Last week, The Times broke the story that the Conservative Party are allegedly targeting traditionally Labour-dominated areas of the U.K., to see whether they can win favour with voters on “culture war” issues like transgender rights. The Times reported this within an article on Boris Johnson’s potential election strategies and the source given was “one insider.” The move, if true, suggests that the Conservatives might be looking to continue with a populist message aimed at further creating rifts throughout the country, at the expense of some of the more vulnerable members of society.
Number 10 has denied the allegations presented in the original story, saying that they have done “no such thing” and that it was “nonsense and untrue.” However, multiple different outlets are not taking Downing Street at face value in their denial. The Labour MP Lisa Nandy has accused the Conservatives of trying to “divide Labour from its working class base” by using supposedly cultural matters to distract people from voting in their material interests. PinkNews have also reported on this story, saying that the allegations create “significant fear among the LGBT+ community that transgender issues could be brought further into the spotlight.”
If the story is true, this is extremely concerning for the LGBT+ community as well as for any group that might have been a historic target of ‘cultural’ abuse in the U.K. The idea that transgender rights was just one of the floated proposals for polling in the North of England suggests that there are others under consideration. Chiefly among them are likely to be immigration and immigrants, other LGBT+ people and minority groups. This will lead to these ordinary people being put at risk from people feeling politically resentful, who will soak up the government’s hateful rhetoric if the government decides that being hateful will help them in the polls.
Stonewall estimates that there are roughly 600,000 trans people currently living in the U.K. Official government statistics suggest that the trans community experiences some of the worst outcomes in society, with 41 percent indicating that they have been victim to a hate crime in the past year, whilst 25 percent have been made homeless at some point in their lives. As for Johnson’s record in government on LGBT+ matters, nine out of 25 of his cabinet ministers who were in office at the time voted against equal marriage. PinkNews also recently criticized his appointment of “anti-trans” journalist Andrew Gilligan as a Number 10 transport advisor. In July this year, alongside 23 other cabinet ministers in Theresa May’s government, Johnson abstained on whether or not to spread equal marriage to Northern Ireland, following the government’s “official stance.”
If targeting members of the LGBT+ community is to become what would inevitably be an unofficial tactic at the next election, it is critical that voices speaking for the advancement of trans and all other human rights are promoted. All most people want to do is to live their lives in peace and not have the government call into question their very existence as part of an election strategy which could see them put at risk, when many people in that community are already in potentially precarious positions.
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