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UK Conservative Party launch manifesto vowing to ‘get Brexit done’ but sidelines LGBT+ rights near entirely

Josh Milton November 24, 2019
Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson delivers a speech at the launch of his party's manifesto. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson delivers a speech at the launch of his party's manifesto. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

British prime minister Boris Johnson promised on Sunday to “get Brexit done”, pledging in his Conservative Party manifesto to ram his deal through the European Union to withdraw from the bloc before Christmas.

However, across the 59-page manifesto, there is a severe lack of pledges which would directly benefit the LGBT+ community.

This stands in stark contrast to opposition parties, where manifestos have entire dedicated sections and forensically detailed plans for the future of LGBT+ rights in the UK.

With less than three weeks before British voters brave bitter temperatures to vote on December 12, both of the major parties are trying to court votes with their contending visions.

What does the manifesto say on LGBT+ rights?

In the manifesto branded with the tagline, ‘Get Brexit done’, the governing Conservatives are vying for votes by bargaining with the public’s exhaustion over whether or not to exit the EU.

But in Johnson’s accelerated and aggressive approach to, well, get Brexit done, it appears that Conservative policy-makers forgot LGBT+ people exist.

Across the pages of bullet points, just three specifically mention the LGBT+ community.

Boris Johnson delivers a speech at the launch of his party's manifesto. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson delivers a speech at the launch of his party’s manifesto. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Under the ‘Supporting all victims of Crime’ section, if elected, the party will:

We will protect people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability, and expand funding for and protect places of worship.

We will vigorously combat harassment and violence against all religious groups, and against LGBT people.”

Moreover, listed under ‘Promote our values’, the party pledged to host “the UK government’s first ever international LGBT conference.” 

In sketching policy around education, the Tory party vowed to “continue to help teachers tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying.”

However, transphobic bullying as well as other anti-queer discrimination are not mentioned.

So, what doesn’t the Conservative manifesto say?

In short, a lot is missed out, activists have stressed.

From the Gender Recognition Act, which both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have centred in their campaigns, to increasing recognition of non-binary people.

Ending or minimising the blood ban on queer people – a deferral period of three months – as well as increasing access to PrEP and tackling the “culture of disbelief” facing LGBT+ asylum seekers.

GRA reform delays put trans and non-binary people at risk
Protesters demonstrate outside the Scottish Parliament for reform of the Gender Recognition Act, in an event organised by the Scottish Trans Alliance, on June 12, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Ken Jack/Getty Images)

None of these are mentioned in the Conservative Party manifesto.

With the GRA, crucial reforms to, simply put, make it easier to exist as a trans person in the UK, have been delayed and back-peddled by several Conservative equalities ministers.

Although, in the nine years of Conservative rule, lawmakers have voted for and introduced mandatory LGBT+ inclusive sex education and marriage equality.

LGBT+ Conservatives welcome manifesto pledges.

“I’m pleased we will continue to champion freedom of expression and tolerance in our society,” Sue Pascoe, LGBT+ Conservative council member, told PinkNews.

“In particular, that we will vigorously combat harassment and violence against LGBT people and host our first ever international LGBT conference.

“I’m pleased with our on-going commitment to ensure that fairness is at the heart of everything we do.

“Personally, I will continue to campaign to see delivery of the previously published LGBT Action plan including improving healthcare provision and making it administratively easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate.”

What do the other parties say on LGBT+ rights?

For Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, LGBT+ rights were in the burning spotlight.

The manifesto berates the Conservatives for being “slow to understand the scale of abuse and discrimination LGBT+ people continue to face”.

If elected the party promises deliver on the national LGBT Action Plan introduced last year and eliminate remaining areas of discrimination in law, ensuring that LGBT+ people can live in safety and dignity.

Within its spending reviews, Labour vowed to better divert funding for queer causes across several vital departments.

The party will top-up school funds to deliver mandatory LGBT-inclusive education and invest in sexual health services such as PrEP, a vital HIV-preventative drug.

GRA reforms are also fore-fronted, committing to introducing self-idenficiation for trans people and hoovering out outdated language in the Equality Act 2010.

The party said it will tackle the homelessness crisis which disproportionately affects LGBT+ people, and tailor all strategies and services to the unique needs of the LGBT+ homeless.

And for the yellow tie-wearing Liberal Democrats, major LGBT+ rights reforms would be lodged in front of lawmakers.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Jo Swinson’s wide-ranging manifesto has a focus on rolling out PrEP on the NHS, shelving the blood ban and even introducing legal gender ‘X’ markers on documents, permitting non-binary and intersex people to gain legal recognition.

Moreover, the Lib Dems also pledged to “end the culture of disbelief” for LGBT+ asylum seekers, and ban the practise of telling LGBT+ people to return to their home country and be “discreet” about their sexuality or gender identity.

Outside of LGBT+ rights, what does the manifesto lay-out?

“Get Brexit done and we shall see a pent up tidal wave of investment into this country,” Johnson said today at a conference centre in Telford, Shropshire.

“Get Brexit done and we can focus our hearts and our minds on the priorities of the British people,” Johnson said, clutching sheaths of paper with ‘Get Brexit Done’ behind him.

Prime minister Boris Johnson departs a train in Wolverhampton as he travels to Telford for the launch of the Conservative Party election manifesto. (Dan Kitwood - POOL/Getty Images)
Prime minister Boris Johnson departs a train in Wolverhampton as he travels to Telford for the launch of the Conservative Party election manifesto. (Dan Kitwood – POOL/Getty Images)

Priorities for the Conservative Party appear to primarily be distancing itself from Labour’s tax-and-spend approach. The Labour playbook is all about taxing high-earners and big businesses to fund expansion of the state and reduce carbon emissions.

Similarly, public spending has also been the centre point for the Tories, albeit, in different departments.

The Conservatives blueprint is a triple tax lock of freezing income tax, National Insurance and VAT for the next five years.

Moreover, a tough law-and-order platform has pitched policies such as introducing a points-based immigration system post-Brexit and fighting knife-crime by immediately arresting and charging offenders within 24 hours.

More: 2019 General Election, Conservative Party, UK

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