Less than a month after the UK’s General Election on 7th May when a record number of out lgbt MPs were elected, our newest parliament broke its own record again when a government minister, Nick Gibb, revealed he was also gay and was going to marry his partner.
The record that was broken
on 7th May was that 32 openly lgbt MPs were elected, the largest
ever number of candidates voted into national office on the same day anywhere
in the world, and formed the largest group of openly lgbt members in any
national parliament in the history of politics.
In this special year when
we celebrate 750 years of the current form of parliament and 800 years of the
Magna Carta it is fitting that we celebrate this achievement.
I’d like to think that
each lgbt MP was elected because of his/her politics and not because of his/her
gender/sexuality. No-one will deny that some voters would have deliberately
voted against an lgbt candidate, that’s their right, but also some voters would
A lot of research has
been, and is still being, carried out by the LGBT Representation and Rights
Research Initiative. This is the first academic programme in the USA, located
at the University of North Carolina, which centres its research on how the lgbt
community is represented in governments around the world. Their website is
I’ve illustrated the
current state of parliamentary representation here in the figure of the Big Ben
clock tower. Included in the number of lgbt MPs is Nick Gibb. The squares
represent each UK constituency, coloured and grouped according to party.
Constituencies which elected lgbt members are coloured pink at the top of their
respective party group. BLUE is the Conservative Party, RED the
Labour Party, and YELLOW the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Other parties not electing lgbt members are at the bottom (for our purposes
it’s not relevant to name them).
The total numbers of out
lgbt candidates in the election was remarkable enough in itself. There were 155
who had declared their sexuality/gender prior to the election – far too many to
list in details, so I’ll refer you to that analysis I just mentioned where the
full list is given. At the previous general election of 2010 there was no
definitive list of out candidates other than those who represented the three
major parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat).
There are other facts not
mentioned in the LGBT Representation analysis. The first is that the SNP
achieved a 100% record of having all 7 lgbt candidates elected. Among those 7
is another record breaker. Mhairi Black, the newly elected MP for Paisley and
Renfrewshire South, was only 20 when she won her seat. That makes her the
youngest MP in the House of Commons. Not only that but because between 1832 and
2006 the minimum legal age anyone was eligible to stand for parliament was 21
Mhairi is the youngest MP the country has had in over 183 years.
Since the 2010 general
election UK politics has seen several major changes. The first is the SNP’s
rise in national politics outside Scotland. Another is the more spectacular
rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). In the popular mind UKIP has been
given a right-wing stance which had been traditionally homophobic. UKIP put 6 lgbt
candidates forward at the election, all but one of them coming in the top 3,
but none of them winners. The 7th candidate, David Coburn, came 4th
(out of 5), but as he is already an MEP I doubt if he or UKIP are very
The election also highlighted
the delicate path a candidate walks before an election. While representing
his/her political party he/she has to be careful not to express a personal
opinion. Many homophobic remarks have been spoken by candidates of all parties.
Kerry Smith (UKIP, South Basildon and East Thunnock candidate) was heard to say
last December that gay UKIP are “poofters”. He apologised during his election
campaigning and blamed it on the medication he was taking!
Sometimes a candidates
remarks from further back come back to haunt them. Rupert Reed (Green Party,
Cambridge) was questioned about words he wrote in 2013 that people should not
be forced to accept transgender women as “real” women. He too apologised.
A more serious allegation
was made against Jason Zadrozny (Liberal Democrat, Ashfield), who was arrested
on suspicion of child abuse with his partner just weeks before the election.
Even though he was never actually
charged with any offence he was deselected by his party and replaced. However,
Jason stood as an independent candidate in the local elections held the same
day and retained his seat for Ashfield on Nottinghamshire County Council.
The Labour Party came
under fire over several unsubstantiated and false claims of championing
equality, including that of its candidate for Sutton and Cheam, Emily Brothers,
who claimed to be the first openly transgender candidate. Within hours people
(including 2 transgender candidates from previous election) were informing her
that she was, at least, the 4th.
Among other facts disclosed
by lgbt candidates was that several revealed their HIV status – Adrian
Hyyrylianen-Trett (Liberal Democrat, Vauxhall), Paul Childs (Liberal Democrat,
Liverpool Riverside) and David Kirwan (Green, Broxtowe).
There’s a whole mountain
of other information and analysis, but that’s enough for now. What will the new
parliament hold for the lgbt community? It may encourage more lgbt politicians
and candidates to be open about their sexuality and gender in the future, and
may even influence politicians in other countries to do the same.