The far-right British National Party’s candidate for Mayor of London, Carlos Cortiglia, has answered questions from PinkNews.co.uk readers.
PinkNews.co.uk takes a non-partisan stance with regard to the election and it was decided to invite all candidates on the ballot paper for mayor to answer questions from readers.
Siobhan Benita, Jenny Jones and Brian Paddick have so far agreed to face readers’ questions. Mr Livingstone declined to take part in a live question and answer session because of time constraints, but has sent in responses to readers’ questions. However despite numerous promises, Boris Johnson did not answer questions posed by readers.
The BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has said he finds gays “creepy” and claimed it operated a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality. In 2010, he called civil partnerships a “bogus leftist alternative to marriage” which he would scrap, while saying it was better for gays to be “in a stable relationship rather than cottaging all over the place”.
Mr Cortiglia, who immigrated to Britain from Uruguay in 1989, answers PinkNews.co.uk readers’ questions below. He has described himself as a ‘symbol’ of change within the BNP, which grew out of the ethnic nationalist National Front.
With about half of the UK’s HIV positive population accessing care in London what will you do as Mayor to ensure that treatment and care budgets are not further cut over the term of your office? What will you do as Mayor to support efforts to tackle the high rate of new HIV infections, particularly amongst gay men?
Let me start by saying that HIV is not a gay issue but an issue that affects everybody regardless of gender and therefore I will endeavour to tackle HIV as a health priority. My aim as Mayor is to devote as many resources as possible to deal with a killer disease and to educate people, regardless of gender, so that they adopt a more responsible attitude regarding sexually transmitted diseases. As London Mayor, on top of the powers of the London Mayor’s Office, I will have the visibility and the political influence to keep issues related to HIV on the public agenda.
As a lesbian and a parent I am concerned about homophobia in schools. What will you do with your community safety and policing role to lead on and tackle homophobia in schools?
Homophobia is already classified as a crime and we call it harassment. Schools are supposed to be centres of excellence for education and not spaces to be afraid of. School authorities should be aware and should be made accountable for any activities linked to homophobic attitudes in schools. We have seen many cases involving attacks on our streets and therefore we need to start at the root by ensuring that our schools are not the problem but the solution regarding sexual attitudes.
In light of allegations of racism in the Met how are you going to make the Met friendlier towards those minorities?
My intention as London Mayor is to implement fundamental reforms of Police services starting with more stringent requirements in terms of recruitment and training and I say that the mere existence of two Police associations more than proves that racism is an issue that needs to be tackled and must be tackled to restore trust in the Police services.
The rift between the LGBT and Muslim communities in London has been very high-profile over the last few years, with homophobic crime on the increase and growing Islamophobia. What would you do to heal the rift?
I am fully aware of the rift between LGGT and Muslim communities and my understanding is that anybody wanting to live in London must start by accepting that Britain is a tolerant society and that certain attitudes – whatever their ideological or religious foundation – have no place in Britain.
The public perception of, and trust in, the Metropolitan police is at an all-time low. A police force which lacks the trust of the citizens it is supposed to serve loses effectiveness, making crime harder to prevent. This is a serious concern for minority groups that are at higher risk of crime, such as LGBTs, blacks, Muslims and the disabled. What would you do to reverse this?
The only way to reverse or to prevent negative attitudes is to promote the values of a caring society and I say that if somebody is not safe then nobody is safe.
Elderly LGBTs are one of the most economically vulnerable groups in our society. Few have families, often because until relatively recently the state severely restricted LGBTs’ ability to have children through adoption or similar means, and also because until relatively recently it was very common for LGBTs to be disowned by their parents and siblings upon coming out. If elected, what will you do to combat the economic and social deprivation they face?
The best way to combat economic and social deprivation is to promote a healthy attitude towards sexuality stating the fundamental principle that consenting adults have every right to be and to be respected regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Attitudes of parents and siblings are very much part of a social environment in which people are made to feel guilty. By removing stigma and prejudice on a social basis, we can promote better attitudes when it comes to families and better attitudes when it comes to education, work and career opportunities.
Many legal protections have been established in the last 20 years that benefit LGBT people. There are still more (eg bullying in schools, hate crimes) that could be that require cultural shift. How would you encourage London to shift its cultural perceptions?
I recently learnt about an advert been shown across London that very much reinforced stigma and prejudice. Using it as an example, I say that such advert should have never been allowed in the first place. We can only change cultural perceptions by remaining vigilant and countering any attempt aimed at demonising people because of their gender or sexual orientation.
Will you commit to de-twin the London and Tehran, the capital city of Iran, a country whose penalty for being gay is death?
Barbaric attitudes regarding gender and sexual orientation can occur in places like Iran and also in other countries. As members of a civilized society, we must denounce such attitudes wherever and whenever we encounter them and I don’t see why a country like Britain would like to be linked with barbaric attitudes regarding gender and sexual orientation.
Do you think schools which cannot demonstrate sufficient action to address homophobic bullying should fail their Ofsted inspections?
Schools authorities are accountable for their performance in terms of education standards and I believe that the way we treat others and the way we are treated by others in schools is very much linked to education standards. Harassment of any kind should be taken into consideration when passing judgment regarding the qualities of any school.
Do you believe it is important that the mayor’s office supports benchmarks which measure diversity e.g. Stonewall Diversity Champions?
Rather than measuring diversity, we should accept diversity while trying to promote a common identity as Londoners. Diversity is best served by real integration in which people will not see each as members of different communities but as members of a single community called London.
Do you support plans by Tower Hamlets Cllr Khan who plans to ban “sex establishments” in Tower Hamlets in order to reduce female exploitation? Do you believe this should include the only gay pub in the area, the White Swan which has an amateur strip night?
Sexuality is a reality because we are all sexual beings. Sex establishments themselves do not create female exploitation. Female exploitation is the consequence of extremely complex social and economic realities. Banning establishments is a very theatrical way of doing nothing to counter female exploitation. Regarding other establishments, like gay pubs frequented by adults, I don’t see what purpose a ban will fulfil. As adults we are entitled to our own sexuality.
*As Mr Cortiglia did not take part in a live blog chat, the questions posed were the same as those sent to Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson (i.e. they did not include specific questions about his own party’s record).