The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is expected to perform well during tomorrow’s local elections, potentially outperforming the junior governing Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, in terms of the popular vote. But its advance as a political party is something that ought to concern many in our community.
Today, with little more than twelve hours to go before the polls open for the London Mayoral elections, a UKIP official posted a photograph on Twitter showing a man burning a photograph of Brian Paddick, the openly gay Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor.
It took place in Soho, the heart of London’s gay scene. UKIP defended the incident by claiming the person holding the photograph was gay and that the burning was inspired by Mr Paddick’s status as a politician, not as a gay man.
This act comes days after PinkNews.co.uk exposed the virulently anti-gay rants of a UKIP council candidate in Oxford. Dr Julia Gasper, an academic who stood unsuccessfully to become an MP in 2010, claimed that gay rights had “gone too far” and had written that gay people needed to stop “complaining about persecution” and start expressing “gratitude” to straight people, on whom they are reliant to be born.
Dr Gasper also suggested a link between homosexuality and paedophilia should be examined when selecting gay couples to adopt a child and as recently as yesterday was posting unsubstantiated claims that gay men were “2 or 3% of the population yet they account for half the child abuse”.
When PinkNews.co.uk drew attention to these blogs, Dr Gasper said she received death threats and “hysterical accusations” of being a murderer. The PinkNews.co.uk readers who complained were told they were “completely mad and need to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.”
She compared herself to Salman Rushdie, whose 1988 work The Satanic Verses led the Ayatollah of Iran, a country which executes gays but presumably not Oxfordshire doctors of English literature, to put a fatwa out for his execution.
Some may consider PinkNews.co.uk to have focused unduly on the views of one individual. Dr Gasper is not, perhaps, a danger to the LGBT community of national importance. UKIP’s unwillingness to take action, however, may well be.
Officials describe her views as “eccentric” and stress that they are not the views of the party, but they have defended her right to hold them, to venomously insult lesbian and gay people that may one day become her constituents.
The treatment of Dr Gasper is in stark contrast to that of an anti-gay former Conservative party candidate. Philip Lardner, the candidate for North Ayrshire and Arran, during the 2010 general election blogged that homosexuality wasn’t normal and that “most” people agreed that it was wrong.
Within minutes of PinkNews.co.uk publishing an expose of Mr Lardner’s blog, David Cameron took a decision to sack the candidate. Separately, we hope that Mr Cameron reacts as strongly to a Tory MP who reportedly told a constituent that marriage equality could mean polygamy and child marriages.
One might have thought that UKIP would have learnt lessons from the case brought against the party by its sole lesbian MEP. In 2010 Nikki Sinclaire, who represents the West Midlands, won an employment tribunal claim that UKIP discriminated against her on the basis of her sexual orientation. Ms Sinclaire now sits as an independent.
UKIP says that it supports equality, although it has not joined every other major political party in England and Wales and backed the introduction of civil marriage for gay couples. That is, every political party with the exception of the anti-immigration British National Party (BNP).
If UKIP wishes to continue its advance as a serious political party, not just a refuge for anti-Europeans and Conservatives dissatisfied with the socially liberal approach of David Cameron, it needs to take a radically different stance with regard to our community.
It cannot let candidates or elected politicians hold astonishingly insulting views of LGBT people with Voltairean allusions to their rights.
PinkNews.co.uk has never endorsed a political party at an election, so has no hesitation in categorically not encouraging readers to vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party. Although given many people sectioned under the Mental Health Act cannot vote, is it such a great loss?