PRIDE AND POLITICS
Welcome to our latest newsletter!
I hope you're doing well and all keeping safe from the weather.
This months features everything from health, to some cross party action and even a discussion around award shows.
As always, I hope you enjoy!
Elena Bunbury, Chair and Editor
By Dr. Ross Hills, Deputy Chairman
With three awards on their mantlepiece from twelve nominations, Sam Smith is no stranger to the BRIT Awards. This year however the non-binary singer does not need to prepare an acceptance speech. This is not because their work hasn't been up to scratch, although reviews for their third album Love Goes were middling compared to previous efforts, but because Sam felt they couldn't submit to gendered awards categories.
Applause from the crooner therefore that for the first time ever the BRIT Awards will be removing the Best British Male and Best British Female awards from next years event, as well as their International counterparts, replacing them with four new genre-based awards. The BRITs are hoping this will "demonstrate the diverse cultural melting pot that British music is known for".
Whilst most are praising the move, there is concern however that rearranging the awards in this way could negatively impact female representation.
If other awards shows are anything to go by that does not seem to be the case. The Grammys were the first to merge genders in Pop, Country and R&B categories back in 2012, since the awards have been split 50/50 between men and women. The MTV Video Music Awards followed suit in 2017 and have had 2 male winners with 3 female. Even at the BRITS themselves the already gender-neutral Best Album has been won by 10 women and 9 males, with Adele's recently released album 30 likely to do the business at the 2023 ceremony. Unlike these previous winners, one key difference with the BRITS new genre based categories however is that they will be voted for by the public.
Sam has previously said "I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let's celebrate everybody regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class". Only time will tell if upcoming music from them will see them winning at the O2 arena once more but at least now they will be able to enter.
PERUSING PUBLIC HEALTH
By Niall McDougall, London Coordinator
Niall McDougall is a leading strategic public health commissioner working across the London and East Midlands public health arenas. Niall currently holds sexual health, general public health and substance misuse within his portfolio. Niall sits on the board of the Fast Track City Initiative for London aiming at getting London to HIV Zero by 2023. Niall is also the regional LGBT+ Conservatives’ representative for London.
Public Health has recently seen itself move into the spotlight, primarily during the COVID19 epidemic, and alongside the terrible news of what was occurring across the country during that time, the public, here and across the world, suddenly were confronted with terms such as ‘herd immunity’ and ‘flattening the curve’, and presented with data on concepts such as ‘diagnosis rates per 100,000’ and ‘acceptable mortality rates’ which I’m sure made for some mind boggle reading.
I recall watching the first few data presentations by Professor Whitty and worrying whether people would understand what was being put forward. I myself had to turn back to the old textbooks a couple of times as well. I was also fully aware that during those exceptional times there should never be any diliting of the truth. A fine balancing act was being made, and generally I believe people understood the data and work being done (or at least part).
And so, my rather unknown profession suddenly became a hot topic, and me along with it. I’ve never talked so much in the last few years about what I do in relation to Public Health as I have done recently.
So what is Public Health?
Public health is not just about health in the sense of curing people that have got diseases or illnesses, but it’s looking at health from a much broader perspective, and working towards securing the long-term future of the NHS and the long term health prospects of the population. It is about every single person out there. But it’s about ensuring that people understand the choices they’re making and the impact they have on their health in the long term, and also making sure that when they do come into contact with healthcare services, that the services are appropriate, that the quality is of good standard and that evidence-based healthcare is used wherever possible.
It’s about the art and science of improving health and protecting people from ill-health through the organised efforts of society. So that’s about engaging everyone to play their part, and using data and epidemiology and the evidence of what we know works to try and change things for the better.
And in that vein it’s about ensuring the LGBT+ people, a much marginalised group within society, are seen and heard, and that their health care is best suited to their needs. The LGBT+ cohort has some of the greatest needs of across health indicators: mental health, smoking, substance misuse, sexual health, homelessness and so forth. Our aim in Public Health is to address these disparities, and ensure equity and the health needs are met. Using evidence and research, transformation and commissioning, horizon scanning and gold standards we constantly improve our services and the work that we deliver across the NHS, Local Government, National, and International strategy. It’s big picture stuff; the sky's the limit.
