None of the UK political parties’ manifestos offer proper protection for the LGBTQIA+ community

By Louis Shankar

Published Jun 25, 2024 at 02:13 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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With the UK general election next week, the major parties have all released their manifestos, all of which are available online. Contained within these plans are the party’s major policy commitments, which tend to focus on economic legislation, education commitments, and promises on immigration. When it comes to sustainability and the fight against climate change, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace scored the manifestos of the three biggest parties and the Greens out of forty on four key areas: the Greens only dropped one point with 39, Lib Dems were second with 31.5, Labour just got over half with 20.5, and the Tories scored a dismal 5. But, if we were to score the party’s manifestos on LGBTQIA+ rights, what would be the results?

Labour promised to implement “a full trans-inclusive ban” on conversion therapy, something the Tories have promised for years but recently abandoned altogether. They promise to “modernise, simplify, and reform the intrusive and outdated gender recognition law” without specifying how—and simultaneously explain that they “will work to implement the expert recommendations of the Cass Review” without noting the flawed and much-criticised nature of the report.

It feels like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too—to satisfy LGBTQIA+ groups and so-called gender critical (read: anti-trans) campaigners. As such, they have satisfied neither. JK Rowling wrote a front-page op-ed for The Times calling out Keir Starmer for being too liberal on promises around trans rights, even though he said he would happily ban schools from teaching about gender identity.

Rowling tweeted support for The Communist Party—an interesting choice for someone so wealthy—who then took to X (formerly Twitter) to clarify their official stance, writing: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Communist Party supports the right of trans people to medically transition, to have access to healthcare and live equal, full and meaningful lives, socially, economically and politically.”

For the Tories, members of the LGBTQIA+ community come across as an afterthought in their manifesto, just a brief paragraph at the end of one section: “We are proud of our record on delivering for LGBT people and will continue to do so,” they write. “We passed the Same Sex Marriage Act to give same-sex couples the opportunity to enjoy the institution of marriage,” ignoring the fact that this was passed under the coalition government and that Tories formed the largest opposition bloc.

The Lib Dems are by far the most palatable option of the three major parties. Not only do they promise gender recognition reform, extending this to legal recognition of non-binary identities, but they also promise to ban “all forms of conversion therapies and practices.”

They also mention LGBTQIA+ rights within an international context, pledging diplomatic support for “promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality and advancing LGBT+ rights” worldwide and offering asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, ending the “culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers”—an important step after years of Conservative incredulity and intolerance towards asylum seekers and refugees.

The Green Party mirrors many Lib Dem policies in this area, supporting self-ID for legal transition, ending the spousal veto (so married trans people can acquire a gender recognition certificate without permission from their spouse), and likewise adding an “X” gender marker for non-binary and intersex people to use if they so choose. Additionally, as part of an overhaul of NHS mental health service provision, they promise “tailored and specific provision” for various minority groups, including the LGBTQIA+ communities.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) are surprisingly vague on their promises to the LGBTQIA+ community—although they choose to use the phrase “LGBTI community.” Indeed, self-ID and reforming the gender recognition act has been a point of struggle for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament this past year, a sore spot as it concerns devolution and the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood. As they note in their manifesto, “with independence, we would have the full powers to improve equality in law and society, and the ability to champion LGBTI equality internationally.”

Last (and, hopefully, by all means, least) is Reform UK, who have rejected a manifesto in favour of ‘Our Contract With You’. Perhaps the manifesto sounded too European or, indeed, Communist. Filled with typical bile, Nigel Farage writes that “transgender indoctrination is causing irreversible harm to children,” without specifying what any of those terms actually mean.

The politician pledges to ban “transgender ideology in Primary and Secondary Schools,” very much taking a leaf out of the Republican Party playbook, which has been attacking schools over “gender ideology” and “critical race theory” for years. It’s a dog whistle to their base, one that no doubt the Tories will attempt to emulate.

In many countries, LGBTQIA+ rights are a left/right split, with left-wing parties being the most supportive. The UK is peculiar for bucking this trend: trans rights in particular have become a battleground where supposedly left-wing voters and commentators see a conflict with the rights of women—when this is not the case.

Trans and non-binary people are being used as pawns in a culture war, to fight over floating voters, people who want change but not too much. The Tories have broken most of their promises regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, made over four previous manifestos. A Labour government should promise change and real action but don’t hold out too much hope.

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