The results are in and for many in the LGBT community and for those living with HIV they will come as a disappointment, although I doubt a shock. Of course I am talking about the local and European elections.
First of all I think it’s important everyone actually assess the results themselves rather listening to the media, and lamentably the BBC, and their scaremongering reports about how well UKIP actually did. In the local elections UKIPs share of the vote actually dropped by 6%, less of the political earthquake the headlines would have you believe. Of course they did well in Europe but this was to be expected, the polls have been showing that the party would do well for weeks now. I think you have to look at the positives (yes there were some) – the radical parties on the right have lost a lot of ground in the UK and the fascist BNP lost both MEPs they previously had in the North. Nevertheless, shares of 17% and 27% are still too high in my opinion – and still represent a credible threat to LGBT and HIV rights.
Elsewhere across the continent the results were not as welcome with many far right parties gaining seats including Golden Dawn in Greece and of course Front National in France who won the vote and in turn have created a large ‘Non-Inscrit’ group in the European Parliament.
Back in the UK and less than a week since we (well some of us) went to the polls the UKIP stories are already hitting the gay press, even Scotland’s openly gay UKIP MEP is receiving a battering after commenting that gay marriage is unnecessary… not surprising seeing as the party remain opposed to it. But that story is just the tip of the iceberg; it seems every day this week another UKIP member has opened their mouth and spouted out nonsensical abuse at the LGBT community, they even had to suspend a newly elected councillor yesterday.
The important thing now is to ensure the public see these people for who they really are. They’ve been given a spotlight and we can’t simply hope they muck it up on their own: they need to be held to account whether they were elected as MEPs or councillors. We need to put pressure on them to do the right thing, and when they don’t make sure people are aware of it. No doubt some of their voters are homophobic or racist and we’re not going to reach out to them or change their minds; but there will be many people who would have chosen to vote for them either out of protest or apathy towards the traditional mainstream political parties.
With less than a year until the general election in the UK we don’t have long to mobilise and encourage people to vote for candidates and parties who promote LGBT rights: in the past decade we have fought off advances from the BNP – we can’t allow racism and homophobia to creep in through the back door under the guise of UKIP.