An audience of around 200 almost exclusively gay men attended the Village Drinks LGB election hustings hosted by Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill.
A panel representing the four largest political parties in Britain consisted of the openly gay Europe minister Chris Bryant; Liberal Democrat Young people and Equality spokesperson Lynne Featherstone; Conservative shadow environment secretary Nick Herbet and Green Party candidate Chris Smith.
The debate was mostly good humoured and in essence displayed the fact that when it comes to LGBT rights there is little to separate the major political parties. All expressed their commitment to equality and Nick Herbert said he hoped this would mean LGBT people would vote on the basis of other issues like the economy.
Each were given six minutes to speak without interruption. What was interesting about Mrs Featherstone’s address is that she made a strong reference towards protecting the rights of trangendered and intersex people, ensuring they are protected from discrimination. Something that Stonewall who helped organise the debate have declined in the past to campaign for. The event was explicitly described as an LGB hustings rather than an LGBT debate.
Chris Bryant spoke about his up-coming civil partnership ceremony and delivered some of the best quips of the night. During a discussion on the role of Rupert Murdoch saying he’s the “most casually violent person I’ve ever met.” When Ben Summerskill interjected “more than Gordon Brown?”, in reference to the allegations that the prime minister is a bully, Mr Bryant said: “If you think there’s anything causal about Gordon Brown’s violence- you know nothing.”
Nick Herbet, the first Conservative MP to be elected as an openly gay man, began by welcoming a poll by PinkNews.co.uk that found that 40% of first-time gay voters are intending to vote Conservative. Making reference to Chris Bryant’s civil partnership ceremony to be held in the Houses of Parliament next week, he said that it would be a little different to his own last year held at Lambeth Town Hall, “I wouldn’t chose the plastic flowers in the room and dog shit outside, Chris you’ll be in safer hands in Westminster.”
Later when discussing homophobia within religious organisations, Mr Bryant recounted a tale with the Papal emissary. He asked Mr Bryant “what’s your wife like?”, Mr Bryant responded, “he’s a man!” The emissary replied: “you are an absolute disgrace, you are more of a danger to society, worse than climate change.” To much laughter, Mr Bryant said that the conversation was being translated from Spanish by what he described as a “young man who looked like he was gay himself, and as you know my Gaydar is pretty good!” The latter comment a tounge in cheeck reference to his outing as a result of a photo he placed of himself in underwear on the dating website.
Chris Smith said that the Greens believe that that through “ecology we all exist together on one planet.” Speaking of the borough he is standing for council in, Tower hamlets he said “it’s a concrete jungle it’s the crack capital of Europe, we need to improve it by engaging with local people- of all sexualities and all religions.”
-More on this event later on Friday-