If you are interested in learning a bit more please email Niall at the link below.
LONDON CHRISTMAS SOCIAL
Hosted by Niall McDougall, London Coordinator
Join LGBT+ Conservatives for some winter festivities
Thursday, 16 December 2021
25 Frith Street, Little Ku, Soho
London, England WC2H 7BA
RSVP at the link below and join the Facebook event!
By Elena Rose Bunbury
This month we were proud to co-sign a statement asking ministers to “deliver change” in their HIV Action Plan, which is due to be published next week.
We have always supported the amazing work of our friends over at the Terrence Higgins Trust, so when they approached us asking for support with this joint project, we jumped at the opportunity.
The goal of ending new transmissions by 2030 has been a huge passion for our group and is something we have often shone a light on, even hosting our own events on the topic.
As well as the joint letter, I also wrote privately to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, laying out priorities our members have highlighted regarding HIV, and thanking him for his work on the issue so far.
I am hopeful we will see tangible plans in the action plan, which will bring us even closer to the 2030 goal.
If you'd like to read more about the letter, I have included a link below to a write up Pink News have done covering it.
ICYMI - Our Chair Elena Rose Bunbury wrote for 'The House' magazine about the importance of allyship.
COUNCIL MEMBER OF THE MONTH
"Aaron has really stepped up since becoming Deputy Editor of Pride and Politics. He has a real vision for the editorial of the newsletter and a drive to make it happen. He's constantly coming up with new ideas and has conducted a fantastic interview this week with one of our patrons Stuart Andrew MP. I can't wait to see what he continues to bring to the group."
We’re over the moon that our brilliant Council Member Xavier has been included in @OUTstandingiB’s 100 Future LGBT+ Leaders List!
We’re incredibly proud that our team is made up of such talented individuals
BTS WITH OUR PUDSEY PATRON
An interview with Stuart Andrew MP
This month, our Council Member Aaron Boasman-Patel got to sit down with Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey over Zoom and spoke to him on a range of topics from what got him into politics, how he helped to save the children’s heart unit at Leeds Hospital as well as being a part of passing the Equal Marriage Act, to relaxing with his dog and partner to baking squidgy orange biscuits.
What got you into politics?
I grew up on a council estate in Wales, and although we had had little money as a community, what we did have was bags of community spirit. One of the leaders of that community spirit was the local councillor and it was him that inspired me to think about the wider community. As a result, from an early age I got involved with getting a community centre up and running as well as a youth club. This got me thinking more about politics in general and what I noticed, was that you can have a lot of influence and help shape the community if you get involved.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people in the community, and that made me decide to stand for office myself. I began by becoming a councillor before becoming a Member of Parliament. My biggest motivation which remains to this day is wanting to serve the community and to help others, and I can do this by bringing about the right direction of policy in our country by sitting as an MP.
What is your biggest achievement since you became a member of parliament?
This is hard to say, but in terms for my constituents, one thing that really pleased me is that I led an all-party campaign to save the children’s heart unit at Leeds Hospital. This was a major campaign that hit the national headlines. This showed for me how as an MP you can bring about change when you think a wrong direction is being taken. It showed how you can reach out to your political opponents and bring about the change you are looking for. We were up against the medical establishment, and we had to have some very strong arguments which we were able to deploy, and we won the backing of the independent panel that was set up to scrutinise it and we saved it. Now Leeds Children’s Congenital Heart Unit is one of the best in the country because of the investment which has now been made. On a local basis that is one of my proudest moments.
Thinking about things from an LGBT perspective, equal marriage is one of the things that I am very proud of, especially to be part of such a momentous decision. During my lifetime I think I have lived through the progression we have seen in equality in terms of LGBT issues and that was almost the icing on the cake, and to be a part of it and to take part in those debates and see the legislation passed was amazing.
Often political parties have a wide spectrum of believes within them, and there is often a difficult balance representing all views. We often hear of challenges or unhappiness at times with the “direction of the party”. You, yourself defected to the labour party in 1998 when serving as a councillor. What made you make that decision, and is it something you would do again in the future?
