Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Pink Party

A row has broken out between local politicians over the issue of how to deal with homophobia in society.

Leader of the opposition Conservative group on Reading Borough Council, Cllr Andrew Cumpsty, accused Liberal Democrats of making it a political issue when Tilehurst's Cllr Chris Harris criticised them for sending out 'mixed messages' on the subject.

A motion presented was by Church ward's Cllr Tim Harris opposing bullying on the grounds of real or perceived sexuality. A report by gay activist group Stonewall was cited showing how this can have a major negative impact on young and vulerable people. It was proposed in support of implementation of a borough-wide anti-bullying policy in schools.

However Conservatives were criticised for their alliances with openly anti-gay parties at European level, but Cllr Cumpsty struck back saying it "amazes me and depresses me that people try to make a political issue about this."

It is worth noting that Labour parliamentary candidate Anneliese Dodds attacked tory hypocrisy for the same reasons after the annual Gay Pride festival in September.

Meanwhile at a national level equality has become a big political issue as LibDem leader Nick Clegg recently challenged Conservative counterpart David Cameron on a series of specific policies.

Reading Liberal Youth highlights how Mr Clegg has gone further than any other party leader in promoting the cause of equality.

Mr Clegg called for:
  • universal implementation of anti-homophobic bullying policies - including at faith schools
  • a change in the law to recognise gay couples equal rights by affording them full marriage status
  • a reversal on the ban on gay men giving blood
  • a guarantee on asylum for people seeking refuge from persecution because of sexual orientation, and
  • a review of Uganda's Commonwealth membership to revoke the death penalty as punishment for homosexuality
The Independent reported the national debate in some detail, while columnist Johann Hari offered a commentary explaining how Mr Clegg's position represents a brave step in pushing for full equality that Conservatives are lagging behind on.

Tim Trent was impressed by the five LibDem proposals, saying it was the first time any politican had come close to what he wishes for, arguing that it's a case of simple humanity.

Meanwhile on my other blog I gave Mr Clegg 'Top Marks On Equality'.

In completely unrelated news Reading Post agitates for a show of public support for the local LGBT community by encouraging readers to vote for Reading's Pride festival as the best festival of the year.


  1. Abbey Nationalist5 February 2010 at 20:28

    (I am probably going to regret asking this, but here goes.....)
    As a matter of curiosity, how many Reading councillors are gay? It seems to be a somewhat higher proportion than would naturally present itself in the population of the Borough.

  2. Well, I guess that must depend on what proportion of the general population is gay and how you define sexuality (ie out/closeted; active/inactive; fixed or, erm, fluid etc).

    If you accept Kinsey's 10% rule (which I don't necessarily) then you might normally expect some variation around 4 or 5 of Reading's 46 councillors as a fair number - it's all part of the wider question of balanced representation and how we go about achieving it.

  3. It's much higher than 4 or 5 on Reading Council

  4. So... do you think 10% is an underestimate of the proportion of the local population who could be defined as gay, or is this section of society over-represented?


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