Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy reveal plans for LGBT rights in first 100 days of leadership
Labour leadership hopefuls Kier Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey have each spelled out their plans for LGBT+ issues in their first 100 days as leader of the party.
Appearing at the LGBT+ Labour leadership hustings, presented by PinkNews and supported by Diva, the three candidates were asked how they would hold the government to account on behalf of the LGBT+ community within the first 100 days as leader of the opposition.
Their priorities were revealed as their answers touched on PrEP, homelessness, conversion therapy and reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, among other things. Here’s a round up of what they’re promising.
First to answer was Lisa Nandy. She began by stating that the issues faced by the LGBT+ community arise in every single government department and policy area, yet all too often the “so-called equalities minister” is given no thought until it’s too late.
She said that if she were to win the Labour leadership, LGBT+ issues would “run like a thread” through every member of her cabinet so they can be “on the front foot” in challenging the government on these matters.
Earlier in the event she spoke passionately about her support for trans rights and the need for “more light, less heat” on the issue, but by the end of the evening her focus turned to mental health and homelessness.
She recalled her previous experience working for the homelessness charity Centrepoint, noting that LGBT+ people were far more likely to be made repeatedly homeless because hostels, housing providers and the voluntary sector did not understand or cater to their needs.
“Every single thing that we were dealing with 20 years ago is still the case now. That is simply not good enough,” she said.
To tackle this she would advocate for greater support for drug and alcohol addiction, making mental health a priority because “the lack of access to appropriate mental health services and the waiting times for that are absolutely breaking young people from the LGBT+ community across this country”.
And more work and needs to be done with housing providers and local authorities, as the poor levels of recording mean that “we simply don’t know” how many young people are being turned away.
She then touched on the need for LGBT-inclusive sex and relationships education in schools. The government has made this compulsory as of September 2020 but there has been much criticism over the lack of guidance on the standard, content and application of this curriculum.
As well as providing access to PrEP in England, Lisa Nandy would also implement changes to planning policy in order to protect LGBT+ venues, which are rapidly closing across the country.
“There is a line in the sand that we have to draw right now, let’s go out, let’s fight, let’s champion it in the first 100 days,” she concluded.
Starmer’s answer mainly focused on the need to challenge Boris Johnson and build Labour up to win the next election, because “Labour in opposition can do great things for LGBT+ rights, but in power we can do much much more”.
He promised to “stand by and stand up” for the LGBT+ community from the very start, and would so this by holding Johnson to account at every opportunity.
“We are allowing the caricature that he’s a bit of a clown to be out there, [but] he’s a very dangerous man, he’s a very dangerous prime minister, he will go wherever he needs to go to stay in power, and we need to be a very, very effective opposition against him from day one,” he said.
Starmer said that Johnson is avoiding confrontation by dodging the Andrew Neill interview and staying away from parliament, so from day one he would take him on at the dispatch box and hold him accountable. Without this confrontation, he believes, there will be no progress on GRA reforms for the next few years.
Agreeing with Nandy, he said that the issues of homelessness and sex and relationships education are “so, so important”. He remembered how he was taught about LGBT+ relationships when he was at school and how a friend was rejected by his family when he came out.
“We didn’t get that kind of education and I think it’s really important that have it now and we stand up now and fight for it. I voted for it, we all voted for it, and we need to fight to say that education should be there for everybody,” he said.
Starmer said he would aim to make progress on LGBT+ issues by pressuring the government through private members bills and cross-party alliances, before returning to the subject of challenging Johnson ahead of the next election.
“We can’t just expect people to wait four years for the next general election, but we also do need to realise that we need to win that next general election,” he said.
He summed up his 100-day plan: “Challenge Johnson, unify our party, and start preparing the way to win the next general election, and make an even bigger change than we can in opposition.”
Transgender issues would be Long-Bailey’s first priority if she was to win the Labour leadership, beginning with reforming the Gender Recognition Act with an amendment to incorporate self-identification on legal documents, such as birth certificates. She would push for greater NHS funding for hormone therapy, “because we know that in many cases it takes so long that people are forced to buy [the drugs] off the internet and they’re putting themselves in great danger.”
Remaining on the subject of LGBT+ healthcare, she said that PrEP needs to be fully available on the NHS and there also needs to be an educational campaign to change the narrative around HIV-positive people.
“I remember in the 1980s when we used to get those posters with a tombstone on, for God’s sake,” she said. “We need to change the way that people in society view those with HIV now, and that needs to happen very very urgently.”
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She agreed with Nandy and Starmer that LGBT-inclusive sex and relationships education is vital to create “a loving and accepting society”, reiterating that from an early age children need to be educated to “embrace and love the diversity that is within our communities”.
Then she waded into what she calls “the bigger vision stuff”: how to ensure that the Labour Party is building a future that allows everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, is able to “access to the building blocks of aspiration”.
“We know that the LGBT+ community are adversely affected by homelessness because of what many of them go through in their lives, but we only solve that by building more council houses, and making sure that the government is pressured into doing that,” she said. “That’s the only route to solving the housing crisis, as well as providing the widespread support that’s necessary.”
Equally as important is stopping privatisation, properly funding the NHS and taking it and other public services out of the hands of profiteers. Besides this, the government needs a vision of what future jobs and communities will look like.
“That means an industrial strategy, a green industrial revolution, to give our children and grandchildren the hope that they will have decent jobs, they will all live in a nice home, they will be able to go on holiday – and at the same time, they will live in a society that loves and respects them for who they are.”