Nicolas Chinardet writes on UKIP marching at London Pride
When I became aware of the petition launched to get the organisers of Pride to refuse UKIP participation to the parade, as the good keyboard activist that I am, I asked myself if I should sign it. The answer wasn’t forthcoming and I decided to wait a little and canvas the opinions expressed by my thoughtful friends on Facebook. Soon the majority appeared to be in support of a ban, sometimes quite virulently so. But something kept on niggling me. Something didn’t feel quite right.
First I think it is important to note that it is not actually UKIP that plans on taking part in the parade by UKIP’s LGBT group. We don’t even know what the party’s position is on that participation.
And yes, too many party members (sometimes very prominent ones) have been less than supportive of LGBT people (to say the least) but the party does have an openly gay MEP (not someone I have much time for, I must admit) and used to have a lesbian one.
UKIP is of course a party that thrives on and advocates division not just for sexual minorities, but one could argue that of sections of other political parties too. And we must not forget that Pride has financial links with organisations of dubious ethical stance. Few people, if any, are protesting against this.
Despite my severe reservations on the party’s ideas, I unexpectedly and regretfully find myself in a position of defending its members’ attendance. It seems to me that those LGBT members of UKIP are being unfairly singled out here. Is letting the UKIP LGBT group march any different than letting LGBT Catholics do so? The Catholic Church, after all, has done much more over the years to swart LGBT lives than UKIP is even considering. Yet, LGBT Catholics are justly welcomed at Pride.
In the end, we must remember that one of the core principles of Pride is that of inclusion of all LGBT people and these are LGBT people we are talking about, however misguided we might think them. As such they should be welcome to pride.
Yes, the easy answer to something we don’t like is to reject it and make it disappear, but I would argue that this is no way to solve the problem and that the more difficult road, that of openness, is the one worth taking, particularly when dealing with intolerance. It is all too easy to become what you are fighting against.
Moving slightly away from this particular case, there are, I think, a few questions we should keep asking ourselves:
– where do we draw the line on who to exclude?
– who decides on that line? ie: will it always be someone we agree with?
– how do we police it? ie: members of a banned group would still be able to take part anonymously, still harbouring their views unchallenged. There is no doubt, for example, that racism is rife in the community despite no openly racist group taking part.
And so, on balance, having gathered my thoughts, I’m leaning towards letting the group take part in the parade. I hope that, like all the other participants, they have a fun and safe time, and that the positive experience helps them see that their party doesn’t have their (and our) best interests at heart.
One thing is certain: if we exclude them, if we behave as their party would behave to so many, they will simply become more entrenched in their views and will not get a chance to reconsider them.
The views expressed by Nicolas Chinardet in this article are his own and not that of