For me I was really unhappy with the direction that the party was going in. I had come out around the 1997 General Election and back then it was not a good place to be for anybody wanting to seek election to be gay. I often felt that I was the only gay in the village and it was rather very difficult, especially as I was told that if I wanted to progress in politics, I would have to have a woman on my arm. I found that so offensive and didn’t understand why that had to be the case. How I handled this situation was a big error – and I handled it by joining the Labour Party. I soon found out though, that my political philosophy was with the Conservative Party and my beliefs were at total odds with Labour and to leave on a single issue was a big mistake. I quickly realised this and left the Labour Party and took a step back form politics for a few years.
When I took a step back I could see people were trying to bring around change in the Conservative party and I wanted to be part of that change. I realised that if you are not part of the solution then you are in fact part of the problem. So I re-joined in 2000 and spent my time in trying to bring about that change. When David Cameron stood for leadership and said we need to be open to everybody in society I wanted to be part of it.
What I would say to people is that they should learn from my experience. There will be times when the party may go in a direction you may not be particularly comfortable with, but you have to think about the broader principles of why you join a political party and it is not just on one issue. It is often a number of issues that you are aligned with and if you identify with a party, I would stick with it and work from within it to get the change you want to see.
You are a Welshman and have served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Wales in 2018. There is often a lot of talk about devolution and the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom – how do you see the future of the Union and in particular the role of Wales?
One of the reasons of why I am a Conservative, is because I am a really proud unionist. I grew up in Wales and my father’s side is Scottish. I passionately believe that we have a strong union that has worked together for centuries, and we have a lot that unites us. We can be a really powerful force for good on the world stage and if we separate, that will diminish and that I do not want to see. We need to celebrate the four countries and the culture and heritage that they bring to the Union. We need to be proud of it. For me I will always want to fight hard for the Union. There will of course be people who are out there to wreck it, but I do get a sense that despite everything that people really do value the union.
In Wales it is very different to Scotland, and I am not denying that there are people that would like to see independence, but I do not think it has anything like the traction it has in Scotland because there is much more affinity with England. There are many people that work and live across the different boarders – many people in North Wales work in the North West of England for example and the same can be said in South Wales with the West of England. I do not see much appetite for independence referendum there. Whatever happens I will always advocate that we are a much better country when we are all together.
The conservative party has a bad reputation amongst many LGBT people, often being called the “Nasty Party”, yet the Conservative Party have done a lot in giving LGBT+ people equality – to name the passing of the same sex marriage act in 2014. Why do you think the Conservative party have this reputation and what needs to be done to improve it within the LGBT+ community?
I think a lot of it is historic and no doubt that section 28 caused a lot of hurt and distrust amongst the LGBT community. The amount of reform and policies under David Cameron and successive Prime Minsters is about developing policies that have a real benefit to peoples lives within our community. As well as equal marriage we are looking at banning conversion therapy at the moment and how we go about doing that. We are also one of the first governments to look at eradicating new HIV infections by 2030. These are ambitious things that will have a huge impact on people’s lives.
I always get annoyed when people write to me and say “how can you be a Tory when you are gay?” I find it odd that somebody thinks that your sexuality is the only thing that defines you as an individual. My sexuality is part of my character, but it doesn’t define all of my beliefs. My beliefs include things such as what is the best way to get people out of poverty, how do we create the best opportunities and increase social mobility? That is for everybody, no matter what the person’s sexual orientation, identity or racial background maybe. It is a policy for all. I think that it is no different in the LGBT community than it is in the wider community – you always hear the vocal people say that they could never vote Tory. I have a significant amount of gay people who whisper to me “I am Tory”– and this just isn’t in the LGBT community. I have that in my own constituency, and I knock on doors and people whisper, do not worry you have my vote. It is almost like it is not cool to say you are a Tory, but there are a lot of Tory’s out there as we won the last election!
There is historic distrust, but I hope that what has happened over the past 11 years and the focus on the future demonstrates that there is nothing wrong with being gay and voting Tory.
