Interview: Labour’s leadership candidates make their final pitch to PinkNews readers
As voting closes in the election for the next leader of the Labour party, Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper have their final words to PinkNews readers.
Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, former Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham, and perceived Blairite candidate Liz Kendall are the running to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader, following his resignation earlier this year.
All four of the candidates have pledged their support for LGBT equality in PinkNews interviews over the course of the election campaign.
Here’s what they had to say.
Andy Burnham (Click here for the full interview)
There was a piece in the New Statesman recently that raised issues on your LGBT voting record. In 2008, you did vote for an amendment saying there is a need for a father in IVF care. Do you still agree with that? Can you explain why you voted that way?
I found the piece quite hurtful, actually. If you look back over my fourteen years in Parliament, I’ve voted for everything [on LGBT rights] – I was absent for a vote in 2002 because my daughter was born. It was the day before or the day after. I was on paternity leave – so I’ve voted for everything.
The reason why I say it’s quite hurtful is because that has put me at odds, I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP. I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging.
That creates a personal challenge – I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people.
I don’t say this to elicit any sympathy but a relative of mine died last night who was a councillor on Liverpool city council for many years, and he and I were very close, but the one time we fell out massively was over same-sex marriage, and it was a real fall-out.
The reason I mention that is I have caused myself to change my own relationships, not just with the church but with members of my own family, in this cause… and then you get things written like that and it feels deeply unfair and hurtful.
You said famously that you’re devoted to Everton, the Labour party and the Catholic Church. There are times where the last two of those clash, – for example on sex and relationship education, which is a flagship Labour policy. A lot Catholic schools are militantly opposed, and say it would violate their religious freedom if they were forced to teach about same-sex couples in schools.
They’re wrong. They’re straightforwardly wrong. Though I did say that, and the Church did have a part in my upbringing, I am not a regular church-goer, I have to admit – even if that might cause me difficulty at home, in terms of my kids’ schools.
I have no support for their position on the issue. None at all. The government’s weakening of SRE is a real problem – particularly in a context of a school system that is more atomised and less accountable.
If I listened to what my kids tell me is said at school – homophobic bullying is a massive problem, that’s what my kids would say. The casual bullying at school is a real, real problem.
That has to be tackled right there, and not only should SRE be absolutely compulsory, but there must be absolute equality in terms of all relationships within sex and relationships education in terms of how it is taught.
I worry about an education policy that is making the academy or the free school judge and jury – letting it basically do what it wants. It’s the danger with this policy is that you move more and more away from the comprehensive ideal, and more and more towards their own curriculum, their own take on things, their own slant on the curriculum… I think that is a worrying development in education.
Liz Kendall (Click here for the full interview)
Ed Miliband said he would put LGBT rights at the heart of government. You’ve been fairly critical of Labour’s election campaign – is that one of the things he did right?
Absolutely. All my life, before I became a politician, from the very get-go, I’ve always pushed for equality; equality for women, LGBT equality, equality for those with different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Equality runs through my veins, through my bone marrow.
I’m really proud of our achievement from our time in government on LGBT issues – and it was, thank goodness, Labour MPs who helped the government get through equal marriage.
But it has got be about far more than the legislative side of things – unless you can walk down the street holding hands with the person that you and can behave exactly as you want, we won’t have succeeded with equality and that is the next big thing that we have got to change.
Will you – to use Ed’s words – be a ‘warrior’ for LGBT rights around the world?
Yes, absolutely! I hope that, if I’m elected, Michael [Lord Cashman, Labour LGBT envoy] and others will be standing beside me.
If you believe in equality, that’s what you believe and you want to see made real – you don’t just think you want a little bit of equality here, but not there because it’s too difficult.
You either think it’s right that people can live love, express views and their passions – or you don’t.
Either you feel it is completely wrong and unjust and unfair and you’re going to tackle it or you don’t. There’s no option for me because that’s who I am.
Wikipedia tells me you were captain of your women’s football team! As we saw during the Women’s World Cup, our team featured a number of openly gay players – but that isn’t the case across men’s football and other sports. How do we break down barriers in sport?
I was captain, but not through a massive amount of talent! I was good leader, if not that brilliant a goalscorer.
It goes back to education – it’s about making sure kids understand about these issues. It also requires people having the courage to come out in sport.
We’ve seen that in some areas of sport, but not in others. We should be championing those who have the courage to come out and talk about their sexuality, but it is very hard.
We’ve seen that in politics, too. We’ve got more MPs who are out now, but we’ve got so much further to go.
Jeremy Corbyn (Click here for the full interview)
During his recent trip to Kenya, Barack Obama spoke publicly about his support for LGBT rights, leading to a clash between himself and Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta. Would you risk harming diplomatic ties with countries you are affiliated with – for the sake of, not just LGBT rights, but human rights as well?
Yes, you have to. There are various stages by which you can do it.
For example, countries that have trade agreements with the EU – all EU trade agreements have a human rights clause.
Many of those countries have knowingly signed trade agreements. It is a question of enforcing those human rights clauses, which can, of course, lead to economic and diplomatic consequences.
Recently an All-Party Parliamentary Group was formed to work across parties on international LGBT rights. Do you think that you’d be capable of working with Tories on equalities issues?
I have obviously my own political views and principles, but there are some issues we can work together on. I think we should have cross-party work on a lot of subjects.
I’m in a number of all-party groups on different issues, and I’m the chair of four all-party groups.
The Chagos Islands group, for example, had me as Chair and Vice Chair was Andrew Rosindell, who is a… let’s just describe him as a very patriotic member of the Conservative Party!
We don’t agree on too much, but we do agree on the issue of the Chagos Islands and we work together on that. That’s how it is.
Yvette Cooper (Click here for the full interview)
You’ve said that you wouldn’t serve under Jeremy if he wins. As Shadow Home Secretary you’ve been one of the strongest voices of LGBT equality in the Labour Party – could we end up losing one of the most influential voices in the battle for LGBT equality?
Well, I will never stop campaigning for LGBT equality, and I’m also not going to walk away from the Labour Party.
There are big differences between me and Jeremy Corbyn on a whole series of issues, but none of that will stop me campaigning both for the Labour Party and for LGBT equality.
The things I would like to do now, going further, is I want to have a new Equality Act. I think we should go further on dealing with things around hate crime, I think we should be banning gay cure therapies, and doing more to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
There’s a whole series of things, and I won’t stop campaigning for those – I would love to be able to campaign for those as the leader of the Labour Party and to be able to put those at the heart of the things we do.
Whether I’m leader or not, I won’t stop campaigning for those things.
At the PinkNews Debate, you were very keen on Labour’s plans for LGBT-inclusive statutory sex education. The plan came under from a lot of fire from people like the Mail, who said was ‘sex lessons at five under Labour’ – but you recently re-affirmed your pledge. Can you explain why you think that this is so important, and why the Mail and Conservative Party are wrong?
I think this is about equality, but also respect in relationships. We should teach respect in relationships from an early age.
It’s part of how young people grow up to be resilient, respectful, and able to have loving relationships in the future.
For young people coming out, the scale of the prejudice which they can face can cause huge harm and real distress.
Look at all the figures around mental health issues and depression and suicide risks for young people – we could do so much to lift that if we had really good sex and relationship education in schools.
We’d have more confident, positive young people if they’d had good SRE – including same-sex relationships, and tackling homophobic bullying as well.