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    First Published: May 2005
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

OutUK's GAY PRE-ELECTION SOAP BOX - THE LABOUR PARTY

With the General Election looming on Thursday 5th May, OutUK's Adrian Gillan puts spokespeople for the main political parties through his gay hustings to help gauge which one merits your precious queer vote. Labour Campaign for Lesbian & Gay Rights co-chair Katie Hanson argues her Party has made a huge difference over the last eight years and deserves another term to do even more.
"Governments become unpopular," admits Labour Campaign for Lesbian & Gay Rights (LCLGR) co-chair Katie Hanson on a recent survey suggesting Labour's share of the gay vote - whilst still just in the lead - may have slumped since the last election. "It would be amazing if they did not after eight years."
Katie Hanson adds, "We are confident that people can judge us on our record and see that the only way to get full equality is to have a Labour government. If you look at the full list of reforms since 1997, this has been the most radical pro-gay reforming government the UK has ever seen."

Indeed, such a list may at least seem impressively long - including: age of consent equalised for gay men; Section 28 repealed; immigration law changed to more easily allow non-EU citizens to live in the UK with their same-sex partners; ban lifted on lesbians and gay men serving in the armed forces; law changed to allow same-sex couples to co-adopt children; Civil Partnerships Bill brought in, giving same-sex couples access to the same rights and responsibilities as straight married couples; regulations implemented giving LGBs protection from discrimination in employment (excepting LGB staff in faith-based organisations); sexual offences law equalised, removing "crimes" such as gross indecency that had no hetero-equivalent; Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme amended so same-sex partners are eligible for compensation; and asylum instructions amended to allow claims to be made by those fearing persecution for being LGB (although arguably variably applied in practice).

Critics respond that many of these undoubtedly positive changes were in fact driven by Europe; and that others were at least co-initiated by rival parties; or at least that many would not have happened without broad cross-party support - so Labour shouldn't claim all the credit. Some even claim that - in many areas - Labour has been in a position to do far more, but - for reasons of political expediency - has not.

"There are always competing priorities for parliamentary time," mitigates Hanson. "In view of this, the list of achievements is impressive. Europe has certainly contributed to change in relation to some issues such as the armed services. However, the majority of pro-LGB equality measures brought in by the Government since 1997 have been introduced without any pressure from outside."

Labour Campaign for Lesbian & Gay Rights Website
Hanson vehemently denies that Labour has been in the grip of the religious right, exempting faith-based employers from obligations to LGB staff; backing laws that ban incitement to religious hatred when none similar exist covering homophobic hatred; and refusing to honour same-sex unions with the word - and existing legal framework - that is "marriage".

"The repeal of Section 28 clearly demonstrates that the Government is not in the grip of the religious right," she avers, "since repeal was opposed by leaders of all the major religions in Britain. And by not getting hung up on the irrelevant word "marriage" - look at what happened in the US last year! - the Government was able to get the Civil Partnerships Bill through Parliament."

However, despite lobbying Patricia Hewitt directly, the LCLGR must be as disappointed as many a hard-done queer that the recently unveiled draft Equality Bill fails to ensure LGBs cannot be discriminated against in the provision of goods and services - so gays can continue to be refused a drink in a bar or get turned away from a hotel. Many still await, not vague ministerial promises of gay jam tomorrow, but firm parliamentary action and manifesto pledges to rectify such blatant inequalities.

"The LGBT community will never forgive or forget what the Tories did to us in power," spits Hanson of the Old Enemy. "No serious person could really think that the Tories would have brought in the same measures as Labour, had they been in power for the last eight years. Michael Howard was the Minister who supported Section 28 becoming law. In Kent, where the Tories run the Council, they recently brought in a local version of Section 28 and Howard declined even to comment. And, only a few weeks ago, Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins criticised LGBT History Month in schools, saying time and resources could be spent on better things, and that the innocence of children needed to be protected."

And of the New Enemy: "The Lib Dems offer some good policies on paper but that is where they will stay. In many parts of Britain, the only thing voting Lib Dem can do is let the Tories in. If you go to bed with Charles Kennedy, you could wake up with Michael Howard!"

"The Greens have let themselves down," she finally slights, "by promoting the rather bizarre views of one of their newest members, Peter Tatchell, who appears to have been living in a parallel universe for the last eight years. According to Mr Tatchell, the Government has been spending its time trying to block LGB equality. We say the only thing better under a Tory government were OutRage! campaigns!"

"There is still more work to do," confesses Hanson, clearly caught between championing her Party and lobbying them for even greater gay gains. "But there is also a great deal to be proud of. And it is not over. LCLGR is calling on all LGBs to vote Labour at the next election."

 

DON'T WASTE YOUR VOTE

OutUK is urging every gay man in the UK to use his vote on Thursday 5th June in both the General Election and the Local Council Elections. Our coverage of the General Election 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 this link:

   Stonewall's Political Campaign

Right up until election day, and after we will also continue to bring you information on the issues that affect gay men. OutUK Reporter Adrian Gillan has been talking to spokespeople for the main political parties:

        Nigel Tart - The Green Party
        Richard Porter - The Liberal Democrats
        Charles Hendry - The Conservatives

 

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