“The Labour Party is concerned with grave realities, not with picturesque fairy tales. … Practical men and women will consider, not fables regarding tomorrow, but the facts of today. … They will judge the present Government, as governments should be judged, not by its words, but by its deeds — by its achievements, its actions and its omissions.”
Labour Manifesto, ‘Labour and the Nation’, 1929
Reprinted in ‘The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Protest’, pp.98-102
A giant photo of Tony Blair with a long Pinocchio nose will be carried by OutRage! on this Saturday’s 28th annual Lesbian & Gay Pride March.
OutRage! is portraying Tony Blair as Pinocchio to highlight Labour’s broken promises on lesbian and gay human rights. The blown-up, digitally-enhanced photo of Pinocchio Blair is captioned with the words “LIAR!” and “BROKEN PROMISES”.
On 12 occasions since May 1997, the Labour Government has blocked homosexual equality and endorsed the discriminatory status quo. This directly contradicts Tony Blair’s pledge to the 1997 Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival that Labour would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.
OutRage! will assemble at 11:30 a.m. at the Queen Mother’s Gates, at the end of South Carriage Drive, Hyde Park Corner, SW1. The March leaves from this point at 12 noon.
As well as the main large photo of Pinocchio Blair, OutRage! placards with smaller versions of the same image will highlight six gay equality issues on which Labour has taken “NO ACTION”, thereby failing to honour its pledge to eradicate discrimination:
- homophobic hate crimes,
- Section 28,
- the military ban,
- partnership rights,
- protection against discrimination at work,
- parenting rights.
In addition to Labour’s broken promise to end discrimination, OutRage! has two other themes at Pride this year:
- tackling the prejudice that led to the Soho bomb
- commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which sparked the modern movement for queer liberation.
OutRage! will be carrying photos of the carnage at the Admiral Duncan pub with the slogan “Homophobia Kills!”, and a huge banner reading: “Remember – Stonewall was a riot!”.
Twelve times since May 1997, Labour has torpedoed initiatives for homosexual equality.
Prior to the 1997 election, Labour made three very specific pledges on lesbian and gay human rights:
- HATE CRIMES – On 19 February 1997, at a Stonewall-sponsored public meeting at the House of Commons, Jack Straw promised swift action against homophobic hate crimes. Last year, however, he vetoed an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would have extended the tough new penalties for race hate attacks to all hate crimes, including those motivated by homophobia.
- SECTION 28 – At the same Stonewall meeting, Straw pledged that Labour would repeal Section 28. Since coming to power, Labour has refused to say when or how Section 28 will be abolished. Now, Labour’s only commitments are to get rid of Section 28 “sometime in the next five years” and “when an appropriate legislative vehicle becomes available”.
- MILITARY BAN – Before the 1997 election, Labour publicly declared its intention to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. Today, in contrast, the Government is fighting in the European Court of Human Rights to maintain discrimination against lesbian and gay people in the armed forces; and last year in the European Court of Justice it fought successfully to uphold the right of the military to deny homosexuals equal treatment.
Immediately after the 1997 election, Tony Blair made a general promise –in a statement read out at that year’s Pride Festival by Culture Secretary, Chris Smith MP– that his Government would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.
This commitment is contradicted by Labour’s repeated refusal to support gay equality measures:
- PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION – Last year, Labour voted down new Clause 10 of the Human Rights Rights Act, which sought to ensure that the anti-discrimination provisions of the Act would be interpreted to include a prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.
- EQUALITY AT WORK – Labour has twice scuppered legislation to stop discrimination against lesbians and gays in the workplace. It blocked the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill in 1997, and in April this year it thwarted an amendment to the Employment Relations Bill.
- SEXUAL OFFENCES – During the passage of the Crime & Disorder Bill last year, Labour manoeuvred to prevent attempts by backbenchers to scrap three sexual offences laws that apply only to gay sex: the gross indecency statute, the criminalisation of gay sex involving the presence of more than two people, and the homophobic bias of the Sex Offenders Act, which results in men convicted of consenting homosexual relationships with 16 and 17 year olds being branded as child sex abusers, while men involved in heterosexual relations with people of the same age are not penalised under the Act.
- AGE OF CONSENT – Labour has made parliamentary time available for a free vote: but the Government is refusing to officially endorse an equal age of consent, preferring to keep it an issue of individual conscience, whereby Labour MPs are free to vote for or against equality according to their own whims and fancies. In contrast, Labour never leaves issues of black and women’s equality to a free vote. It insists that all Labour MPs vote against discrimination.
- MORATORIUM ON PROSECUTIONS – After the huge House of Commons majority for an equal age of consent was overturned by the unelected House of Lords in July last year, Jack Straw refused to use his discretionary powers to initiate a moratorium on the prosecution of 16 and 17 year old gay men and their partners, insisting that prosecutions must continue because it is “the law of the land”.
- EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES – In May, the Government prevented attempts to toughen the equal opportunities powers of the new Greater London Authority, including its powers to promote gay equality and tackle homophobic discrimination.
This makes a total of 12 separate occasions in the last 26 months when Labour has sabotaged measures for lesbian and gay equality.