Congratulations to the organisers of Worthing Pride – even bigger and better and noisier than last year and a great advert for the fantastic welcome that awaits everyone in our town. It was good to see the Mayor, the Leader of the Council and councillors from all the main political parties represented there along with the NHS, fire service, police and countless others coming together to have a good time and be positive about Worthing.
I was there in the inaugural procession last year and made it to join in half way through on Saturday after dashing over from a busy street surgery in Shoreham. Having the local MP support Pride and help showcase our town is surely a good thing and to be welcomed you would think. But - apparently not if you are a Labour Party activist who sees an opportunity to gate-crash the parade to try to make a badly misjudged political statement rather than join in the real party.
Near the end of the parade 2 Labour activists from Lancing decided to unfurl a banner behind me claiming that I had voted against LGBT rights 18 times, apparently as long ago as 1998. Another of their colleagues then darted in and out trying to take a photo of me in front of their pre-arranged banner. What a great wheeze!
The trouble is when I offered to pose in front of their banner if they could tell me what these 18 votes actually were, they were unable to give a single example. I asked them several times but incredibly they had not even had the basic courtesy to check what the drivel they were trying to peddle actually meant and whether it had any basis in fact. It didn’t. It was also deeply ironic that just 4 days earlier in the House of Commons, I had voted to extend same sex marriage to Northern Ireland, alas, they were blissfully unaware of that.
Instead they repeatedly pointed to a notoriously inaccurate website which has repeatedly misrepresented votes by MPs on this and other issues. When I asked to take a photo myself in front of their banner they accused me of ‘hassling’ them and legged it. Remind me who was it who brought along the banner specifically seeking to cause political mischief and hassle me? Apparently, the individuals involved are now trying to get me banned from Worthing Pride in the future.
On what was an otherwise happy and positive event, such inept politicking might be viewed as just rather sad and ill-judged. Alas it is typical of the intolerance, hypocrisy and extremism now regularly deployed by the Momentum dominated East Worthing and Shoreham Labour Party for whom Jeremy Corbyn can do no wrong. For them, the institutional anti-Semitic racism now being investigated by the police and the Equality and Human Rights Commission is just a trumped-up conspiracy.
Nothing to see here but better just ramp up attacks on the Tories in case anyone wants a closer look under the Labour bonnet.
The reaction by Labour councillors and supporters to ‘Banner gate’ has only reinforced my point. New councillor Carl Walker complained in his blog that I had not held to my promise to wear more glitter this year (by the way glitter is not environmentally friendly, ask Shoreham Extinction Rebellion!) and listed my voting record which ‘will hang round my neck like a millstone.’
Many of these votes fall under the ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013’. My reason was not an objection to the principle of same sex marriage which I have supported in later votes. The ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ in any case was nothing to do with equal rights unlike the Civil Partnerships Bill 2004 which gave full recognition and protection to same sex couples by the state.
However this was a big step forward and one which many constituents objected to, whether I agreed with those objections or not. I received more correspondence on this Bill than virtually any other issue except Brexit, and by a margin of around 15 to 1, constituents urged me to vote against it.
My main objection was that proposals to bring in same sex marriage were not included in the election manifestos of any of the main political parties in 2010. It was not even being lobbied for by Stonewall. It had no democratic mandate and was being rushed in by David Cameron, and as always, I listened to the views of my constituents. It also unwittingly created a new inequality. Same sex couples in future would be able to enter into a civil partnership or a conventional marriage whilst opposite sex couples had only the option of a marriage despite the fact that there are over 3.3 million opposite sex cohabiting couples in the UK, many of who would like to have a formal union but for their own reasons do not want to go down the marriage route.
At the time I proposed an amendment which would have brought about equal civil partnerships and if passed I said I would not oppose the Bill overall, but it was rejected by the Government and by the Labour frontbench although supported by many backbenchers.
Five years on, as I have frequently said, same sex marriages have been accepted, the sky has not fallen in and the world and the constituency have moved on and few constituents now write to me about it. I would not vote to change the law, it is not going to be changed, so just get over it. Hence, I voted for a level playing field across the whole of the UK last week and will continue to do so. I made a short video saying why I thought it was long overdue which you can see on my Facebook page, along with the full details of my voting record.
Funnily enough, Cllr Walker's list makes no reference to the fact that I voted for, and campaigned for, the Civil Partnerships Bill back in 2004 which was the most significant piece of legislation giving key rights and protection to same sex couples, and not before time.
As Minister for Children I also presided over the biggest rise in gay adoptions ever and specifically included same sex couples on my working parties when overhauling the whole adoption system. In addition, there are literally hundreds of times over my Parliamentary career when I have supported many other issues which come under the equal rights banner but as no MPs objected and no vote took place they are not recorded. Clearly for someone apparently so diametrically opposed to equal rights then I have not done a very good job of it!
But then Councillor Walker is not exactly consistent in his views. On Labour’s social media pages, he was urging colleagues not to ‘politicise’ Worthing Pride and then a few hours later hosts a blog and photo about me blatantly politicising Pride. This is the same Carl Walker who previously stood as the local National Health Action Party candidate at the general election and attacked Labour for their ‘poorly costed’ NHS spending plans. They had actually pledged to spend much less on the NHS than the Conservative Party actually has in reality spent. But so much for poorly costed, let alone poorly thought through NHS plans, Carl Walker then magically transitioned this year into East Worthing Labour Councillor Carl Walker.
