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Saturday 27 May 2017


Britain Goes to the Polls

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 1st May 2017

As yet, there isn't much reaction about the recently announced British snap election from their LGBTI media. However, British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have called it for two reasons- Brexit, and to take advantage of the weakness of the British Labour Party Opposition under the hapless Jeremy Corbyn.

One might have thought that with a fifteen seat absolute majority enabling the British Conservative Party to govern alone, new incumbent British Prime Minister Theresa May would be able to easily take the steps required to pass government legislation required to pass Brexit- British exit from the European Union, as agreed upon narrowly at a British referendum last year in 2016. And therein lies the problem. It was a narrow 'victory' for Brexit, and there are many caveats to that victory which may render it pyrrhic. Thus far, luck has been with Theresa May since she succeeded David Cameron as Conservative Party leader and British Prime Minister after the Brexit 'win' last year. The populist United Kingdom Independence Party Eurosceptic vehicle has been too internally chaotic to take advantage of this turn of events, and the initiative has passed to the British Conservative Party. Meanwhile, the Brexit vote also caused ruptures within the British Labour Party organisation, also hamstrung by a prolonged and divisive 'primary'-based leadership contest by parliamentary Labour rebels who believed Corbyn was too 'far left' to lead the Labour Party to victory. Although well-intentioned, the primary system has saddled the Labour Party with an unpopular, inept and divisive leader- which is a shame, because Jeremy Corbyn is supportive of LGBTI rights- but so is Theresa May, so is Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and so is Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. It isn't a defining issue insofar as Labour Party factionalism is concerned either. Religious social conservatism is highly marginalised in mainstream British politics and society.

After the announcement of the election, UK LGBTI lobby group Stonewall identified several core issues for LGBTI voters at the election. These include best practice standards of care for transitioning transpeople, active intervention against anti-LGBT school bullying, the introduction of inclusive and comprehensive physical and sexual education curriculum content and retention of British access to the European Court of Human Rights. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall CEO, said that Stonewall was nonpartisan. In apparent response, it is understood that while taking active steps to disentangle the United Kingdom from Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May will not be rushing withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights, which could occur as late as the next scheduled British election in 2022 should she unambiguously win a second term of office. Her government is also committed to review of the physical and sexual education curriculum and has not ruled out introducing inclusive content within that context.

What will happen? Will Theresa May "do a Thatcher" and emulate her late predecessor as Conservative Prime Minister in 1983, winning power in a landslide victory? Or could there be problems? Possibly. Labour capitulated to Brexit too easily, say critics, enabling the Liberal Democrats to unambiguously stake their colours to the mast as the party of youthful European Union membership retention (the "Bremain" camp). If they can exploit that potential constituency, then they might end up taking seats off the Conservatives, but whether that will outnumber any Labour marginals that might fall to the Conservatives is a moot point. Moreover, there is also Scotland, which voted heavily to remain within the European Union due to urban revitalisation programmes from Brussels that enabled Scottish Nationalist Party leadership to sidestep English Conservative austerity and service retrenchment programmes. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to hold a second Scottish independence referendum due to the provocation of England and Wales voting for Brexit. If the election result endorses Brexit through a May landslide within England and Wales, then the indirect result might be a signal that Scotland must break away from the "United" Kingdom to ensure its economic prosperity. Meanwhile, there is another problem- despite the House of Commons Conservatives uniting behind Theresa May, there are some Conservative Bremain elements from the Major and Cameron eras within the unelected House of Lords. If they prove too obstructive, May may be able to invoke the Parliament Act to force Brexit through the House of Lords- ironically, Tony Blair did so when it came to Tory peer obstruction of gay age of consent equality in 2002. That is, if she wins the election.

