Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Minister for Equality, Harriet Harman has said that the expected low turn-out in the European elections may lead to the “pressing forward of the far right” with groups such as the BNP gaining seats in the European parliament.
Speaking last night at the LGBT Labour Vote Launch in Soho, she told PinkNews.co.uk: “There’s no doubt about it that the BNP are homophobic and reactionary, as well as racist. We saying that that should be a major motivation for people to vote.
“I think the main thing is for us to warn about the dangers of the BNP because they try to pretend they are respectable, putting on suits, but that doesn’t alter their racist and homophobic views.
Ms Harman, who is also the Leader of the House of Commons also said: “The reality is that wherever there are some Conservatives, there are homophobes and there are the forces of reaction and I think its very important that we have a strong team in the European parliament.”
In a speech, the minister announced new duties for public bodies to promote gay rights in the forthcoming Equality Bill, saying: “We’ll be putting a duty on all public sector authorities, whether government departments, health authorites, local councils, we’ll be putting a duty on them to promote opportunity for people of different sexual orientations.”
In terms of increasing mutual recognition of civil partnerships in other countries, she said: “We want to see, throughout Europe, this being treated as a human rights issue and the right to a family life, both of which are guaranteed by the EU Convention.
When asked about the absence of any openly gay MPs at the Speakers’ Conference, Ms Harman said: “There is only one lesbian MP out in the whole of the House of Commons, Angela Eagle. And I think that the Speakers Conference will be part of paving the way. It’s a big opportunity, as well as a big responsibility to really look ahead and make sure that the House of Commons, instead of lagging behind, is leading the way. People used to say you could never stand as openly gay but there’s been quite a rapid change.”
The event, held to raise awareness of the June 4th elections, was attended by MPs including Chris Bryant, Ben Bradshaw and Angela Eagle.