Wednesday 1 July 2009

Why Gordon Brown should go to Gay Pride

I hate going to Pride, myself. I live in Soho and the whole area becomes awash with image obsessed nonsense all weekend. Some of it is genuinely fun; most of it is achingly, embarrassingly anodyne. I’ve walked down Piccadilly with a ‘not in my name’ banner before, and sometimes it’s tempting to do it again when the grand civil rights movements for LGBT people gets reduced to hotpants, greasy burgers and club flyers.

A pink stetson-wearing Boris Johnson attended last year and was cheered and wolf-whistled at. Need I say more?

All that said, it can't be denied that Pride is a massively important occasion. The symbolism of staking a claim to the city where most days simply holding hands with your partner is a risky manoeuvre, can’t be overstated. And if our Labour Prime Minister rocked up this Saturday – even if only to grin, eat ice cream in the sun and look a little uncomfortable for 20 minutes – he would be making history and would win over many hearts, minds and some votes too.

Were David Cameron to win office next spring, we will be treated to the spectacle of a rainbow-bedecked Tory Prime Minister being fawned over in Trafalgar Square (as he simultaneously works to scrap the Equality Bill – if we don’t pass it in time – and forge closer links with his homophobic partners in Europe). Please don’t let him be first.

There is no doubt that Gordon Brown has much to be proud of. We have the most gay-friendly government ever – Nick Brown as chief whip, Angela Eagle as Pensions Minister, Ben Bradshaw as Culture Secretary, Chris Bryant at the Foreign Office. And, of course, Peter Mandelson must have a pretty strong claim to be the most powerful self-described gay man in modern British history. The Browns even hosted the first ever Downing Street LGBT reception this spring.

If No 10 is worried about how it will look, I think it’s a risk worth taking. While the fourth estate hasn’t entirely shrugged off its homophobia (there have been some pretty grim recent Daily Mail campaigns about gay adoption) my guess is that it would generally be seen as a smart politically bold move. Most public attitudes work now shows a clear shift in how British people think about fairness and it’s important that the prime minister leads the way in embedding that shift.

Sarah Brown is "showing her solidarity" and attending – which is very good news – but Gordon’s people have cited "security considerations" (a slightly feeble excuse, one feels somehow). It’s only five minutes walk from No 10, so with any luck he’ll change his mind. My only advice is not to get photographed wearing the stetson.

Clearly I myself will be doing my best to avoid the whole thing.

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