and I can guarantee someone else will have got in first, but to his credit Blair was quite simply, the most gay-friendly Prime minister this country has ever had. He said that watching the first Civil Partnerships take place on television ‘made his heart skip with joy’. It was, he declared, a sign of a civilised society.In the fourteen years since New Labour came to power life for Gay people in Britain has changed beyond recognition. We have, seen a catalog of changes unprecedented in human rights history. You may not be able to legislate against prejudice but never let it be said that we can not achieve staggering societal change under the right leadership.
However while it may be easier than ever before to live happily as an out gay man (or woman) there remain relatively few high-profile gays in public life. Why? Stonewall asked at their packed fringe yesterday.
First to address this issue was recently elected leader of Newcastle city council, Nick Forbes, who faced down shameful personal attacks from both the BNP and the Liberal Democrats to achieve a stunning victory. Of course the Lib Dems have form when it comes to fighting dirty but even by their standards this was a low and shabby affair.
As a sixteen year old growing up in rural County Durham Nick was sustained by two ‘beacons of hope’; Stonewall and the Labour Party. Stonewall may have gone from strength to strength but we have fewer gay MPs in the commons today than we had in ’97. And just two openly gay women. One Labour and one Tory.
No one can wind me up like a Gay Tory can (remember Clause 28) and Ben Summerskill, Who was a Labour councillor before he he became the outstanding Chief Exec’ of Stonewall warned that we should not assume Gay marriage will automatically come to pass just because David Cameron has changed his mind and now considers it a good thing. There are many battles ahead, though with the help and commitment of shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women, (and who knows… our next leader?) Yvette Cooper we can win them. Yvette took great delight in receiving an LGBT mug bearing the legend ‘Never kissed a Tory’. I should hope not. Maria from CWU, an openly lesbian trade unionist called for all trade unions to employ a pro-active approach to secure more high profile involvement from the LGBT community, identifying a direct correlation between visibility and mainstreaming. As a gay journalist, albeit one who has never felt the need to come out, (I was never in) I hope to continue to play my own small part in making this happen. Echoing Blair, and others before him, the platform concurred that Gay rights and society’s rights are one and the same thing.
On a note of cautious celebration we ‘decamped’ to the Maritime Museum for the RSPCA’s quiz night. A long time ago the RSPCA realised that if you offer starving delegates hot food on a plate they will come, no matter what. Last night was no exception. Sadly our team, ‘Kill ‘Em and Grill ‘Em’ failed to win a prize in the quiz but the kitten curry was delicious.
A pal of mine used to work in the cafe next door to the Beatles museum on the Albert Dock. For 12 hours a day he was subjected to a loop that began with Love Me Do and ended somewhere around the White Album. I don’t know what he was complaining about. I saw the Bootleg Beatles last night and they were terrific! Of course I could write an entire blog on the subject of Delegates Dancing. But first I’d need to upload the photos. Be grateful I don’t have the time for that.