|After the first month of British general election campaigning, what LGBT issues have emerged from the ongoing intensive debates between prime ministerial and parliamentary candidates?
Given that the United Kingdom Independence Party tends to have attracted troglodyte religious social conservatives, anti-immigration racists and Islamophobes from the dregs of the Conservative Party, it would be redundant to go into intricate detail about the mendacities and kneejerk prejudices expressed by rank and file parliamentary candidates of that particular party, or some unreconstructed members of the Conservative Party either. However, that will be the subject of a future column, as will the policies of the Scottish Nationalist Party and Northern Ireland political parties.
More mainstream political candidates do have policies on offer. The Conservative Cameron administration spending cuts have been accused of depriving people with HIV/AIDS of necessary medical support and services, as have its welfare retrenchment 'reforms.' Against this, the Liberal Democrats and Labour have promised more funding for HIV services. The Liberal Democrats also favour making health and physical (and sex) education compulsory primary and secondary school subjects, as does Labour leader Ed Miliband. A more detailed list of party policies was available in GayNZ.com's prior Politics and Religion column on LGBT party manifestos.
The British Labour Party has some LGBT policies on offer within its manifesto, released in mid-April. They have stated that they will introduce cross-curriculum health and physical (and sex) education as a compulsory subject, within an LGBT-inclusive format. They will also introduce enforceable policies against homophobic and transphobic bullying within schools, strengthen hate crimes provision, increase LGBT refugee and asylum intake and transparency and increase the focus of the Foreign Office against homophobic and transphobic governments outside the United Kingdom.
Practically, other than this, the only outstanding LGBT public policy and legislative reform left on the immediate political horizon is the question of anti-bullying legislation. There's not too much difference between the Cameron administration and Labour Opposition on that issue. However, the Conservative Party favours funding individual local inclusive anti-bullying projects, while the Labour Party favours the North American legislative reform strategy used in Canadian provinces and the United States. Unlike New Zealand, the United Kingdom added gender identity to its anti-discrimination Equalities Act 2010 several years ago, so the legitimacy of transgender rights isn't at debate there as it is within Canada and the United States. Speaking of which, one Labour candidate, Emily Brothers, is both transgender and blind, dual firsts within the British House of Commons.
Other parliamentary candidates have attracted different attention. Two have come out as HIV+, both Liberal Democrats. Adrian Hyrrylainen-Trett is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhull, while Paul Childs is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Liverpool Riverside. Hyrrylainen-Trett attributes his HIV+ status to adverse responses to school and community homophobic bullying, leading to problematic alcohol and drug consumption. Both were stirred into action by the reprehensible statement by UKIP leader Nigel Farage that if allowed anywhere near the Treasury benches, UKIP would try to prevent HIV+ immigrants from entering the country and consuming HIV management drugs under the UK National Health Service's public healthcare scheme. Fortunately, most mainstream political parties have treated Farage's outburst with the contempt that it deserves. Under First Past the Post, UKIP may only win four or five seats-but could it hold the balance of power? Or will it be the Scottish Nationalist Party, which is already the largest parliamentary party in Scotland and in charge of its devolved administration? One things's for sure- UKIP and the SNP are at loggerheads over European Union membership- UKIP opposes it as an article of faith, while the Scottish Nationalists regard it as a safeguard against Anglocentric tendencies within the current constitutional arrangements within the United Kingdom.
At present, opinion polls have Labour in front of the Conservatives, albeit by a couple of percentage points. Due to the UKIP spoiler effect, though, that gap may turn out to be greater than it seems, although a Labour/SNP coalition seems to be the likeliest outcome at present. Voters may be having second thoughts about the United Kingdom Independence Party due to the seeming absence of vetting procedures and the appallingly low quality of some of their candidates.
Recommended: Helen Nianias:"Paul Childs: Second Liberal Democrat candidate reveals he's HIV+" Independent: 08.04.2015: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/paul-childs-second-liberal-democrat-candidate-reveals-that-hes-hiv-positive-after-nigel-farages-controversial-remarks-10161461. html
Patrick Strudwick: "Meet Britain's first HIV+ Parliamentary candidate" Buzzfeed: 30.03.2015: http://www.buzzfeed.com/patrickstrudwick/meet-britains-first-hiv-positive-parliamentary-candidate#. hqo8zE66O
Esther Addley: "Teachers would be trained to combat homophobic bullying under Labour" Guardian: 03.02.2015: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/03/teachers-trained-tackle-homophobic-bullying-labour
"UK slashes HIV prevention cash" Gaystarnews: 13.03.2015: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-slashes-hiv-prevention -cash130315
Ben Kelly: "Labour: The LGBT Manifesto": Attitude: 13.04.2015 http://attitude.co.uk/labour-the-lgbt- manifesto/ Craig Young - 22nd April 2015