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Lib Dem Minister and senior Tory slam Stonewall over ‘skewed’ election manifesto graphic

Nick Duffy April 28, 2015

PinkNews Exclusive
LGBT rights charity Stonewall has been slammed for a graphic that suggests only Labour have made substantial pledges to LGBT issues at the upcoming election.

The rights charity shared the graphic on its Facebook page, writing: “Want to know what the main parties have promised for LGBT equality for the upcoming Westminster elections? ‪#‎GE2015‬”

The graphic suggests that the Lib Dems had failed to pledge on hate crime and including LGBT people in overseas aid, implied the Scottish National Party had failed to pledge on major LGBT issues, and also showed no major Tory pledges on gay rights – while giving the Labour party full marks.

However, it  has come under fire from the respective parties – with the Lib Dems pointing out that their manifesto does directly pledge to increase sentences available for hate crimes, and also affirms LGBT rights in overseas aid – despite not receiving ticks on the Stonewall graphic.

The Lib Dem Minister for Communities and Local Government, Stephen Williams, told PinkNews: “I’m astounded by this grossly misleading graphic, suggesting the Liberal Democrats have little to say about LGB&T rights in our manifesto. The opposite is true.

“We have seven specific policies including making anti gay chanting an offence, promoting international recognition of same sex marriages and more action on homophobic bullying. As a Stonewall member I am deeply disappointed that they have chosen to spell out Labour Party policies and ignore Lib Dem proposals, which build on our long standing commitment to gay rights.”

Mike Freer, Vice Chair of the Conservative Party, also told PinkNews he was dismayed with the graphic’s portrayal of his party’s stance.

He told PinkNews: “Sadly Stonewall forgets the achievements of bringing equal marriage into law, and leaves out a number of other issues – including the treatment of historic gay sex offences, HPV vaccines for men who have sex with men, and innovation on HIV prevention.

“It is worth stressing that this Government has ensured every embassy has LGBT rights in its human rights programme and in its civil society engagement.

“On SRE, the Conservative party is encouraging inclusivity – the statutory element is where the parties disagree.”

The graphic correctly points out that the SNP did not pledge to statutory sex and relationship education – but without noting that the category is not applicable because education is a devolved matter in Scotland.

Dave Page, the Chair of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, told PinkNews: “It is surprising that an organisation with Stonewall’s resources, if it seeks to appear nonpartisan, did not seem to have taken the time to quickly search through the Liberal Democrats’ main party manifesto (rather than the separate documents published by some other parties).

“If they had, they would have found the commitment to tackle hate crime in section 9.3: ‘Change sentencing guidelines to increase sentences available for hate crimes.’

“They would have also found the following on overseas aid in section 11.6: ‘Liberal Democrats believe British foreign policy and international aid should seek to advance human rights and democracy throughout the world. We believe all people – regardless of ethnicity, disability, age, belief, gender or sexual orientation – deserve a freer, fairer and more prosperous world.’

“Under Ruth Hunt’s excellent leadership, Stonewall have done a lot of work to build bridges and listen to a wider array of voices.

“We hope that the days of Lib Dem MPs having to lobby Stonewall to support equality rather than the opposite are behind us all. Unfortunately their rush to issue this ill-researched graphic undermines their reputation for being even-handed advocates of equality.”

Colm Howard-Lloyd of LGBTory told PinkNews: “Reducing the manifestos to a tick box makes for a great info-graphic, but fails to give voters a real insight into policies.

“The Conservative Party make a strong commitment in our manifesto to use diplomacy and aid to uphold British values, and the rights of LGBT people are amongst those values. The Foreign Office has worked hard over the last 5 years to advocate for and support such rights and this will continue under a Conservative government.

“Sadly this commitment and record doesn’t seem to earn a tick. Nor does our commitment to review the provision of gender neutral passports and other measures in support of transgender and intersex people.

“We also have a long standing commitment that all schools should teach sex education, and when you teach sex education it must include relationship education and be LGBT inclusive. Again no tick seems to have been given.

“Labour have chosen to produce a separate document for LGBT people. We believe that equality should be at the heart of our promises to the country and that’s why all of our LGBT-focused policies are included in our manifesto.

“It’s easy to make promises, and it’s easy to add the word LGBT on to policies. The most important thing is delivering real equality. We remain committed to doing so, whatever the graphic implies.”

Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt told PinkNews: “We apologise if the graphic shared on social media was in any way confusing. In research conducted with more than 2000 LGB voters, we identified a number of core issues that will be important for the next Westminster government: a commitment to tackle hate crime, combating homophobia in schools and increased help to international communities and activists were among the top issues of concern. This research helped to shape our asks to the political parties.

“The sharing graphic was intended only to showcase how far each of the main political parties has committed to our specific asks in their manifestos for the next Westminster government, with more detail available on all the many other commitments made on our website.

“The graphic was also not intended to be a record of achievements to date in Westminster and the devolved administrations.

“We have seen a combined total of more than 30 LGBT commitments from the parties in their manifestos. This is hugely welcomed by Stonewall, and demonstrates the importance that the majority of the political parties place on LGBT equality. It also celebrates the diversity, and the range of issues that are important to the LGBT community.

“The final issue that has formed part of our campaign is to review laws affecting trans people, specifically the Gender Recognition Act. However, among all the manifestos there was only one call for this to happen. This simply isn’t good enough, and we would urge the next government to consider this closely.

“It will form a significant part of our work over the next few years, and it is clear from its absence that we still have a lot to do.”

The graphic remains on the charity’s Facebook.

Stonewall announced earlier this year that it would lobby for transgender rights for the first time.

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