‘Never more relevant’

Rachel Reeves tells Richard Angell and Conor Pope the subject of her book, Alice Bacon, would have a clear message for today’s moderates

First publish in Progress magazine

The Labour party is full of people whose stories never get heard. Who put in the hours, sit in the rooms where decisions are made and make sure that change happens. They make the history, but are often not recorded in it.

Alice Bacon is one of those people. She was a Labour parliamentarian for almost 50 years, 25 of them as a member of parliament, was a minister in the Harold Wilson government of the 1960s and sat on the National Executive Committee for almost three decades. Having grown up in a working-class community in Yorkshire and working as a teacher before her election, she was an early and tireless champion of comprehensive education, as well as a feared operator – earning the nickname ‘terror of the Trotskyites’ from Denis Healey. She was firmly against attempts to liberalise drug laws but key – alongside her boss at the Home Office Roy Jenkins – to the big liberalising battles of the 1960s, especially on abortion. (more…)

My speech to the Fabian Diversity rally at LPC16

Not the speech that I was intending at the Fabian Diversity rally but the occasion demanded something different.

For any discussion or follow up on the content of the speech, email richard[at]

Language matters if you want LGBT politicians to succeed

LGBT candidates perform well at election time, but have to contend with dog whistle politics.

First publish on the Staggers

In the run-up to the 2010 general election, I presented a paper to the committee of the organisation LGBT Labour to set up a fund to help openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans candidates standing for parliament. While there were considerable barriers for LGBT people being selected, the message continually coming back from those who had tried to get selected was that members feared how an openly LGBT would be viewed by the electorate at large. We therefore decided to use the funds raised not to help with selections but to offer a financial dividend to the local party: if you select an openly LGBT candidate they will have additional resources to help put their argument forward. It was joking referred to as “Dorothy’s List” but when we realised it was raising considerable sums of money it was formally renamed the “Chris Smith List” This was in honour of the former cabinet minister who in 1985 made history when he told an assembled crowd in Rugby: “Good afternoon, I’m Chris Smith, I’m the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury and I’m gay.” (more…)

As the LGBT community gathers for Belfast Pride, the fight for marriage equality in Northern Ireland continues

First published on LabourList

Today I will be at Brighton Pride with LGBT Labour, marching for rights and recognition, celebrating the great strides forward. Since 2001 the legal situation for LGBT people in the United Kingdom has been transformed. But not for all of our citizens.

Today is also Belfast Pride – a timely reminder of the contrasting rights within our union and the now stark contrast on the island of Ireland too. Just last year the Republic voted to change the Catholic country’s constitution and recognise marriage equally for all. (more…)

Solidarity with Orlando

First published on ProgressOnline

The LGBT community and its allies in Orlando, Florida were the victims of an appalling hate crime and terrorist attack in the early hours of Sunday morning. We stand with them and their partners, friends and families at this difficult time and know, in the end, that Love Wins. We wish the 50 plus injured victims a speedy recovery and mourn the 50 who have perished.

LGBT equality is hard fought and never won in perpetuity. While we express support for the victims we should remember two other things. First, those who have fought for the insufficient and fragile equality that we currently have. And second, the LGBT community in all its diversity, especially LGBT Muslims. Many will fear being rejected from both communities but should be welcome in gay bars and Mosques more than ever. Faith and friends are vital for many in times of grief and horror. (more…)

The Safety of a Gay Bar

First published on the Huffington Post

When I was 18 I worked in a village pub. One evening two customers did not really like my style behind the bar. I did not know what I had done to annoy them and carried on with my tasks, and the evening passed. The two in question were some of the last to leave, something I thought little of at the time. I left at the end of my shift and drove home. Within seconds of leaving the drive my clapped-out Micra was pelted with stones and some very unpleasant words about my sexuality followed in the same direction.

I was not hurt, nor was my little car (not that you would have been able to tell) but I was shaken. Instead of heading to bed I went on auto pilot to a place called Pink Punters. It is Fenny Stratford’s finest, just outside Bletchley/Milton Keynes off the A5. It’s a curious location for a gay bar but it was the scene of many a good night out in my teens. It was a place of joy. On this night, it was a place of safety. (more…)

Stop homophobic hatred: don’t let the Tories wreck Clause 58

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The third reading of the Justice and Coroners Bill is set for the Commons on Monday. Clause 58 will re-instate the incitement to homophobia legislation and remove the Lord Waddington amendment that give fanatics a legal protection to their bigotry

The bill will outlaw hate speech that calls for the raping and murder of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, it condemns rap lyrics that inspire violence and cuts off at the source those who encourage bullying of LGB children in our schools. The “incitement” context, like with race and religion, sets the bar very high. The legal threshold for a conviction has only been reached on the rarest of occasions. The public benefit must be strong and the attorney general must sign off on the CPS’ intervention. This will not mean jokes, or that bible quotes will be ruled out of order, but only the words of those who want to see hurt and destruction. (more…)

Sex and relationship education will enable young people to make informed choices

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The government in its wisdom last week announced that sex and relationship education will be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. This is fantastic news for young people and Britain more widely.

The reviewed guidance and the addition of compulsion are welcome steps in their own right and will do lots to help combat unintended teenage pregnancies, the sexual health epidemic we are facing and the low esteem of particularly young women and gay men that means people feel they cannot say ‘no’. (more…)

The truth behind the Tories’ pro-gay rhetoric

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The Tories have been falling over themselves to demonstrate their new ‘pro-gay’ credentials as a symbol that they are no longer the nasty party. But it is on their more recent record that they should be judged.

Many gay people will never forget that Tory Hate made Section 28, but people cannot deny that the rhetoric at least has changed – Cameron will do interviews with Gay Times, Boris will attend Pride. Though their words have altered, the lobby door they walk through has not! (more…)

What’s moral any more?

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The decision by the government to give three free votes on vital elements in the human fertilisation and embryology bill so that some senior members of the government don’t feel the need to resign on ‘moral’ grounds is both sad and problematic. It suggests that a religiously held belief is more important, or more substantial, than a non-religiously held belief. In the immediate context, and moving beyond the theoretical arguments, is demonstrates a disregard for those loyal members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who voted through the abolition of the 10p rate of tax against their better judgement.

I do not want to go into detail on the 10p rate on tax, but we all know instinctively how this decision feels and we all know why. Helping the poor and disadvantaged is part of the lifeblood of the Labour movement. As a principle it is ingrained within the fabric of our party, and compelling arguments have been voiced on how this principle has been compromised by the abolition of the lower tax rate.