OutUK - News, Chat, Features, Travel, Men
    First Published: Before August 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

DON'T WASTE YOUR VOTE

OutUK is urging every gay man in the UK to use his vote on Thursday 7th June in both the General Election and the Local Council Elections.

We have seen only too well in the USA how apathy or a deliberate waste of your vote on a protest candidate can accidentally let in the bigots.

Even though Tony Blair is way ahead in every poll, do not believe that the UK elections are all over.

William Hague and the present Conservative Party would be a disaster for Britain, and in particular a disaster for Gay Men. They will, as they have consistently shown election after election, get every one of their supporters out to vote, whilst many people who voted Labour last time will wrongly believe that they just don't have to bother. The result could be a huge decrease in the Labour Majority, and even less opportunity for the social reforms of UK law that are so opposed by those who prefer to follow their own narrow-minded and selfish agenda.

Make no mistake - Gay Men owe it to themselves and to each other to vote on June 7th. OutUK urges you to support which ever party can best defeat the Conservatives. And here's why ...

The most revolutionary party in terms of gay concerns is the Liberal Democrats. The party virtually has a pink manifesto. It contains pledges to introduce an all-encompassing Equality Act, to allow gays and lesbians the right to adopt children, to reform laws on sexual offences, to remove discrimination against trans-sexuals and to recognise gay partnerships.

The party has also consistently committed itself to scrapping Section 28, unequivocally supported the equalisation of the age of consent and called for anti-discrimination laws for people with HIV and AIDS.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has not only taken a personal lead on gay issues but also ensured the community that they will be at the forefront of the party’s election agenda. In short, we’ve been promised the earth. With bells on.

But as fantastic as that is, unfortunately, the Lib Dems don’t have a hope in hell of ever being elected into office. So while Kennedy undoubtedly has a good heart, his pledges carry no clout. But of course if you're in a consituency where the Lib Dems keep out a Tory and Labour has no chance, then you just have to vote tactically.

As for the Conservative Party, no self-respecting gay man could even consider voting Tory under their current leadership. In spite of Michael Portillo’s call for all-embracing conservatism, don’t expect to be included in a group hug.

Not only did the majority of the party oppose the lowering of the gay age of consent (some even argued for it to be raised), it also repeatedly rejected the Government’s call for the repeal of Section 28 - and has vowed to continue to do so.

Happy to pander to the prejudices of pebbledash people, leader William Hague has voiced fierce opposition to same-sex relationship rights. As has his hard-right, right-hand woman Anne Widdecombe.

Not only has she said that gay relationships aren’t valid, Widdecombe’s described the proposed Partnership Register as a “travesty”. And by offering a £1000 tax incentive to married couples with children, the Conservative Party has made it perfectly clear which side of the picket fence it sits.

Which leaves us with (not so) New Labour. Four-years on, have things got any better? Well, yes and no. Since 1997 the UK has achieved an equal age of consent of 16, gays and lesbians can now legally serve in the British armed forces and same-sex partners have been granted immigration rights.

On the downside, Section 28 is still stubbornly in place everywhere except Scotland, same-sex partnerships remain unrecognised, the commitment to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unrealised and, although reviewed, the Sexual Offences Act remains unreformed. The Government has also been criticised for leaving the UK’s National HIV Strategy hanging.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised that a second Labour term will be more radical. Now that the party’s proved it’s a safe pair of hands, it’s hoped that another crack at the Government whip would give New Labour the opportunity to grapple with discriminational laws.

But will Blair deliver? Who’s to say for sure? He better. If New Labour fail to address existing inequalities and aggressively argue for change, the gay lobby groups will be on its case and reluctant to persuade us to back the party ever again.

So, although disappointed that not nearly enough has been done, OutUK is prepared to give the Government another go. Not that we have much choice. New Labour, after all, is our only realistic hope. And whilst we will expect things to get better, we can’t help but look across the Atlantic to see that things could be that much worse.

OutUK's coverage of election 2001 will continue to update you on aspects of the campaign that affect gay men. Stonewall are also encouraging us all to vote tactically and you can find out more about their excellent website using the link below.

We also have more on the three main party manifestos, and the issues contained in them.

   Stonewall's Political Campaign
        Labour
        Liberal Democrats
        Conservative
        Other Parties

 

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