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Comment: What the reshuffle means for LGBT support in the government

Chris Ward September 7, 2012
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Writing for, Chris Ward sums up the LGBT ramifications of this week’s reshuffle and assesses the recent equality record of the main three parties.

The government reshuffle is, for many politicos, the X-Factor. They will hang onto every moment and swamp Twitter with speculation and rumour, essentially over something that many people consider not to really matter in the grander scheme of things. Of course, the coalition adds a spicy dimension to the gossip. As the papers all reported that Clegg was left “weakened” by Cameron’s apparent lurch to the right, it’s natural to wonder what implications arise for proposed or potential LGBT legislation.

First, the raw figures. Statistics can paint a very slanted view, so take these at face value. I decided to collate and compare the LGBT rights score on The Public Whip for each MP in the government. It’s worth stressing that the longer the MP has been in the Commons, the more opportunities they have had to vote on LGBT rights; indeed, those who entered parliament in 2010 have not faced a single LGBT vote as of yet and those who entered in 2005 have had only three.

I have, as would be correct to do, excluded the 2010-entry MPs from the figures. Also, there is a level of subjectivity in defining how somebody has voted against ‘gay rights’. Some MPs reject the notion that they have done so when their vote was motivated by other means – so I reiterate face value.

According to figures collated from The Public Whip, the government has an average LGBT rights score of 41.9%. For those who wish to distinguish themselves on party lines, this drills down to an average Lib Dem score of 81.4% and an average Conservative score of 30.8%. Eight Conservative members of the government have a score of 0%. For the sake of balance, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition has an average LGBT rights score of 92.2%.

One interesting feature that came up in the analysis of the government, primarily on the Conservative benches, is the number of MPs who had a poor LGBT rights score but had also declared that they would be voting for equal marriage. This exposes another flaw in the statistics – parliament boasts a considerable number of converts and whilst their aggregated voting record is awful, it only shows how they’ve voted in the past and not how they plan to vote in the future. A good example of this is Chris Grayling, who only in 2010 was arguing in favour of the religious B&B owners who turned away a gay couple yet has stated that he will be supporting equal marriage.

With equal marriage promised by Cameron by the end of this parliament, there is an understandable level of nervousness after responsibility for the legislation was handed over to Maria Miller and Helen Grant, neither of whom have declared a stance either way on equal marriage. This is a department with zero Liberal Democrat influence and it remains to be seen whether the change piloted by Lynne Featherstone (and, to be fair, Theresa May) will continue to be championed by her Conservative successor.

As for equal marriage as a whole, 37 MPs in the government have declared support for it, only 4 have not, but those undeclared remains at 55. Conversely, 66 of Ed Miliband’s team have said they’ll support equal marriage, 33 undeclared and one opposed.

Of course, this is in many ways a trivial exercise that relies on past facts more so than it does on changed attitudes. It underlines heavily though that when it comes to equal marriage, especially as it is expected that Conservative MPs will all be given a free vote on this so-called “matter of personal conscience”, there is absolutely no room for complacency.

Chris Ward is an LGBT campaigner and a member of the Labour Party. The views expressed in the article are his own and not that of

More: cabinet, Chris Ward, Conservative Party, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Helen Grant, lib dems, Liberal Democrats, lynne featherstone, Maria Miller, MPs, Nick Clegg, parliament, reshuffle, Theresa May, tories

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