19pm

    I am saddened by many of the comments above on a day when we should celebrate this recognition not only of Ben’s hard work but of Stonewall‘s success. Whilst those that have made them are free to do so, they are really way off the mark and at the extreme of the GLB lobby. If it were not for the last 20 years that Stonewall has campaigned, we would, as a group of society be in a much worse position than we are today. We should be very thankful for all that Stonewall has achieved – they have worked hard to lobby and without their efforts society would not be as accepting. Businesses do not pay six figure sums to get onto the Stonewall Equality Index; the Diversity Champions Program which businesses and the public sector embrace as they improve the lives of GLB staff across the whole of the UK (not just the capital) is what they pay to be part of. This great initiative together with the work Stonewall are doing in the ‘Education for All’ campaign in our schools is what really matters. I for one am grateful for what they have done and will continue to do and we should celebrate this award and recognition instead of trying to score political points. Congratulations Ben and Stonewall staff!

  13. having been active at the grassroots for more than 30 years, am not going to take accusations of “dragging down” from people on this site.

    I have seen how people who could make a difference by holding to their principles often resile from them if they become contentious. I have seen how Stonewall has turned into a business and has turned its back on the trade unions. The trade unions that were for many years our ONLY mainstream supporters.

    I accept that there are many good people in Stonewall and THT, but too many see it as a way into the pink mafia and career building

  14. This IS a real cause for celebration, both for Ben and Nick and the organisations they lead.

    For those unhappy guys who have posted up negative comments ask yourselves just how much we would have achieved over the last 10 years if we had instead of ‘savvy negotiating’ we had used confrontational demands. The country is a vastly different place now for gay people – not perfect I know – but hugely improved. And we have legal protection is all sorts of areas, not the least on civil partnerships. Never understood why we want the marriage churchy thing – in effect the state marries you not the church even if you are straight. If we had not been pragmatic and gone for partnerships there would be thousands of gay people who would still be waiting for their protection – sadly some of whom have since died and whose partners would have been left in a vastly more vulnerable position.

  15. Was surprised how many people out there feel the same as me that stonewal is losing touch with gay life styles. That it wants to turn us all into 2.3 volvo driving black labrador owning Daily mail buying familes. I also agree that stone wall only represents London and the rest of the gay community can wing it on there own. I would rather see Pete Tatchell get something

  16. Exactly, Mr Ford. I couldn’t have put better myself.

    Of course, organisations like THT and Stonewall, as it gains acceptance and influence, will change in character. It happens to all sorts of enterprises, charities and organisations throught the world as they change and develop, and as the world changes around them. Wingeing about the lack of appreciation of “queer politics” only diverts attention away from the fact that Britain is a great place to live whether we are gay, straight, black, white, whatever.

    I am immensely proud of my country and of the fellow gay men and women who have worked on my behalf to enable me to form a CP with my soulmate so that we may be protected in the years to come. It ain’t marriage but in the end, we are protected and not alienated anymore and that is all that matters to most of us.

  17. I’m glad to see a number of measured and positive responses following the initial flurry of surprisingly mean-spirited comments.

    What exactly has been the “cop-out” over CPs? Same-sex couples in and out of London can now own and inherit property AS couples: what’s wrong with that?

    I don’t think Stonewall has ever WANTED to represent “radical queer thought”, and I doubt it’d have achieved as much if it had. Good for both the organisation, and Ben Summerskill – and it’s a good thing his efforts have been given public recognition.

  18. Oh, and another thing. Ben Summerskill is not a New Labour Stooge. He gained influence by playing the game and abiding by the rules. Sometimes in life it is no good just playing victim politics. Instead you just have to knuckle down and do the groundwork.

  19. apYrs is spot on. The likes of Summerskill and Partridge are careerists first and foremost, or ‘Professional Gay Men’, clocking up time in their posts in order to build up their insulated gilt-edged public pension pots.

