by Josie Runswick
At Labour’s Conference in 1985, Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights pushed for a motion mandating the Labour Party to support LGBT rights.
The National Executive asked conference to vote against the motion as it had done for many years, ostensibly because supporting LGBT people wasn’t a ‘vote winner’. The work of the LCLGR in conjunction with the trade union movement meant that this time the vote passed and the Labour Party finally supported equality.
It’s been thirty conferences since then, and the political successors of that NEC still occupy many key positions in the Labour Party. The pragmatists, for whom nothing is more important than winning votes. LGBT Labour, as it is now known, is testament to the fact that some things really are more important than winning votes — changing society and supporting the vulnerable, for example.
LGBT Labour affiliated to the Labour Party in 2002, and by 2016 too much of the energy has gone from the movement. A campaign led predominantly by white gay men and lesbians has won most of their battles, and has failed to allow others to take up the torch. We still live in a country with huge problems for non-cisgendered people (those who do not identify with the sex they were given at birth), and for LGBT people of colour, as well as the problems many lesbians and gay men still face.
LGBT Labour needs activism again, to force the Labour Party not just to acknowledge our needs but to fight for them, to remove the injustices and inequalities in our society. LGBT Labour can and should stand against all who oppose equality, including those in the Labour Party, and it should reforge its links with the workers’ movement which it lost too many years ago.
Only radical activism can accomplish that. A Labour Party of half a million means tens of thousands of LGBT members in the Labour Party — LGBT Labour has fewer than two thousand of them. So if you want to see LGBT rights back on the agenda, join us. Our AGM will be in the next couple of months, we give huge financial support to enable members to attend and a fighting, radical LGBT Labour is possible again now.
LGBT Labour is only one of many groups affiliated to the Labour Party, and they, with the Labour Party have the power to see the world transformed. Look them up, join them and get active!