There are several possible scenarios. One is an unambiguous Conservative landslide, taking advantage of Corbyn's inept leadership and would entail the decimation of the Labour Party. May must be hoping for this. However, given Scottish antipathy to Brexit, it may not happen north of Hadrian's wall and would probably trigger a second Scottish independence referendum, the end of Scottish tenure within the United Kingdom and independent Scottish European Union membership afterward. That would be acceptable to some Conservative strategists, as it would also amputate centre-left electorates from the United Kingdom. If her gamble backfires, however, May might find herself in a nightmarish situation where the Liberal Democrats successfully exploit anti-Brexit sentiment and offset any gains from Labour marginal seats that fall to the Tories. Northern Ireland may also be interesting, given that their recent regional elections decimated the Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party in favour of pro-European Sinn Fein and other Catholic nationalist parties- which may demonstrate that the lure of European urban reconstruction revenue and trade links are more seductive than anti-European ideology and residual anti-Catholic sectarianism across the Irish Sea. And unfortunately, the Democratic Unionists still haven't realised that Northern Irish concern over the adverse possible regional fallout from Brexit now outweighs its tired opposition to marriage equality, which will reportedly be a bottom line in any post-election government deal within the six provinces. Another wild card is UKIP. Having achieved its objective and forced Britain out of the European Union, UKIP has no rationale for continued existence and may fall apart during the election campaign as a consequence. Another scenario is a Lib-Lab (Labour/Liberal Democrat) coalition, which would necessitate the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn and his replacement with a less dogmatic leader.

Each major political party has their own LGBTI components- LGBTI Tory, LGBTI Labour and LGBTI Liberal Democrats, and the House of Commons has its highest number of LGBTI MPs in history. There are LGBTI ministers within the May administration, just as there were under David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before her. Although David Cameron was responsible for marriage equality, May has moved to reassure any LGBTI voters over Brexit through insuring historic homosexual 'offences' are erased from criminal records, which seems to have prompted Bill English and Amy Adams to emulate her here in the antipodes. The European Court of Human Rights has a mixed record on LGBT concerns, prompting delayed but restrictive partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Scotland and Northern Ireland during the eighties, but also disappointing LGBTI advocates when it came to marriage equality and the civil liberties of LGBTI sadomasochists (the "Operation Spanner" case, in the late nineties). However, there is the risk that any Conservative revanche will bring troglodyte, backward religious social conservatives into the House of Commons inside the Conservative Party benches.Gay Times has summarised the overall party positions on LGBTI rights within a recent online article.

Given the fact that the House of Commons still uses a First Past the Post electoral system to elect its MPs, the ultimate result is anyone's guess.

Recommended:



LGBT Liberal Democrats:http://www.lgbt.libdems.org.uk

Tom Clark: "Theresa May's great political game"Prospect Magazine:18.04.2017:https://www. prospectmagazine.co.uk/ politics/theresa-mays-great- political-game-snap-general- election

Peter Kellner: "Labour will lose- what then?"Prospect Magazine: 18.04.2017:https://www. prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/ peter-kellner/labour-will- lose-what-then

Peter Eaton: "Exclusive: Poll showed Conservatives would lose seats to Liberal Democrats"New Statesman:05.04.2017:http://www. newstatesman.com/politics/uk/ 2017/04/exclusive- conservative-poll-showed- party-would-lose-seats- liberal-democrats

Tim Farron: "Now it's clear- the Liberal Democats are the only opposition to the Tories and hard Brexit"Guardian:18.04.2017:https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/ 2017/apr/18/lib-dems-only- serious-opposition-tories- hard-brexit

Kieran Andrews: "Nicola Sturgeon: Snap election is huge political miscalculation"Courier: 18.04.2017:https://www. thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/ politics/scottish-politics/ 408034/nicola-sturgeon-snap- election-is-huge-political- miscalculation/

"The Guardian view on UKIP: Is the Party Over?" Guardian: 12.04.2017:https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/ 2017/apr/12/ithe-guardian- view-on-ukip-is-the-party-over

Jonathon Shiel: "Where do the UK parties stand on LGBT rights ahead of the snap election?" Gay Times: 22.04.2017:http://www. gaytimes.co.uk/news/69990/uk- parties-lgbt-right-snap- general-election/

Nick Duffy: "Northern Ireland's DUP would rather block gay marriage than form a government" Pinknews: 22.04.2017:http://www. pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/22/ northern-irelands-dup-would- rather-block-gay-marriage- than-form-a-government/

"Stonewall calls on parties to make LGBT+ rights a priority in election manifestos"Attitude:27.04.2017:http://attitude. co.uk/stonewall-calls-on- parties-to-make-lgbt-rights-a- priority-in-general-election- manifesto/

Josh Jackman: "Theresa May will not dump vital LGBT rights protection, report says": Pinknews: 27.08.2017:http://www. pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/27/ theresa-may-dump-lgbt-rights- european-convention-human- rights-general-election-2017/


Craig Young - 1st May 2017

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