Clearly Councillor Walker feels more at home with the ‘kinder, gentler politics’ promised by Comrade Corbyn and why wouldn’t you? Well probably because in the case of the Labour Party ‘kinder, gentler’ now means rabid torrents of anti-Semitic abuse and death threats against their own members, not just limited to elected Tories.
Last month I spoke up against the abusive minority who greeted the visit of President Trump with vitriolic shouts of ‘Nazi scum’ in the faces of a small band of supporters and even innocent American tourists who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. However much you may disagree with Trump, and I do a lot, shouting Nazi scum in the week when we commemorated 75 years since the brave actions of veterans on D-Day against the real Nazi scum is inappropriate, self-defeating and offensive to veterans and others who sacrificed so much for the liberty of others in the War. Hundreds of constituents agreed and posted their support on my social media and in emails. So here was an opportunity for the local Labour Party to do the right thing for once and put down a marker for their intolerance of hatred and support for free speech.
So what was the response from local Labour members on the local Labour Facebook page? Here’s a small sample and apologies for the language in advance:
- “I’d really like to punch that smug tosser in his ugly, shit spewing gob… #PunchAToryADay”
- “I now see a strong case for hanging one Tory MP in particular and if his kids carry his genes then a good doctoring is probably better for the future of the planet.”
- “He is simultaneously a twat and a bell end.”
- “I coughed ‘wanker’ loudly as I passed him at the farmer’s market this morning. Small pleasures.”
- “He would think that wouldn’t he. After all he is “Nazi scum.”’
And from the Parliamentary hopeful herself -
- “Get the Lout out!”
Just to remind you these are actual postings hosted on the kinder, gentler East Worthing & Shoreham Labour Party’s own social media sites and made mostly by their elected councillors. Nice!
But their intolerance is not limited to claiming a monopoly of care on equal rights or the NHS. Last month we held the 12th ECO summit, with over 200 pupils from 14 local schools invading Worthing College to help do their bit to combat climate change as the project I set up in 2008 has been doing for 11 years now. Lots of people have thanked us for a great initiative and I had hoped that all the political parties sign up to environmental initiatives for young people like this.
But again, the response from EWS Labour has been relentlessly partisan, negative and cynical. A well-known student Labour activist at the College even tweeted to me that I shouldn’t be allowed at her College and my Eco Summit had disturbed her cosy discussion about Jeremy Corbyn in her politics class. When it comes to 200 eco-warriors battling to combat climate change and save the planet against a cabal of proto-Marxists rehearsing their ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn…’ ditties then I know which side my money is on.
Sad though this all is I am afraid that for many it comes as no surprise. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has become the party of intolerance, hate and institutionalised anti-Semitism.
Three years ago when the Home Affairs Select Committee undertook an inquiry into anti-Semitism in politics Labour MPs had to give evidence in private for their own safety. The resulting damning report was brushed off by Jeremy Corbyn. Three years later the whole party leadership is mired in a swamp of ugly anti-Semitism and in denial. The whole Party is being investigated for institutional anti-Semitism by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
A once proud and mainstream political party under investigation by the EHRC!
There is a backlog of hundreds of members being investigated whilst anyone who attacks the inability of the leadership to do anything about it is immediately demonised and threatened with expulsion or summarily expelled.
Last week in a shocking Panorama documentary, former employees of the Labour Party HQ bravely spoke out against the abuse they had seen and received. One revealed be had been driven to contemplate suicide, another had suffered a mental breakdown whilst others clearly stated that the Labour Party was no longer a safe space for Jewish people. This is deeply worrying stuff so what was the response of the Labour leadership to these serous allegations? It was instantly to write off young people who had just spoken out about suffering mental illness problems because of their experiences in the Labour Party of being disgruntled employees with ‘an axe to grind.’
Unbelievable, yet the response of the denialists in the East Worthing & Shoreham Labour Party was even worse:
- “It’s crap - poor poor journalism”
- “That’s it I’m off to bed - complete and utter bollocks”
Again, real posts on their social media pages. This is deeply chilling.
The other tactic of course was to deflect criticism by trying to smear the Conservative Party with charges of Islamophobia. Yet when confronted with a report from ITV news supposedly identifying 74 Conservative Party members with Islamophobic comments, the Conservative Party leadership candidates universally and unequivocally agreed to support a full-blown inquiry. Boris Johnson even suggested extending it to all allegations of racism.
No denial just an urgency to do something about a problem.
Now I am certainly not claiming that there is not a problem with Islamophobia amongst some Conservatives but what we are looking as is on an altogether different scale. As it turned out, of the 74 names provided by ITV, 70 proved not actually to be Conservative Party members, 2 had already been investigated years earlier whilst the remaining 2 are being dealt with. What a contrast!
So the next time you hear a member of the East Worthing and Shoreham Labour Party stake a claim to being pro-inclusivity and equality, to being anti climate change or to being anti-racism don’t be taken in.
It genuinely pains me to say so, but this once proud mainstream British political party has become the party of hate not hope. A party where the few want to demonise, abuse and hound out the many if you don’t agree with Comrade Corbyn.