1999 September

Portillo accused of hypocrisy and homophobia

“Portillo screws queer soldiers” banner in Parliament Square
Image Copyright: Steve Mayes, 1996

OutRage! plans protest at Kensington & Chelsea Candidate Selection Meeting
OutRage! has accused the former Conservative MP and ex-Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo, of “hypocrisy and homophobia”. The gay rights group was responding to Mr. Portillo’s self-outing in an interview in “The Times” newspaper on the 9th September.

Portillo is widely tipped as a potential future Conservative party leader and Prime Minister. He is the most senior Tory MP to admit to having gay sex: although he claims he has not had sexual relations with men since he entered public life a generation ago.

Following Mr. Portillo’s revelation of his past gay relationships, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! said:

“Michael Portillo is a hypocrite and homophobe. Despite his own gay relationships, he has consistently opposed gay human rights and has never shown any sympathy or support for the gay community.

“Portillo is no friend of queer people. He voted for Section 28, against an equal age of consent and, as Defence Secretary, he enforced the ban on lesbians and gays in the armed forces.

Just before the 1997 General Election, OutRage! erected a giant billboard in Portillo’s constituency emblazoned with the words ‘Portillo Screws Queer Soldiers’, while leafleting local voters about his antigay record in Parliament, and displaying posters with the slogans: ‘Portillo’s buggered the army’, ‘Portillo sucks’, and ‘Portillo: No friend of Dorothy’.

The preceeding summer of 1996, on the occasion of the annual Pride March, OutRage! erected the same billboard at the end of Whitehall, near the House of Commons, in protest at his policy, as Defence Secretary, of witch-hunting of lesbian and gay military personnel.

On the night parliament voted against an equal age of consent in 1994, when news of the defeat on equality came through, 5,000 lesbians and gays massed outside the House of Commons spontaneously broke into a chant of ‘Portillo is a faggot’, furious that he voted against equalisation at 16.

“OutRage! had Portillo on its outing hit-list because of his homphobia and hypocrisy. Under Britain’s draconian libel laws, we could not name him because there was no one prepared to go public with what they knew about his secret gay life. Now he has outed himself.

“What a pity Michael is still refusing to say anything positive about gay life and relationships. His continued unwillingness to express any empathy for the lesbian and gay community shows that he remains a cold-hearted, compassionless homophobe.

“If he really cares, why doesn’t he speak out against antigay discrimination?

“Portillo has not changed. His dismissal of his past homosexual affairs as youthful experiences implies that he views gay relationships as an immature indiscretion”, said Tatchell.

“He has evaded the truth for a quarter of a century. How do we know he is now telling the truth when he claims that he has not had gay sex since he entered public life?

“It is very unusual for someone who has had an eight-year gay affair, as Portillo had with Nigel Hart, to suddenly cease being homosexual. Even if they subsequently marry, these men tend to have occasional, discreet gay relations throughout the rest of their lives. I would be extremely surprised if Mr. Portillo has, as he claims, never had sex with a man in the last 25 years”, said Tatchell.

London Mardi Gras agrees OutRage! Proposals for Community Control of the March/Parade

London Mardi Gras has agreed that a newly-created forum of community groups will have exclusive decision-making powers concerning future Pride marches/parades, and that it will advise London Mardi Gras on policies regarding the post-march/parade Festival in the park and the Pride Arts Festival.

London Mardi Gras has also agreed to fund the community-run march/parade.

Endorsing a proposal put forward by Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, London Mardi Gras leaders and representatives from 28 community groups backed the new plan at an open meeting held at City University in London on Wednesday, 8th September, 1999.

“This is a major breakthrough in our negotiations over the future of Pride. It ensures that the march will remain a democratic, community-controlled celebration”, said Tatchell.

“Although there is still not full agreement over the post-march Festival in the park, London Mardi Gras says it will remedy many of the criticisms of this year’s Festival. We will use the new community forum to make sure that our concerns are addressed.”

In a separate development, London Mardi Gras has indicated to Peter Tatchell that it will adopt “many” of the key proposals put forward by OutRage! in its five-page proposal on the future of Pride, published on 30th July, 1999.

Last week’s open meeting at City University was chaired by Barry Jackson, a director of London Mardi Gras, and was attended by three other LMG directors, Colin Bell, Jean T and Boo Armstrong, plus LMG Festival Director, Jason Pollock.

Tatchell’s six-point proposal, put on behalf of OutRage!, was agreed as follows:

  1. The community forum –open to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups– be empowered to determine all policies regarding the march/parade.
  2. All groups be invited to send two representatives to the forum.
  3. The forum to meet monthly, with the first meeting being held at the end of September.
  4. London Mardi Gras directors and staff be invited to attend the community forum to facilitate liaison and consultation.
  5. The execution of the policies agreed at the forum to be delegated to LMG staff and professional contractors.
  6. London Mardi Gras to fund the march/parade to ensure a large, high-profile, successful event.

Peter Tatchell is also proposing that the community forum nominate a representative to sit on the board of LMG, although this was not put to last Wednesday’s meeting and has not been agreed. It is a proposal that Tatchell intends to table at the next meeting of the forum, later this month.

FOOTNOTE — MEETING ON FRIDAY, 1st OCTOBER
The “London Mardi Gras Parade Community Forum” is holding its next meeting on Friday, 1st October, from 6 – 8 p.m.  This is open to all L/G/B/T community groups. Any group not having already received an invitation is invited to ring Paul Craig on 020-76.88.01.10 to book places. Disabled access is guaranteed at all meetings.