INTERVIEW: After my year in chains I am rejoining the Tories
The first openly gay mayor of Richmond ends his term in office this week. Over lunch Adam Lake asked him what it is like being the first gay mayor in London, the “viper’s nest” that is local government, and what the future holds in store for him.
I meet with Marc in his last full week as Mayor of Richmond. Wearing a dark suit I instantly notice a rainbow coloured wrist band poking out of his sleeve, “ I wear it in support of the Metropolitan Police campaign against homophobic bullying,” he tells me.
Cranfield-Adams certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to supporting gay rights, something that has attracted both praise and criticism by councillors and the local press.
“I experienced anti-gay sentiment before I even started,” he explains.
“To mark my appointment, I wanted the Council press release to state that I was to become the first openly gay mayor of the Borough.
“I was told by the press office that it was inappropriate and they tried to convince me that I shouldn’t say anything.
“I even had one councillor tell me that she would only support my campaign if I didn’t mention ‘the gay thing‘.”
The ‘gay thing’ has made the Mayor a controversial figure amongst some of the boroughs councillors, ironically from the Liberal Democrat benches:
“People think I shouldn’t mention it as if it’s something to be ashamed of.
“It’s not something that needed mentioning at all, but I think that if you have it put in the open from day one it just makes life easier for everyone and it gave the local gay community some profile and visibility.”
Pledging to support diversity and inclusiveness Cranfield-Adams has used his position to further the issues around equalities in Richmond, “I feel that being the Mayor allows you to open doors for people, that‘s one of the best parts of the job.”
I comment that Richmond was not a place that you would immediately associate for being liberal, he disagrees “I think that the people of Richmond are liberal, but they are very understated, they don’t like to talk about these sorts of things.”
Joining the Conservative party in 1978 he caused quite a stir when in 2004 he left the party and joined the Liberal Democrats. “I think that I was going through a mid-life crisis” he tells me.
“The then Conservative leader of Richmond Council treated me badly because for some reason he thought that politically I was hugely ambitious- which I am not. I was having a really bad time and I thought that I would have a lot in common with the Lib Dems.”
After four years working with the Liberal Democrat Council, Marc decided to rejoin the Conservative Party.
“David Cameron has done a lot to move the party back to the centre ground and I think that they really represent what I believe in. People get the impression that the Conservatives are the nasty party and this is no longer fair.”
“Twenty years ago we all (gay Tories) had to be secretive and run around behind closed doors, now the Conservative Party is full of openly gay people and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
“The Liberals Democrats in Richmond have shown themselves up as being a bunch of bullies. When I announced I had returned to the Tories the front bench cheered- it just showed them up and several of their backbenchers have since distanced themselves from such tasteless behaviour.”
Cranfield-Adams continues to have a stormy relationship with the Leader of the Council and hints that he may address this at his valedictory speech this week. “Do I look like someone who likes to stir trouble?” he asks with a cheeky look on his face.
“The Leader of the Council refutes that the council is homophobic in it’s attitude but they have been tremendously ambivalent and that is almost as bad.”
But it’s not all been arguments and opposition for the Mayor. Last summer Cranfield-Adams visited Richmond in the American state of Virginia as the guest speaker at Gay Pride Virginia. “I had an amazing time, everyone was so generous and hospitable to me; I really enjoyed myself.”
“It showed me how lucky we are in the UK in terms of gay rights. In the States people think it’s odd that we have laws to protect gay people.
“The UK is way ahead legally and I hope that the US goes that way too.”
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So what’s next of the Mayor? “The first thing I want to do is get my life back!” he tells me.
“I look forward to having my evenings and weekends again, and I‘m very excited about going on holiday later this year.”
Marc Cranfield-Adams has a passion for Richmond and is obviously proud of the Borough that he has been working for.
He may be handing over the chains of office this week but I think that we haven’t heard the last of the man who told Brian Paddick last month, “You may want to be the first gay mayor of London ,well let me tell you that I AM the only gay mayor IN London!”
His passion for Richmond and his determination to support the gay community both in and out of the borough make him an example of how one man can make a difference.
“Whether I have made a difference is not for me to judge,” he concludes.