Stephanie Farnsworth examines the situation within Labour and what it means for LGBTQ+ people
In recent days, Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith declared that he was the “normal” candidate because he was married and had children. Yesterday, the gay and childless MP Angela Eagle stepped down from running for Labour leader and gave her endorsement to Smith.
Leadsom’s hopes of becoming the leader of the Tories were dashed when it an interview she effectively argued she would be a better leader than May precisely because she had children. There was national outrage and Leadsom was hammered by the left, right and centre. She had little choice but to go yet why is there no such outrage for Smith?
The issue reveals a huge amount of privilege but also of the real concerns of the Labour Party. Leadsom was attacked so easily arguably because she was a woman. Sexism from a woman? That can’t possibly be allowed! But misogyny and homophobia from a Labour MP? That must just be a slip of the tongue and so amounts to nothing.
Leadsom was attacked so easily arguably because she was a woman. Sexism from a woman? That can’t possibly be allowed! But misogyny and homophobia from a Labour MP? That must just be a slip of the tongue and so amounts to nothing.
Labour have shown their true colours by this and it certainly doesn’t match the red rose, perhaps a cowardly yellow because for all of their talk on wanting a better future the only thing they really care about is getting rid of Corbyn even if that means throwing LGBTQ+ people under the bus, but then that has helped win them votes for decades.
They’ll attack Corbyn for not being a woman (regardless of May’s horrific policies for women of colour, migrant women and LGBTQ+ women). They’ll allow the implication that Eagle wasn’t normal because of her unmarried status, even if that means by default stepping into the realm of homophobia and LGBTQ+phobia in general so they can have a single challenger to Corbyn. Just because they don’t like him disrespect for LGBTQ+ people is seen as an acceptable price to pay but hell, when the party is made up largely of white, cis, middle class, straight men and women it’s not that hard to believe they’d go down this path.
There’s plenty of people who will excuse Smith because it could arguably be seen as an innocuous slip of the tongue. He was a bit flustered when answering questions and it just came out (I’ll brush over the fact that so many like to criticise Corbyn because he’s not slick in interviews) but why didn’t he clear it up? The comments have been pulled apart all across social media. There’s no way his team didn’t realise the implication of what he said, so why not give a clarification to show that he isn’t LGBTQ+phobic? Because it would have prolonged the story and then the criticism would have been allowed to continue. In short, he wanted it blow over and didn’t feel LGBTQ+ people were worthy of a clarification because he knew he wasn’t going to be challenged for those comments even half as much as Leadsom was for hers. The fact of the matter is this: Labour only cares for equality when it comes to having something to attack Corbyn with.
The fact of the matter is this: Labour only cares for equality when it comes to having something to attack Corbyn with.
Labour have been vocal in their support for May precisely because she is a woman. They insist it’s far beyond time that Labour had a leader who was a woman but they’ve said nothing on the fact that May swooping to Number Ten is likely to be a disaster for LGBTQ+ women, women of colour, migrant women, disabled women and/or working class women. Days after saying it was about time they got rid of Corbyn so they could finally put a woman in charge, they’re now clambering to support Owen Smith: a white, cis, straight, middle class man.
The mess in Labour reveals the depths to which privileged middle class parliamentarians will sink to ensure they keep their expenses and easy road to power. All of the names muttered in recent months as potential challengers to Corbyn have shambolic records on tackling inequality. They’ve done little against the bedroom tax, have either abstained on or voted for the welfare cap and have engaged in inflammatory anti-migration rhetoric and sentiment. Labour just aren’t interested in opposing the Tories. They’re interested in power at any costs but they have no intention of changing things for those worst off under the Tories.
They’re interested in power at any costs but they have no intention of changing things for those worst off under the Tories.
The last six years have seen the UK undergo a radical overhaul. The NHS is well on its way to privatisation, things are worse off than ever for the millennial and younger, we’ve had workfare and a record number of suicides as a direct result of DWP decisions to terminate people’s social security. If Labour are going to change things for the most vulnerable then they need someone who is actually going to challenge the Tories. Milliband was a Tory lite and had no hope and so it remains baffling why they think a Milliband 0.2 would get them anywhere, but again, this is purely about getting rid of Corbyn than actually changing the political landscape.
There are so many within Labour who seem utterly baffled by their own members. The party is now actively going against their own membership to get what they want; the only difference is they aren’t used to members being so vocal. So to parliamentarians who feel they are now screaming into a void I say welcome to the club because there are thousands of Labour voters all across the North who have felt abandoned by Labour MPs and councils for years. They have finally have a voice and it’s clear that many in Labour actually resent that and will do anything to try to stop democracy at work.
When Labour claim to be the party for equality but have made it clear they won’t do anything to support LGBTQ+ rights or challenge blatant LGBTQ+ phobia it’s a horrific day for the community. Labour are the only other option to the Tories but what’s the point if they aren’t actually an alternative? When they’re willing to sell out the community just to make their own lives easier? At this point, Labour seem a lost cause and they’ve brought it all on themselves.
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