Statement by the trustees and associates of BiUK: Pride in London

This is BiUK’s official statement on the inclusion of LGBT+ in UKIP in London Pride 2015:

The inclusion of LGBT members of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in this year’s London Pride parade has been the cause of much debate and considerable distress amongst LGBT communities. It has divided friends, colleagues, and comrades. It has drawn out significant issues of principle about fundamental rights of freedom of speech and association, and about the absolute need to feel and be safe in queer spaces and events and to recognise multiple marginalisation and embrace the intersectionality between the many differing characteristics of queer people.

What is undeniable is that some of the policies of UKIP, and the statements of a number of its leading spokespeople, over recent years have been described as racist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic as well as being seen to be encouraging of discrimination on grounds of HIV status, immigration status, religion, nationality, and belief. What is also true is that UKIP attracted a large percentage of voters in the 2015 general election and indeed some of its supporters are LGBT and/or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME).

Pride celebrations have always sought to include representatives from the vastly diverse spectrum of LGBT+ communities. In the last thirty years that has included LGBT members of the Conservative Party at a time when the Party itself endorsed repugnant policies such as support for Section 28 and an unequal age of consent. It has included LGBT Christians at times when Churches spoke out forcefully against equality.

At the same time, Pride organisers have tried to ensure that all participants in their events have been able to feel safe and welcome without fear of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, sexuality, religion, belief or for any other reason. This has not always proved successful and it is possible to point to a number of biphobic incidents, for example the sale of ‘make your mind up’ t-shirts at Manchester Pride events over a number of years. Given the clear research evidence about the impact of biphobia and double discrimination on the mental health and well-being on bisexual people, and about the impact of the experience of multiple marginalisations on the mental health and well-being of BAME LGBT people, these matters are clearly extremely important.

Early in 2015, the organisers of Pride in London accepted an application from ‘LGBT+ in UKIP’, the autonomous group of LGBT members of UKIP to take part in the Parade, alongside applications from nearly 260 other groups ranging through charities, political parties, trade unions, emergency services, LGBT staff networks, local community organisations, bars and nightclubs, kink groups, sports clubs, and any number of collectives of people with mutual interests.

After significant concern was expressed by a wide range of stakeholders about the inclusion of UKIP when the running order for the Parade was published, the Pride Board announced on the 5th of June that they had rescinded LGBT+ in UKIP’s permission to participate in the Parade on grounds of the safety of Pride volunteers and other participants. We understand that pragmatic decision, which reflected the legitimate concerns voiced by many in LGBT communities, whilst also acknowledging the well-founded fears of some that exclusion on the grounds of people’s political belief may not be an appropriate message, especially given the context surrounding decisions in places like Russia to ban Pride marches due to ‘safety worries’.

Turning to the events of the day, the Pride organisers’ interim report to its Community Advisory Board (CAB) states that, despite assurances given prior to the Parade, representatives from UKIP allegedly “broke through safety barriers and inserted themselves into the Parade directly in front of a group representing LGBT+ BME immigrants.” We roundly condemn this action as being not only extremely inappropriate but also potentially provocative and designed to induce distress amongst other participants.

The report to the CAB advised that the Pride Board remonstrated with the group who refused to leave the Parade and caused a significant delay to the event. The report went on to say that, after negotiation and with a view to getting the Parade moving as quickly as possible, the group were permitted to enter the Parade, but further back. The Board identified that they considered this to be “the least worst option at the time”.

BiUK would have been, reluctantly, willing to accept this explanation until, unfortunately, it was undermined by a television interview given by Michael Salter, Chair of the Pride Board, in which he said “As it was, they came, and we managed to get them safely into the parade…. It was great that they were able to participate”. We feel that this was a major error in judgement that demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the issues, making us question whether Mr. Salter remains the right person to lead Pride in the future.

Consequently, BiUK, demands, as it already has done through the bi communities’ representative on the CAB – BiUK trustee Edward Lord – that Pride in London overhaul its arrangements for admitting groups into the Pride Parade and other events. In particular we expect that the Pride Code of Conduct should be rewritten to ensure that all participants, groups and individuals, agree to fully respect the intersectionality of LGBT people and communities and agree to promote principles of tolerance and inclusion.

BiUK is the national organisation for bisexual research and activism. July 2015

Further Information

Bis of Colour and CN Lester are co-ordinating and open letter regarding the inclusion of UKIP in Pride which can be found here.

The Pride-in-London report of the events of the day can be found here.

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