Menu

InstagramTwitterYouTubeFacebookSnapchat
Globe Icon
UK

LGBT Liberal Democrats are quitting the party over the decision to admit ‘homophobic’ Phillip Lee

Emma Powys Maurice September 4, 2019

Phillip Lee caused cross-party chaos by defecting to the Lib Dems (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/ Getty)

LGBT+ Lib Dems are revolting over the decision to admit “homophobic” Phillip Lee, saying it proves the party’s commitment to LGBT+ rights “is far too easily discarded”.

On Tuesday, September 3, the former Tory MP Phillip Lee dramatically defected to the Lib Dems midway through Boris Johnson’s speech, costing the government its majority ahead of a crucial Brexit vote.

The Bracknell MP previously abstained on a vote on equal marriage and tried to introduce an amendment to a bill which would ban HIV-positive immigrants from entering the country.

His admittance into the Lib Dems has thrown the party into chaos and several members have stepped down in protest, including the chair of the Lib Dem LGBT+ group, Jennie Rigg.

He thinks me and people like me are a lower class of human.

She explained her reasons for leaving in a scathing blog post that describes Lee as “a homophobe, a xenophobe, and someone who thinks people should be barred from the country if they are ill”.

It continues: “I thought the Lib Dems were not a single issue party. I thought we had a soul and principles. But apparently as long as you are on the right side on Brexit, we’ll take you.

“Well, I’m sorry, but no. It doesn’t matter if we already have others as bad. You don’t make bad things better by adding more bad things. It doesn’t matter that he will increase our numbers in parliament by ONE.

“He thinks me and people like me are a lower class of human. I will not share a party with him.”

Rigg told PinkNews that the party was well aware she would resign if Lee was admitted, but allowed him to join anyway – proving, in her eyes, that the Lib Dems’ commitment to LGBT+ rights and anti-xenophobia “is far too easily discarded for a quick headline”.

“I first heard the rumours that Philip Lee was thinking of defecting to us a couple of months ago,” she said. “At that point I started telling anyone who would listen that if the party accepted him I would leave.”

She noted that Lee has previously voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act; he has also voted against assisted dying, against a right to remain for EU nationals and against measures to prevent climate change.

“And that’s without even going into the whole testing migrants for HIV or Hepatitis — which was specifically designed to keep migrants out — and voting against same-sex marriage, which is prima facie homophobic,” she added. It should be pointed out here that Lee did not vote against same-sex marriage, but he did abstain from the vote.

“If the party is a home for someone whose views are so diametrically opposed to mine then it can’t be for me.”

Phillip Lee has a “deeply conservative mindset” that “doesn’t align” with Lib Dems.

Rigg’s resignation was joined by fellow LGBT+ member Luke Graham, who told Buzzfeed News: “I don’t see Dr Phillip Lee as a liberal.

“His attempts to block HIV+ immigrants from entering the country in particular shows a deeply conservative mindset that doesn’t align with the values I hold.

“I supported Jo’s leadership bid in part because I thought she’d be absolutely solid on LGBT+ issues. As a bi person, this is not the first time I’ve been let down by leadership of the party.”

Another resignation came from Cambridge city councillor Sarah Brown, a transgender activist who in 2011 was listed among the most influential LGBT+ people in the UK.

She wrote on Facebook that Lee’s admittance to the party “is symptomatic of the way the LGBT+ branch of the party has been treated for years”, adding: “Our MPs are willing to burn their own LGBT+ section to the ground for a publicity stunt that’s already fading from the news cycle.”

Liberal Democrat councillor George Potter raised questions with the party’s justification for allowing Lee to join.

He said the excuse that Lee only proposed banning HIV-positive migrants on health grounds “doesn’t add up” – because he didn’t suggest screening for other easily-transmitted diseases, like TB. “He was only targeting HIV and Hepatitis,” Potter notes.

“Now I can’t know his motivations for sure, but it seems odd that he only singled out diseases that homophobes associate with LGBT people and ignored all other diseases. Given this was in flagrant disregard of all medical expertise on the matter, it seems very fishy.”

Lee was asked on BBC News about the concerns raised over his HIV migrant proposal. He replied: “I would point out to those individuals that they’re defaming my character and they should be careful about what they say.

“The amendment they are referring to was an attempt to reduce something called viral load, to reduce the HIV carriage in Great Britain, that actually would protect the gay community.”

The party leader Jo Swinson defended the decision to admit him to the party, saying: “Phillip brings almost 10 years of parliamentary experience and decades of professional expertise. He shares our commitment to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit, and to stop Brexit altogether.”

Addressing the resignations, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “We are always sorry to see members leaving the party and wish them all the best.”

More: brexit, lgbt+ liberal democrats, lib dems, phillip lee, uk politics

Read comments (0)

Close icon