DIVA publisher Linda Riley interviews Rebecca Long-Bailey
BY LINDA RILEY
Rebecca Long-Bailey has been quiet but consistently strong in her support of the LGBTQI community since becoming MP for Salford and Eccles in the 2015 election.
She has also served as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet since 2017.
At the first ever LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester last week, Rebecca made a strong case for how she would hold the government to account on behalf of the LGBTQI community within the first 100 days as leader of the opposition.
Rebecca put transgender issues at the top of her list of priorities if she is to win the Labour leadership, beginning with reforming the Gender Recognition Act with an amendment to incorporate self-identification on legal documents such as birth certificates. We wanted to find out more about what Rebecca would prioritise for the LGBTQI community if she becomes the next Labour leader.
The hustings event was hosted by LGBT+ Labour, presented by PinkNews and supported by DIVA.
LINDA RILEY: What are the biggest concerns for LGBTQI voters and what will you do to address them?
REBECCA LONG-BAILEY: We’ve got huge concerns at the moment. A lot of the rights that we have now are not perfect because there’s still transphobia and hate crimes rocketing on a daily basis. We now have a Prime Minister who was openly criticised and demeaned LGBTQI people, immigrants, all cross sections of society and laughed it off. I’m worried that the public discourse will start moving even more right without us taking a stand as a credible opposition to stamp that out. I think we’ve got a huge task on our hands. We know that there’s not going to be another general election until 2024, so the action on this as a party has to start on day one so it doesn’t become culturally acceptable to say many of the things that Boris Johnson has written about in newspapers quite openly.
How would you reassure LGBTQI people that their rights are going to be safe in a post-Brexit Britain?
A lot of the rights that we enjoy now come from the European Union. We’ve got to do everything we possibly can to protect that, to make sure that we keep up with improvements in EU law. That means having a close collaborative relationship with the European Union going forward. We know we’re coming out of the European Union, and that’s happening, unfortunately, whether we like it or not, but that doesn’t mean to say that we can’t pressure the government in future trade or talks.
Do you think in general Labour is doing enough within its ranks to challenge transphobia?
We don’t accept transphobia in the party now under the rules, but what we’ve got to ensure is that when we’re having debates within the party, about women’s rights, trans rights, or any other rights, it’s done in a respectful way, that isn’t transphobic. It isn’t discriminatory in any way, shape, or form. If we find members who are found to be transphobic, racist, sexist, that they’re not in the party, and that they’re disciplined very quickly.
Do you plan to actually expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party? Do you consider their theories hate speech?
Any member in our party who holds transphobic views and makes those publicly available to all the members shouldn’t be within our party and this should be dealt with in our disciplinary process. It’s as simple as that. That should be happening now. What I’ve called for is a more robust disciplinary process for all forms of discrimination that’s independent, that can speed up complaints that are made so that we can make sure that members who are found to hold those views aren’t in the party anymore.
What are your thoughts on LGBTQI sex and relationship education and the protests that have happened in Birmingham as a result of this? How do you plan to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
We’ve always been a party that has been the country’s moral compass in making sure that we build a society on a culture of respect and understanding. That’s why it’s so important to have sex education, about all sexualities and types of loving relationships, so that children growing up can understand that it’s there in society. I was dismayed to see protests outside the schools and our firm position is as it was in the manifesto. I am taking that forward. I think that education is vital within schools.
Are children of LGBTQI parents being protected enough and do you have any thoughts on how they can be protected when stuff like this happens?
I don’t think they are. I think as a party, we need to be working with organisations to see what measures can be put in place to provide that extra support. Ultimately, it’s about a culture change. It’s about making sure that the next generation of children are growing up understanding that all of this is socially and morally acceptable. It’s normal. It’s love. But for it to happen, it has to start in schools. That’s why it’s so important to have educational programmes.
With the government pushing us further right, and an equalities minister who abstained on same-sex marriage, we need a strong opposition committed to protecting marginalised communities. Do you have any feelings on what you would do about that?
I’ve always stood up for diversity and for the rights of everyone, whether they’re trans people, whether they’re women, whether they’re a minority group, and that is what our party has always been proud of. We need to start standing up for it on day one. It feels as if we are slowly going backwards and that’s very worrying. It’s important for us, for me as the leader of the opposition, to lead by example, and to be very clearly out there, standing up for those rights. I think it all starts within our party and it starts with empowering our members to be the flag bearers and going out into the community and standing up against this type of hatred.
Why should LGBTQI women back Labour?
We have been the party that’s been the moral conscience of the country and was one of the reasons that we were established to create that society, of fairness and inclusivity, where we all get to enjoy the best possible quality of life that we can. That’s why people should join the Labour Party and get involved because if we’re going to win back the hearts and minds of our communities, we can only do that with great policies. We also do that by showing people what kind of society we want to live in, and no one wants to live in a nasty society. They want to live in a society where we all respect and love each other.
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