The irony behind tonight’s Corbyn media firestorm

By Jeremy Corbyn’s standards, it was actually quite a good speech. Pink News has the video here. He was engaged, clearly speaking from the heart. He talked about having saved a Gay Centre from attack by National Front types decades before gay rights became fashionable. And then, in true Corbyn fashion, he has to go and ruin it all by concluding:

Our defence of you is a defence of all of humanity and the right of people to practise the life they want to practise, rather than be criminalised, brutalised and murdered, simply because they chose to be gay, they chose to be lesbian, they were LGBT in any form

Obviously, being gay isn’t some kind of lifestyle choice. You don’t choose it any more than you choose your eye pr skin colour or whether you are right or left handed. It is how you are born. Everything about Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record on LGBT issues over the years suggests he knows that and that he genuinely mis-spoke tonight. Let’s face it, it’s not the first time he’s snatched disaster from the jaws of opportunity.

He should be aware that any inference that your sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice plays into the hands of those who wish to roll back the decades of progress. It is also deeply upsetting to LGBT people.

It’s even more upsetting when it’s being gleefully amplified all over the place by the right wing press and Tory LGBT groups.

That would be the same right wing press that has always, for as long as I’ve been politically active, been so in favour of LGBT rights. They’ve always stood up for same sex marriage, gay adoption and they would never, ever dream of demonising transgender people. Of course not. And that would be the same Tory LGBT groups who have a much bigger problem with half their MPs on LGBT issues than we have with Jeremy Corbyn. And if Guido Fawkes has some great record of campaigning for LGBT equality, then it’s completely passed me by.

So, of course Corbyn shouldn’t have said it – and his press office was right to backtrack as fast as it could. However, the viciousness of the attack from the right clearly has other motivations.

There are a million reasons to attack Corbyn. I will never forgive him for his behaviour over the EU Referendum when he and his acolytes sabotaged the Remain campaign, both internally in the Labour Party and externally. I will never forgive him for leading his MPs meekly into the aye lobby behind the government, allowing the biggest self-inflicted wound on our country in my lifetime.

On LGBT rights, though, I’m willing to cut him a bit of slack, even though he said the wrong thing tonight. That doesn’t wipe out decades of doing the right thing.

It is appropriate, though, to attack those reactionary, right wing forces who don’t give a stuff about the issue and who have actively undermined the progress to equality and who continue to stoke the fires of prejudice on a regular basis.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I believe Jeremy Corbyn should be praised for his record on LGBT rights. Anybody who has had a history of defending equal rights, especially for so long, deserves more recognition.

    The same goes for David Cameron endorsing same-sex marriage in the coalition days. On this, all three of our parties were united, and that’s a good thing.

  • This is you doing another ibble word that I’m rubbish at, Caron – reasonable.

  • Thanks Caron for reminding us of the best way to deal with Jeremy Corbyn. Liberal Democrats do not need to misrepresent the Labour Leader and can happily give credit where credit is due. There are times in politics when (in the words of the old hymn) we need to know ‘when to speak and when be silent”. We shouldn’t be competing with people in the Labour Party who can shock us with the venom directed at JC, whatever the merits of their political or strategic arguments. And on a bad day he is capable of disastrous self-harm. Lib Dems have a golden opportunity to fill a political void left by Labour to push positive visions and actions.
    Meanwhile as someone with a track record on LGBT rights as long as Corbyn’s, one of the happiest duties of my year as Lord Mayor of Bradford was raising the LGBT flag outside City Hall, which I described as a flag which managed to represent solidarity and difference at the same time.

  • Daniel Walker 3rd Feb '17 - 12:49pm

    @Paul Staines “I only care about human rights, indivisable with all equal before the law. “

    Yes, Paul, that’s what we want as well. But that explicitly means standing up for the rights of minorities to which you do not belong or it means nothing.

  • Daniel Walker: *applause*

  • Zoe O'connell 3rd Feb '17 - 1:54pm

    I’m happy to acknowledge that Corbyn has a good track record on supporting LGBT rights (Although this slip-up does rather bring in to question his ability to deliver) but lets not fall into the old “left is better than the right on equalities” trope, please. Labour and the left wing media’s record on LGBT rights over the last 20 years has been bad to appalling – they get away with it because of some rather brazen “alternative truths”. Many left-wing campaigns have often just ended up suppressing pro-LGBT voices on the right in an attempt to gain support/votes/readers, rather than helping promote equality.

    That’s not to say the right wing press as a whole is helping, of course. And in case you’re wondering Paul, that does include you.

  • Is this actually a thing? So Corbyn misspoke slightly, it gets a mention by Guido Corbyn having “gaffed” and then this in response. It was a mistake with no malice intended, he will probably a bit embraced by it for an hour but it isn’t significant.

    Really Corbyn is a real problem for British politics but this is nothing, it is rather like peoples approach to Trump.

    Lets focus on the important stuff.

  • Simon Banks 3rd Feb '17 - 9:38pm

    It seems to me arguable that what he was talking about was the right of Gay people to exercise their choice to be open about it. That is a choice.

  • Bernard Aris 5th Feb '17 - 4:06pm

    Maybe we should give him a present from an age Corbyn understood better: a video casette (you know, the plastic box with a roll of tape in it; a small improvement on the 1960’s tape recorder) with the film “The Naked Civil Servant” (1975) with the late John Hurt really starring as a gay naked model on the city arts colleges in the 1950’s/1960’s, in the same era in which government people drove the ENIGMA decoder Alan Turin to suicide.

    That will remind him how governments (including Attlee’s, who never dared touch the subject) and the tabloid press worked hand-in-glove to keep homosexuals and LGTB out of sight or in prison. And how Labour politicians who spoke up about it (until the 1980’s) were confronted by working class incomprehension…
    By contrast, in 1965 the Liberal Party’s party council approved a resolution in support of the Wolfenden report, and Jo Grimonds leadership saw an opening-up of Liberal policy thinking on the issue (see: David Morton Rayside, On the Fringe: Gays & Lesbians in Politics, Corneel University Press, 1998, p. 32-33).

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