Current Affairs

LGBT Labour defend party’s record on gay candidates

Tony Grew April 1, 2008
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A group within the Labour party that pushes for equality for lesbian, gay bisexual and trans people has responded to a survey from Stonewall.

A poll of more than 1,600 LGB people found that 61% think they would face barriers from the party because of their sexual orientation if they wanted to be selected to run for parliament.

89% said the same about the Conservatives and 47% about the Liberal Democrats.

Of those respondents who are party supporters, 71% of Conservatives, 46% of Labour and 28% of Lib Dems thought they would face barriers if they wanted to stand for Parliament.

“Labour has done more that all the other parties to increase the representation of LGBT people in public life,” said Katie Hanson, co-chair of LGBT Labour.

“Most of the gay MPs are Labour, the only out lesbian MP is Labour and both the openly gay peers are Labour.”

The LGBT socialist society within Labour said the party is aiming to increase representation.

“This year LGBT Labour launched ‘Dorothy’s List,’ a fund to help LGBT Labour candidates get elected,” said Ms Hanson.

“Support is weighted towards lesbian and trans candidates who we recognise face even bigger barriers.

“LGBT people should rest assured that Labour is not complacent about the need for more out LGBT people in public life, unlike the Tories and the LibDems.

“Tory MPs continue to vote against equality in large numbers, and neither the LibDems nor the Tories have taken measures to improve LGBT representation within their party.

“On a personal note, when I stood for Parliament in 1997 as an openly lesbian candidate, the only people who thought my sexuality was an issue were the journalists on the Daily Mail.

“I had nothing but support from my Labour colleagues, and achieved a huge swing to Labour.”

Labour MP Angela Eagle, a junior minister, is the only openly lesbian woman in the UK Parliament.

There are no LGB people in the British, Scottish or Welsh Cabinets and just two gay men, Lord Smith of Finsbury and Lord Alli of Norbury, in the House of Lords.

There are two gay MPs in the Tory Shadow Cabinet, Nick Herbert and Alan Duncan.

Stephen Williams MP is Lib Dem frontbench spokesperson on Universities and Skills and the only out gay man to be elected to Parliament for the party.

Gay equality organisation Stonewall wants political parties to actively encourage lesbian and gay people to become MPs, MSPs, AMs and local councillors.

“Similar initiatives should be put in place for lesbian and gay people to those already in place for women and ethnic minorities,”

the group said in the recommendations from its report Serves You Right.

“The Electoral Commission should encourage registered political parties to abide by a code of conduct prohibiting campaigning based on discriminatory attitudes to sexual orientation, race, disability, gender or gender identity, belief or age.

“Political parties should state that they will deselect any candidates who engage in homophobic campaigning.

“Local political parties should engage with their gay constituents to encourage lesbian and gay people to participate in the political process.”

Stonewall also called on the government, with the support of all political parties, should appoint more lesbian and gay people, on

merit, to public office and the House of Lords.

To read the entire Stonewall report, entitled Serves You Right, click here.

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