Labour needs LGBT candidates on European lists in every region in 2014

12th December, 2012 5:54 pm

There isn’t the media attention on the work of the European Parliament and our MEPs that there is on Westminster, which allows the homophobic behaviour and voting records of Tory, UKIP and BNP MEPs to go unnoticed by the general public. Ahead of crucial European elections in 2014, it is time for Labour to encourage LGBT people to sit up and pay attention.

UKIP, it seems, is now a two-issue party. In addition to their ceaseless whining about the evils of Europe based on dodgy stats and populist prattle, Nigel Farage has revealed his intention to make same sex marriage a central plank of UKIP’s campaign for the 2014 European elections.

This move forms part of a ploy to peel off members of the Tory blue rinse brigade who are deeply unhappy that same sex couples are being given the same rights they themselves enjoy.

The fact that Tory Members of the European Parliament hold views on LGBT people that would make David Davies blush hardly seems to matter in the clamour to attract the homophobe vote.

When looking at the voting record of British MEPs in the European Parliament, it is hard to tell whether the Tories, UKIP or the BNP are the most homophobic. All routinely vote against any measures promoting equality. Just this week Tory MEPs voted to remove all 14 paragraphs which referenced LGBT equality from a new comprehensive report of fundamental rights in the EU (UKIP voted against the whole report). Last month one of my own MEPs, the charming Nick Griffin, landed himself in hot water when he tweeted the address of a gay couple who won a case against the owners of a B&B.

Europe is treated with the same apathy amongst LGBT voters as it is by the rest of the public, yet the European Union has done much to advance LGBT equality over the last 20 years. Many of the progressive laws introduced by the last Labour government to bring about equality for LGBT people originated in the European Parliament and Commission and it was Labour MEPs and their colleagues in the group of Socialists & Democrats who ensured they were passed.

If we’re to win big in 2014 and send the Tory, UKIP and BNP homophobes packing, we need to build a rainbow coalition with LGBT voters across the country.

LGBT people make up approximately 6% of the UK population – between 3 and 4 million voters – with large concentrations in big cities, from London to Brighton in the south to Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool in the north. We need a much more visible presence in the LGBT community in these areas and across the country if we are to mobilise support for Labour.

The excellent work of Labour MEPs such as Arlene McCarthy and Michael Cashman on LGBT rights needs to be communicated to LGBT voters and we need to expose the disgraceful comments and appalling voting records of our opponents on the right on these issues.

Labour should launch a broad campaign bringing together head office, the frontbench foreign office and equality teams, the EPLP, socialist societies such as LGBT Labour and Labour Movement for Europe and trade union LGBT groups to get out into the LGBT community over the next 18 months to engage with voters on European issues.

In addition, Labour should pledge to ensure that we have an LGBT candidate on Labour’s European Parliamentary list in every region of the UK. When Michael Cashman stands down in 2014, Labour won’t have a single LGBT MEP. In fact, with the loss of Michael Cashman, not one of the 78 MEPs Britain currently sends to the European Parliament will be LGBT, except – bizarrely – a UKIP member.

As the party of equality, we need to do much more to increase the representation of minorities. We strive to ensure that we have adequate BAME representation on Parliamentary shortlists and we should do the same for LGBT people.
If we want the support of LGBT voters in 2014, we need candidates who reflect the community and we need an effective campaign of engagement with LGBT people. That campaign should start now.

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  • I could not disagree more with a central plank of your a argument – that in order to reach out to and represent LGBT people we somehow need to ensure they are disproportionately represented among our candidates. Are you really suggesting that as a straight person I am not capable of thinking about and advocating the needs of my LGBT friends? If we follow this argumnent to its natural conclusion of course the inverse would be true – that LGBT people can only effectively represent those who are just like them. Which of course is rubbish. Or is it that you are implying that somehow Labour has a selection bias against LGBT people? I find that difficult believe as those who join Labour do so to fight for equality. My fear with your suggestion – which ammounts to a sort of LGBT only shortlist – is where does their use stop? Should we not be controling for every social category to ensure perfectly proportionate (or in this case advantagious) representation for any minority or marginalised group? We could have places reserved for every race, minority religions, even (could you imagine it?) working class people! Of course pretty quickly we’d run out of categories leaving some groups left out completely.

  • NT86

    Haven’t Labour’s all-women shortlists taught us anything about how promotion due to race/gender/sexuality/etc, etc alone deprive more capable candidates from contesting elections? I 100% support gay marriage and LGBT rights more widely, but positive discrimination is still discrimination. That’s not to say that there’s no qualified candidate who is gay, because I’m sure there is.

    The majority of Labour’s MP’s are straight. That didn’t stop them from having exceptional records on gay rights during Labour’s time in government. The Parliamentary party is expected to overwhelmingly vote in favour of equal marriage when it comes to Commons. Labour MEP’s gay or straight would do a great job of representing the party in Brussels in the face of Tory and UKIP members.

  • I’d certainly like to see more LGBT candidates standing for selection, but I definitely don’t want any more quotas! Arlene McCarthy, our MEP, is straight but you couldn’t find anyone more completely committed to full LGBT equality

  • Daniel Speight

    It’s all very well asking for more gay, women, black, Asian or disabled candidates, but that is not where the biggest discrimination takes place in Labour Party selections. The truth is we are overloaded with young university educated careerists who have never really worked in non-political jobs, who have very little in common with ordinary people and who in the last twenty or thirty years have changed politics and Labour for the worse.

    • Yes. I think we do need more people with a range of experiences who have preferably not worked in full time politics or in London. Some of these people are likely to be in some of those other categories too.
      For me , its also about their politics. I’m a gay man, and so I do want to see gay people in parliament – along with a range of others, as I think there are clear advantages in diversity. But do I want to see a load of Progress-supporting clones who happen to be gay – not on your Nelly!

      • Daniel Speight

        Well said Mike.

  • UK Conservative MEPs did NOT ask for the paragraphs to be removed. That was the centre-right EPP group. The European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights (of which I am a member) issued misleading press release which was later corrected.

  • Pingback: Labour needs to engage with LGBT voters ahead of the European elections in 2014 | Kevin Peel Blog()

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