    “Ben Summerskill has been instrumental in influencing policy in government. Surely this is what we want – isn’t it?” asks Ursus626. Actually, Ursus, if you infiltrated the upper echelons of the likes of Stonewall and THT you would find it is actually the other way around – New Labour is instrumental in influencing policy within gay-led organisations via diktats and directives, upon which these charities’ tax-payer funded income depends.

    Nick Patridge is supposedly awarded his MBE for leading the fight against AIDS stigma – but in alignment with New Labour-designed politically correct protocols! What positive discrimination of HIV has actually achieved is to normalise the virus and accelerated transmission rates to record levels as people now perceive HIV to be a minor nuisance and one that the government will pay the pharmaceutical giants hundreds of thousands of pounds for the rest of their lives in order to keep it at bay. Considering that THT is also part-funded by Glaxo, no wonder they are on such a major crusade right now to encourage all gay men to get tested!

    Meanwhile Summerskill is turning the gay community into the thought police with his Stasi-like zeal against all things perceived to be even faintly homophobic or politically incorrect towards gays. At one time we used intelligent debate and actively demonstrated our worth to society to win the fight against such ignorance. Now, Stonewall resorts to plastering tube trains with posters screaming “Yes I’m gay, get over it!” which only serves to stir up anti-gay sentiment further and has undoubtedly contributed to the rise in anti-gay violence this past year. You CANNOT force such a message down the throat of a psychotically-deranged homophobe who is forced to read this message staring across at him in a train carriage. Result? The manifestation of yet more homophobia on the next victim he comes across who he perceives to be gay. Indeed there was a case this year of a straight man being viciously attacked for being assumed to be gay. More homophobia, not less, is what Stonewall’s policies are achieving! Yes, Stonewall also thought long and hard for the right for gays to enter into civil partnerships. Call me a cynic, but this provides the government with rather a useful database of gay people, which could come in handy if a future fascist government rises to the fore…

    Let us not forget how government policy has eroded just about every other major aspect of society it controls: New Labour has decimated the NHS, the education system, the police force, the financial system, immigration, a welfare system that rewards unmarried mothers to spawn the very delinquents who grow up batter “poofs” as a sport… So why should its long-term objective for gay men be any different? Look closely at gay culture today and you will in fat see that it too has been coarsened, eroded and dumbed down to the same level as everything else New Labour has touched these past 11 years.

    Yes, the entire system stinks to high heaven, but so long as the establishment prevails there will always be jobs for boys like Summerskill and Partridge who are prepared to sell the rest of their community down the river in order to keep their snouts in the trough!

  20. What utter nonsense! Your contribution is no better than a rant! Firstly, the two men work for charities, not in the public sector. Therefore they don’t have a public pension pot. Secondly, these charities are not funded by the taxpayer. They may have contracts to provide some services to the public sector, but that is not the same thing as to state that they are funded by them, is it? In any case, THT lost a major contract to provide educational services to the public sector over the last few months or so.

    The recent publicity campaign entitled “Some people are gay – get over it” is one that I have supported and would welcome its return because it tackles the issue of homophobia head on. Your assertion that this campaign alone has contributed to an increase in violence towards gay people is not based on fact. Actually, my OPINION, is that gay people will meet with violence as they become more visible. It happened to ethinic minority groups a few years ago, and it’s happening to us now. It is my opinion that there are those for whom low self-esteem and sexual ambiguities will feel resentment at the sight of those who are open about their sexuality, because actually they see a part of themselves. This is a painful period in our struggle for equality and it must be gone through if we are to get to that “promised land”. To blame Stonewall or THT for that is simply wilful ignorance!

    Our culture has been eroded and coarsened through the type of lasse faire capitalism that was implemented by the Tories nearly thirty years ago. Whole generations of people have been abandoned to the markets. What New Labour tried to do is to make it work better for people, but they failed. The recent credit crisis and forthcoming depression is evidence of it’s weakness, because it lacks basic morality and ethical jurisprudence but you can’t blame New Labour for inventing it! This isn’t simply something that has happened over the last eleven years.

