Due to the change in our "News Extra" slot on 25th May to discuss the harrowing homophobic attacks on "Target" Retailer in the United States, we did not get the opportunity to chat about the English Local Election Results. Here, however, was the briefing and discussion paper we prepared on that subject, which we thought our listeners might like to see:
LGBTQIA Activists are expressing broad satisfaction at the results of the local elections which took place across English local authorities on Thursday 4th May.
The BBC News Channel described the defeat of the Conservative Party in the elections, in which around a third of English council seats were up for the vote, as "crushing", and no amount of spin from the right wing papers like the Mail or the Telegraph could mitigate the disasterous performance of the political right. The Conservatives lost some one thousand one hundred seats, the gains being picked up by Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party - all parties with a stronger track record on LGBTQIA issues, although all with their own issues of internal transphobia that have occasionally been aired in public.
It was a particularly bad night for the far right, and this will have come as a relief for many. Reform UK, an anti-gay successor to the Brexit Party, gained just two seats on minor councils. And the UK Independence Party was wiped out as an electoral force, losing all twenty five of its seats. For those of you who follow the minor parties, the Liberal Party (i.e. the old classical Liberals as opposed to the Liberal Democrats) gained two seats and the Yorkshire Party also picked up two new seats. Both these small parties have a strong LGBT+ rights platform.
Hope Not Hate, a body which monitors and reports on the activities of the British far right, said that various fringe neo-fascist parties such as the British Democrats, which was formed by BNP veterans after the implosion of that party, and Britain First, stood a clutch of candidates, some of whom were troubled by accusations of electoral irregularities. In any event, they all fell flat on their faces. But, warn activists, this should not lead to complacency as these fringe groupings, with their allies in the right wing feminist separatist movement, are trying to use trans issues to create a wedge for prejudiced attitudes and policies, which are then picked up by the right wing papers to deflect attention away from the government's poor performance economically.
On the political left, the Green Party picked up one hundred and fifty nine seats, and in its words "is now the largest party in East Hertfordshire after taking 17 seats from the Conservatives and holding two" The Green LGBTQIA Group had issued a leaflet for the community prior to the election that emphasised the party's more progressive stance on Transgender Issues than either Labour or the Conservatives. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition network, which comprises several small far left parties, fielded an impressive two hundred and fifty seven candidates. The group says that it is fully in favour of LGBT+ rights, and it is noteworthy that its core group the Socialist Party of England and Wales, formerly the Militant Tendency, adopted a gay and lesbian rights policy in 1984, somewhat later than many other far left groups. Nevertheless, the group has a long track record on fighting for equality, The Communist Party of Britain, a very small rump grouping forged out of the collapse of the "old" official Communist Party in 1991, fielded a total of sixteen candidates. The Party has traditionally struggled with the vicious homophobia of Soviet style communism and it was only after it was in decline in the middle nineteen seventies that a gay rights platform was adopted. This remains a significant moment, however, as its daily newspaper, the Morning Star, had - and continues to have - an influence on the trade union movement through which millions of British workers are organised. The Communist Party of Britain however, has tied itself into knots trying to portray itself as a progressive voice on LGBT+ issues, whilst also backing some of the most right wing feminist groups who have sought to bully and intimidate transgender people. The Party has failed to condemn transphobic twitter "pile ons" and these women's links with right wing and anti-lesbian groups. It failed to gain more than a handful of votes. Meanwhile, most mainstream anarchist groups support LGBTQIA freedom and have done since the early part of the twentieth century. They do not however, countenance representative democracy and instead call on their supporters to boycott electoral politics.
Before the elections, Pink News said that the transgender members of our community in particular, were concerned, not at any gain in the UK for the right, but that the Conservative Government and their staunch allies in the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph would try to deflect public dissatisfaction with the state of the country by blaming trans people for everything. Patrick Kelleher for Pink News interviewed Charley Hasted, chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems, who said ".“The Lib Dems, the Greens, all the small parties, we can be as pro trans rights as we want, but it takes one of the big two because we don’t have an electoral system that will allow us to take power.” Charly continued "“I think they’ll double down and they’ll start trying to push legislation through. It’s not going to make a difference – they’re going to lose the next election because this is what they don’t seem to understand: not enough people care about this..... If somebody is pro trans rights, very few of them are making that the thing they decide how to cast their vote on. If somebody is anti trans rights, very few of them are going to make it the thing that they decide how to cast their vote on. You’re talking to maybe two or three per cent of the population on each side.... We’re not an important enough issue. They’re going to be voting based on things like sewage in rivers – that’s the stuff that keeps coming up on doorsteps. Sewage in rivers, council tax, loss of services, social care, the NHS, teachers feeling like they’re forced to strike.”