DIVA publisher Linda Riley interviews Keir Starmer
BY LINDA RILEY
At the LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester, Keir Starmer provided his support and backing for the various issues faced by the LGBTQI community, stressing how well it bodes for the Labour party that all three leadership candidates hold strong and fair views when it comes to ensuring the LGBTQI community continues to progress in its fight for equality.
He has been the MP for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015 and is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, having been appointed to the Shadow Cabinet by Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.
He was the first Labour leadership candidate to pledge support for trans rights in his campaign, but when LGBT+ Labour released a list of 10 pledges calling on leader and deputy leadership hopefuls to sign, Starmer did not sign the pledges along with his fellow leadership candidates. The pledges vowed to “expel transphobes” from the party and stand with the trans and non-binary community and we wanted to find out more about where Keir stands on LGBTQI issues.
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 would you do as leader to address them?
KEIR STARMER: I think the biggest concern is the constant assessment that people have to go through every day. What could be the implication of this and the risks of navigating everyday life. We’ve made progress on LGBTQI issues, but we need to make a lot more progress. I would stand with you in solidarity and support.
How would you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK that their hard-fought freedom is safe?
One of the main concerns I had about all the fights we had over Brexit in the last three and a half years was that we were losing the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was one of the first international human rights instruments to actually be clear about discrimination on the grounds of LGBTQI matters. I would still love to see that back in our law. We’ve got to fight to keep the Human Rights Act, which of course is a really important defence here. What we can’t do post-Brexit is become intolerant and inward looking on, this we have to be open.
How would you make sure all identities and all voices under the LGBTQI umbrella are listened to?
By listening to them. I think a big part of leadership is listening. I would use these skills as leader of a local party: respecting, understanding, standing with and standing in support with you would be my way of doing it.
Do you feel that Labour is doing enough to challenge transphobia in its ranks?
I think we could do more. We know that across society as a whole the vilification and abuse is very pronounced in terms of trans people. I’m actually pleased that in this leadership campaign, all of the candidates are being very strong on trans rights. I think that this bodes well for the future, whoever wins the leadership position.
Did you see the news of Tony Blair saying he doesn’t feel that the party should get involved in a cultural war within the LGBTQI community?
I think that some of the issues that have been raised in this campaign are really important issues. They go to values and they go to principles. In a sense, the way we deal with different communities is a measure of leadership. I accept that we need to look at all sorts of issues, but I think this is an important one, and it’s a measure of what sort of leader we need for the Labour Party.
Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party? Do you consider some of their theories to be hate speech?
I think anybody who engages in hate of any sorts shouldn’t be in the Labour Party. What we do need is an independent process for looking at all these cases, including other cases of hatred. We’ve obviously been having a discussion about anti-Semitism. We need to have an independent complaints procedure where these issues can be looked at.
What are your thoughts on the protests in Birmingham regarding the No Outsiders programme? How would you stop anything like that from happening in the future?
I support the programme. I think it’s really important that children have education on sex and relationships. I can only imagine what it was like for some of the parents and the children in the school environment, but I voted to have fully inclusive education and I’m a firm believer in that.
What do you think can be done to protect the children of LGBTQI parents?
I think that education itself is important, because having an inclusive education that helps and protects children is a really great thing. The whole school is learning the very many different ways in which people form relationships and education is a huge part of this.
With a 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. What makes you the right person to do this?
I’ve done a lot of work in this area. I was Director of Public Prosecutions and we put out an equality and diversity policy, which was all about inclusivity and respect and trying to change the culture of big organisations. As a lawyer, I’ve been involved in the human dignity trust, which has taken challenges across the world. Since I’ve been an MP, I’ve consistently voted in favour of LGBTQI rights, whether that’s equal marriage in Northern Ireland or for inclusive education.
Why should LGBTQI women back Labour?
Because the Labour Party has been at the forefront of these issues over the years. In opposition, we’ve always been very strong. And we need that support so we can go back into government and take them on. Therefore, I would say “back the Labour Party and let’s get back into power and do even more.”
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