    Finally, the Tories were busy dismantling our rights long before NL got elected: restrictions on the right of assembly and protest all came about as the result of their criminal justice acts.

  21. Rod: unfortunately, in your post above you sound both hysterical and paranoid and, either way, impossible to take seriously.

    BTW, the Stonewall campaign was SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT, not ‘Yes, I’m gay etc.’ It really would help if you got your facts right.

  22. Actually, ursus262, the substantial part of THT’s £14 million a year or so of funding it receives comes from the tax payer, and is awarded on a sliding scale depending on the number of HIV services it provides. The more people to contract HIV in any given year, the more money THT applies to the government for to finance its portfolio of servives. Isn’t it ironic, in fact downright morally corrupt, that a charity that grows fatter the further the virus spreads should also be awarded the NHS HIV prevention contract for London for the next three years? So in fact you are totally wrong Ursus; THT for one is predominantly funded by the tax payer via the Department of Health, from which it also receives its guidelines and hoops to jump through. No longer a charity in the strictest sense of the word, THT is one of hundreds of “quangos” (quasi non-governmental organisation) that operate in the UK today, all financed largely by central government and all doing New Labour’s bidding, and resulting in the systemic erosion and collapse of the fabric of our now “broken” society. I do not know the extent of government duplicity in Stonewall, but its policies bear the hallmarks of New Labour interference to a tee and chimes, particularly in its efforts to undermine and destroy all concept of the traditional and functional family unit comprising a male father and a female mother, which above all else has given rise to a new underclass of hopeless and purposeless people dependent on the state. And quite honestly, Rehan, if your major argument with me is over a few words I misquoted but which say exactly the same thing, then frankly you are plucking at straws.

  23. I wanted to fact-check before commenting further yesterday. In FACT, the last Chief Executive of Stonewall was NOT made a Labour peer as one of the small number of very aggressive detractors above claimed.
    As for being middle class and Londono-centric,I have also fact-checked. The big employment court case Stonewall took last year was on behalf of youth worker John Reaney. He is not middle class and he lives in north Wales, almost as far from London as it’s possible to be.
    As well as fighting New Labour over goods and public services protections, I recall Ben Somerskill and others fighting this government hard over the inclusion of public sector pensions in Civil Partnerships. I know because my partner like thousands of other LGB public sector workers eventually benefited from this. She was not “well-paid” or “middle class” and she got helpful, timely and sympathetic advice from Stonewall although her employer was in Humberside!

  24. Rod: BTW stands for ‘by the way’, which usually doesn’t signal a major argument.

    Your claim that Stonewall policies collude in the breakdown of the ‘traditional’ family unit is, frankly, bonkers, and only furthers the impression of paranoid hysteria. I hope you get some satisfaction out of saying such things, but I’d say for most of us it’s realy rather tiresome, though also mildly amusing.

  25. I echo what Mary has said above. THT is not a quango. Its status is as a charity and is registered with the Charities Commission.

    THT is not funded by the DoH, and does not hold a contract with the NHS. In fact they lost both of those contracts earlier this year. It was reported upon in Pink News.

  26. It’s a good road mark for Stonewall, and hopefully will help them get their presence better known and out into the provinces, although from where I live they made a good hit with the Priddis affair.
    Good luck to Ben, his colleagues and volunteers. In a time where we stand to benefit as a community most from having gay faces on the honours lists, it is hardly ‘brave’ to carp on about this small advance for our community and those of us that dare to stand above the trenchline.

  27. There is a lot of talk here about Stonewall and THT being london-centric, this is because the vast majority of LGBT people live in the city (or should i rephrase that to OUT Gay People) closely followed by Brighton. Stonewall have offices in Scotland and Wales and are trying to make sure that these offices work just like the London one. I moved to London from Scotland because I can be more openely OUT in london at work and in general and Scotland is a few years away from reaching the same level of tolearnace.

    Whilst I don’t always agree with what both organisations do at times. Then that is my personal opinion of it, I am glad that people are being recognised for their work, maybe not the right people being recognised but its a start, hopefully Peter Tatchell and others will be recognised for their great work.

