Jeremy Corbyn’s new Shadow Cabinet has attracted much publicity; not all of it favourable. But two very welcome aspects are that for the first time ever there is a majority of women members. It also has the most LGBT – friendly credentials. Not only did all 33 members vote in favour of Equal Marriage , but the personal records of those who will be dealing with LGBT rights are also excellent. They auger well for translating promises into action. Some promises, as outlined in the election manifesto, need working on. But the hopeful thing is that many of them have strong cross party support and, with our active campaigning, actually stand a chance of being realised. Of course Labour must lead the way. But we will need allies as we always have to bring promises to fruition. We simply cannot wait for the next Labour Government to act. More importantly neither can the victims of discrimination in the UK and throughout the world. We look first at the record of members of the shadow cabinet, a couple of front bench spokespeople and then at the campaigns, some of which we have been involved in, such as those against conversion therapy and for the exoneration of the victims of the inhuman gross indecency laws as well as for LGBT friendly RSE [relationsips and sex education] in ALL schools. Firstly the personal.
Corbyn has had a consistently excellent record of supporting LGBT rights since he first entered parliament in 1983, right at the height of Thatcher’s ignorant homophobia when it was anything but fashionable to be pressing for the rights of LGBT people. He opposed the infamous Clause 28. He supported Equal Marriage. He advocates LISTENING to the trans communities to see what action they want taking. He fully supports tackling homophobia in all schools by a compulsory fully LGBT inclusive Relationships and Sex Education. He has also pointed out that austerity has had a disproportionately adverse affect on LGBT people; for example homeless young LGBT people for whom charities such as the Albert Kennedy Trust have found it increasingly difficult to meet the desperate and increasing needs of.
Corbyn has also advocated that the UK take a much more proactive stand in support of LGBT rights around the world. He has fully supported (and confirmed) the appointment of Lord (Michael) Cashman as International Human Rights Envoy [see below]. He has spoken up in favour of better treatment of LGBT Asylum Seekers; and promised to try to put pressure on the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly to place LGBT Rights there on an equal footing to those in the rest of the UK.
Kate Green MP
Kate Green, newly appointed shadow for Women and Equalities, has been MP for Urmston and Stretford in Greater Manchester since 2010. In 2013 she was appointed an ‘ambassador’ for the excellent LGBT Charity the Albert Kennedy Trust, which has done so much to help homeless LGBT youngsters. She has a 100% voting record of supporting LGBT rights since entering parliament. Her deputy will be the newly elected MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith, who may well take over a large chunk of responsibility for LGBT Rights
Angela Eagle MP
Although Angela does not hold any direct responsibility for LGBT Rights in the shadow cabinet she is still a strong ally. She had responsibility for drawing up Labour’s recent LGBT Manifesto, which whilst not perfect of course was nevertheless one of the most progressive and far reaching ever put before the British electorate. It can still be worked for even in opposition, because many of the proposals had cross-party support. The manifesto stated that it wanted to transform legal equality into actual equality. Well we would question whether we, especially trans people, entirely have the former, but we can hardly quibble with the latter noble aim. That must be our next objective.
Angela is one of the very few ‘out ‘ Lesbian MPs, and is MP for Wallasey, she is in fact an East Riding lass (born in Bridlington), and sent a very warm welcoming message to us when our group was set up in 2012. We hope her influence is fully felt on LGBT matters in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet
Lord Cashman, Labour’s LGBT Envoy, occupies potentially one of the most important posts of all. Speaking on international LGBT Rights in the House of Lords on 17th September, Cashman spoke of the importance of showing solidarity with LGBT people in those countries were they face anything from discrimination to death. Even the flying of the Rainbow Flag on British Embassies on appropriate occasions could offer encouragement and hope; solidarity is vitally important. The recent decision of the British Government to stop this should be reversed. There is much that governments could do, and this includes the UK in Northern Ireland, and indeed in the UK where it is high time that conversion therapy was finally banned.
PLEDGES OF SUBSTANCE
All of which of course has to be translated into action, after (in some cases) careful consideration of existing policy is carried out. In each of the cases listed below, Labour has already advocated to greater or lesser degree. There is cross party support, so there is a chance of success even under a Tory government. But we are going to have to campaign even harder than we have already, both inside and outside the Labour movement. The list is NOT meant to be an exhaustive one, but should keep us busy for a while! I start with those campaigns our group has been most involved with:
1. Make Conversion Therapy not only unavailable on the NHS but illegal, as Cashman said, “we need a new campaign” and as Black said, “sometimes words are sometimes not enough against the bigots”. We need action too. Politicians of all parties have condemned the practice. It is high time they stopped it.
2. LGBT inclusive Relationships and Sex Education mandatory in ALL schools-including faith schools, private schools, academies and all others. No child anywhere, at any school, should be left in ignorance and in danger.
3. Exoneration for all those convicted of gross indecency ‘offences’ before the law was changed in 2003. Victims are still being denied justice. Previous pledges by Ed Miliband to introduce a ‘Turings Law’, and a recent similar one by Andy Burnham in his leadership campaign are welcome. But please, please shadow cabinet members, look at a dictionary and learn the difference between a pardon and exoneration. Better still, look at the blog on this website and sign the petition. And promote it
4. Meaningful action on international LGBT rights
5. Full legal equality to trans people
6. A review of the hate crime law, whilst excellent in intention, is it working as intended?
There are others. Start or help a campaign. The above are, we believe, deliverable. We must ensure that the shadows are shadows of substance, and filled with fighting spirit. They will need it, and we must help to provide it
Colin Livett 21/9/15