London deputy mayor Richard Barnes today called Ken Livingstone a “retread” and a “pensioner” in response to criticisms of City Hall’s gay rights record.
In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Barnes, a Conservative, hit back at Labour mayoral candidate Mr Livingstone after the later threw down the gauntlet for the LGBT vote on this website, accusing City Hall of being “passive” and “directionless” on LGBT issues such as marriage equality, hate crime and bullying.
In response, Mr Barnes, who is gay, said simply: “I welcome Ken’s criticisms. I welcome all citizens of London participating in debate on equality.”
Mr Livingstone, who was London mayor between 2000 and 2008, said London should take “bold moves” on issues such as gay marriage and attacked Boris Johnson’s administration for scrapping the annual Pride reception.
Pressed further for his thoughts on Mr Livingstone later in the interview, Mr Barnes retorted: “Him? He never disturbs me in my sleep, certainly not in my waking hours. Now, I think all pensioners should have ambition.”
He added: “He’s an old retread anyway. You can put that in as well.”
In today’s article, Mr Livingstone called for City Hall to speak out for marriage equality.
Asked for his own opinion on this, Mr Barnes said: “As a gay man, I am overjoyed that civil partnerships are there. And, as a gay man, I am not particularly bothered about whether they’re called marriages or civil partnerships. I live my life as a gay man. I don’t ape heterosexuals.”
Mr Johnson will not be leading London Pride on Saturday and Mr Barnes, one of several deputy mayors, is expected to join the front of the parade.
Mr Barnes said: “We expect around 900,000, a million people to be taking part on the streets of London at the weekend and it’s a glorious event. It is a celebration of who you are and quite honestly, that is what a tolerant city which is broadly at peace with itself, should be.
“And many cultures and communities bring music, theatre, poetry, all forms of artwork to the city, and it makes people who they are. And they bring that to the glorious kaleidoscope that is London, as does the gay community, or the LGBT community. And there’ll be just as many who stop at home because it’s not part of who they are.”
Describing the work done by City Hall for gay rights, Mr Barnes said the administration had supported Stonewall in putting an anti-homophobia DVD in schools and had brought in training on homophobic hate crimes for police and the CPS.
He said: “It’s about full and proper training in the police and the CPS to understand what hate crime is. And there had been no policies in place when we came to power three years ago. And policies are not the same as ensuring things are delivered.
“We could all write papers and books to sit on the shelf and collect dust, but it’s [about] how we conduct ourselves in driving [policies] through and how we ensure people are aware.”
He added that incidences of hate crime had gone up but attributed this to better reporting.
He said: “It’s certainly gone up. Which was predicted when we started talking about it and I stood on Trafalgar Square two years ago and implored people to report hate crime and bullying when it happens to them and theirs.
“And as a consequence of making people aware, making sure that police services are more receptive [to homophobic hate crime] will certainly ensure that the numbers go up. I’m grateful. I would much rather people came forward so we can deal with the issues and give them the support they need.”