    One of my colleagues got an MBE for his services to our work place in the summertime and also his work with LGBT Youth through AKT… it wasn’t as high profile as this but that’s maybe because he doesn’t work for an LGB charity.

  28. Stonewall *should* be at the forefront of radical queer politics, not ‘legitimising’ government by this “tolerating” government of ours. Stonewall was named after a *riot*, remember? It should be more demanding and representative of the wider Queer movement (ie. not just middleclass lesbians and gay men), not ostracising like it is now. When they nominated the transphobic jounalist Julie Bindel for a equality award, it made it clear that Stonewall is only interested in looking after its own (corporate, middleclass, homonormative) interests. All Stonewall seems to do is take public money away from more deserving organisations and make a ‘list’ of not overtly homophobic companies that would like to use us. That, and schmooze with MP’s. Down with this undemocratic, unrepresentative organisation!

  29. Shouldn’t Stonewall just do what its supporters want? Half its income comes (not from public funds at all) but from tens of thousands of individuals who give it £5 or £10 a month, like me and my partner. It speaks on behalf of people like us, even though we don’t shout as loudly as Jess and others.

  30. the other half 3 Jan 2009, 5:38pm


    the goods and services act? The one Stonewall stabed Tranies in the back over? Don’t make me laugh.

    This orginisation should just call itself ‘new labour LG sociaty’ as it insults the Gender Trash who fought at the Stonewall bar, at Comptons, who have been fighting for years.

    He deserves his award for selling out Queer People.

  31. My goodness, there are some mean-spirtied people about aren’t there? The gay world is no longer the suffocating and excrutiating world it once was. Try visiting XXL or try sampling the Bears’ hangouts. They are far from middle-class I can tell you! I was once a member of the excrutiating Gay Bikers Motorcycle Club back in the 1980s and it was a truly dreadful experience: snobbish, narrow-minded and intolerant. Such attitudes would not be acceptable today because our society has changes. And change comes about through playing by the rules. It always has and always will.

    We don’t want radical queer politics. We just want to get on with our lives in safety and, in general, that is exactly what most of us do now.

  32. Ursus262

    radical queer politics is one method in allowing us to live our lives in safety by putting issues forcefully on the agenda, rather than politely waiting to patted on the head.

  33. the other half 4 Jan 2009, 8:33pm


    friends of mine have been atacked, I have been denied acess to shops restaurents and bars (and can not turn to the Provision of Goods and Services Act as Stonewall stabbed Trannies in the back to get it through.)

    You don’t want radical Queer politics? You are smug, self satasfued and self centred. I take it I am one of the ‘meen spirited’ people? I’m not the one sitting back and saying that as long as I’m fine then screw everyone else. Meen spirited? Youre the one ignoring OUR cries for help, OUR issues.

    To paraphrase Sylvia Rivera: it’s not my Pride, it’s your Pride. You havn’t alowed me to have my Pride yet.

  34. Mary, I really doubt that Stonewall has much idea what LGB(TQ) people in this country actually want. The organisation is completely unrepresentative and doesnt have to answer to anyone. Its supporters who give it money every month actually have no say in what the organisation does, even if they do fund it. (compare this to Amnesty International, where people who pay get the chance to vote on policy). the only people who have a say what actually happens in Stonewall is its ‘members’ – an exclusive list of staff.

    Do you not think that a organisation that is seen as the voice of LGB (and often the wider TQ community) *should* be shouting loudly, championing our issues, making demands for liberation?

  35. This is not correct, Jess. Stonewall supporters are canvassed as to the charity’s annual priorities. Details of these are on their website.
    Stonewall clearly does have to “answer to” people because the thousands of those like Mary who give it money can stop if they wish to. That’s one of the really good tests of the charity world.

  36. the other half 5 Jan 2009, 9:12pm

    mike: did stonewall listen to the people who critisised it offering an award to a journalist who advocated violence against Queer people?

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