You have fought against homophobia in your own party, the most famous example was when you spoke out against Sir Gerald Howarth who during the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, spoke about “aggressive homosexuals” and their agenda. How did that make you feel being part of a party which contains elements of homophobia within it?
I think those days are gone and I can’t even recall the last time I spoke to somebody within the party that was expressing those views that I would regularly have heard in the 1990s. It has changed that significantly. I am not denying that there are some people that hold homophobic views, but they will be a tiny minority. What was interesting about the same sex marriage debate was the real struggle that some of my colleagues had. I genuinely believe, had they had not faced such a concerted campaign within certain elements of society they would probably have voted for it and I know a lot of them that didn’t vote for it and now regret that decision and they now wish that they would have voted for equal marriage. That gives give a real sense that the party has moved on significantly – it really has.
I am not afraid to challenge somebody who I think is wrong and offensive. I have respect for people who have different views to mine but of course I do not agree with homophobia, and I will always challenge somebody who is offensive. If people have difference of opinion to mine, it is their right to have that. I would say that since that debate on equal marriage to now, things have really moved forward. What I find really interesting is that when I go around the party and speaking at associations and at events, people are not bothered that my partner is a man, they care more about the fact he works at Marks and Spencer’s and we get a 20% discount, that is what is more interesting to them – the fact we get a discount, not the fact I am with a man.
Do you think there are enough opportunities for LGBT people within the government? (Currently have 20 Tories, 15 labour and 10 SNP members who identify as LGBT+)
I think there are enough opportunities. I am deputy chief whip, although not cabinet it is a fairly senior position. We have Mike Freer as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exports and Lee Rowley Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry. Will there be more opportunities, I am sure there will be. I do not get a sense that being gay is a barrier it is just circumstances as it stands at the moment.
I would like to add that when I stood for election in 1997 I think I was one of two or three candidates in the whole country who where openly gay. Now when we look at candidates standing that is significantly higher. The fact is we have one of the gayest parliaments in the world is fantastic.
You are currently Deputy Chief Whip to the House of Commons – what does that role entail?
The Whip’s Office is charged with implementing and ensuring that the passage of Bills go through Parliament as smoothly as possible. It ensures that all the committee structures are in place and that colleagues are fully are of what the legislation is and get their backing for. We are in a sense also the HR for MPs, we are there to offer help, support and guidance. This has become a more important part of the role in recent years - looking after MPs and making sure their health and wellbeing is good. As Deputy Chief Whip, my job is to run the Whip’s team on a daily basis, the daily management of what goes on in the chamber and in the committees and leading the team to ensure that happens. The Chief Whip’s role is direct liaison with the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers and looking at the broader picture of what is coming down the line, so I do the day to day and he does the more strategic stuff and planning ahead.
What does the future look like for Stuart Andrew, is there a position in Government that you would really like to take on?
I love the role that I have as Deputy Chief Whip. One of the qualities I have is that I like to work with people and help and support them. MPs are no different and are human beings and need support as they go through some very challenging times. We are open to abuse and all sorts of additional stresses, and I like to be there to for members of parliament and ensure that they get the support they need in their role. I love parliament and being part of the day-to-day process and how it works and that is something that I enjoy.
What is your favourite thing about your constituency?
There are a number of things! My constituency is made up of lots of towns and villages and they all have a great unique identity. We are part of Leeds City Council area so in 10 minutes you can get on a train and be in the centre of a vibrant city or you can go 10 minutes in the other direction and be in the countryside in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We have the best of both worlds.
The other added bonus is Guiseley is in my constituency and was home to the original Harry Ramsdens, so you can get the best fish and chips in the country!
What do you like to do outside of politics?
What I love more than anything is to have friends around for dinner and to relax and catch-up with them. It always starts off in the pub and then we come back to my house for dinner. Spending time with my mates and being at home with my partner and my dog is incredibly important to me. One thing about being and MP is that it is highly charged most of the time and everybody who surrounds me in my life keep me grounded and in tune with what people think. Spending time with them is the most important thing for me.
What is your favourite biscuit?
My hobby is baking so my favourite biscuit is my own chocolate orange and orange biscuit there are very chewy and very nice!