Comment: Ken Livingstone broke new ground for gay Londoners

February 9, 2012
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Yesterday, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone was criticised for telling a journalist that the Conservative party was “riddled” with gays. Today, he told LBC radio the comment was, in a way, complimentary. Now, Labour leader of Lambeth Council Steve Reed explains why he is backing Mr Livingstone.

The row about Ken Livingstone’s New Statesman article is entirely confected by a Tory party that is increasingly worried that Ken will win the Mayoral election. Ken’s campaign has momentum because of his ‘Fare Deal’ fares-cut plan, so the Tories have decided to sling some mud.

In his article Ken was welcoming the advance of LGBT people into politics, and pointing out the Tory hypocrisy that Labour broke down by scrapping the Tories’ anti-gay legislation, illegalizing hate crime, and introducing civil partnerships.

Brian Paddick is making a foolish mistake in jumping on the Tory bandwagon, a sign of desperation as the Lib Dem candidate struggles to avoid coming fourth behind the Greens.

I for one will be delighted if Ken is back in the Mayor’s office this May.

Above all because Ken will put Londoners first by protecting policing and cutting fares. In tough times like these, Londoners can’t afford a Tory mayor who is so out of touch that he is raising transport fares, cutting police numbers and thinks it’s fine to have a second job paying £250,000 a year – an amount he calls ‘chicken feed.’

But also I want a mayor who will not just pay lip-service to LGBT Londoners but will be proactive. These days London is lagging behind other major cities when it comes to promoting equality. That is the Tory mayor’s fault.

We do not have a mayor who wants to see London leads the world on LGBT rights. As mayor, Ken made sure London had the first civil partnerships register in the UK, the Greater London Authority was hailed as an exemplary organisation in the Stonewall Employers’ Index, he actively celebrated LGBT Pride from City Hall, and he helped lead the fight against anti-gay bullying in schools. Ken blocked the Sandals holiday company from advertising across the transport system as part of a campaign to force them to drop their ban on same-sex couples.

One of the reasons I joined the Labour party was because of Ken Livingstone’s actions in fighting for equality for lesbians and gay men at a time when it was politically difficult to do so. For gay men like me, young and coming to terms with their sexuality, things were difficult. The Tory Government was passing anti-gay legislation that labeled gay relationships second-class, and allowed employers to sack people because of their sexual orientation. People have forgotten just how tough it was in the 1980s, and how vital it was that a fearless and principled politician like Ken stood out so clearly for lesbian and gay equality. Ken broke new ground for equality and ensured there were voices to counter the widespread homophobia of the time.

There are no bold moves from City Hall under the current Tory mayor. The mayor was nowhere to be seen at Pride last year, the last Pride before the Olympics. He has cancelled the annual Pride reception. One of the first acts of his administration was to cut funding to Soho Pride. He withdrew the Greater London Authority from the Stonewall Index. He has given no lead to pressurise the government over cuts that will hurt LGBT London.

And in the past, while Ken fought homophobia, Boris Johnson reinforced it. He defended the anti-gay legislation Section 28. As Chris Bryant MP tweeted last night, Boris Johnson said of gay marriage: “If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

Alan Duncan is wrong today when he talks about taking LGBT issues out of politics. There is more to do for as long as LGBT people are still subjected to hate-fuelled attacks, young LGBT people grow up afraid of their own identity, or older LGBT people live in fear and isolation. Ken will work with LGBT Londoners to make progress, while Boris Johnson does not. Ken will put his administration back in the Stonewall Index. He will campaign for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. He will establish a Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Panel. He will speak up for our city when the Government’s policies damage or ignore LGBT London. He will work to tackle hate-crime. You don’t have to take my word for it – just compare Ken’s record with the current Tory mayor’s. That tells you precisely why LGBT London needs Ken Livingstone as mayor.

Related topics: Conservative, ken livingstone, Labour, London, London mayoral elections, mayor

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