DIVA magazine publisher Linda Riley interviews Ian Murray


During the first LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester last week, Ian Murray, the only Scottish candidate in the deputy leadership contest, stood up for the rights of the LGBTQI community and proved himself an advocate for a zero-tolerance approach to any phobia within the Labour Party. 

MP for Edinburgh South since the 2010 general election. From 2015 to 2017 and since December 2019, Murray has been the only Labour Party MP representing a Scottish constituency in the Westminster Parliament. 

With constant debates happening in the Labour party regarding trans rights and how we continue to progress with LGBTQI equality, we wanted to find out exactly where Ian Murray stands. 

The hustings event was hosted by LGBT+ Labour, presented by PinkNews and supported by DIVA.

LINDA RILEY: What would you say are the biggest concerns for LGBTQI voters and what would you do to address them? 

IAN MURRAY: All voters have the same concerns at the moment in terms of having a conservative majority, but we must focus on the LGBTQI community. Health care issues are at the top of the agenda as are the education issues, of course. Then there is also the big issue of equality. I think for all voters, but mainly for most LGBTQI voters, having an 80-seat conservative majority government is going to be a big drawback. For the Labour Party, for our movement, what we need to do is get the party into shape and then we can win the country. Only when we can win the country, we can deal with any of these issues.

How would you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK that their hard fought for freedoms are safe? 

I can’t, I wish I could. We fought to try and stop us leaving the European Union. I was an original member of the People’s vote campaign of the Labour movement, I did everything I possibly could to try and make sure that we didn’t leave the European Union. The Labour Party should never ever have agreed to an election on 12 December on the Prime Minister’s terms when Brexit hadn’t been sorted. It was always going to be difficult for the Labour Party, all the statistics were showing us that. I’d love to be able to reassure people that their rights won’t be diluted. The only way I can is if I get into government. 

Is Labour doing enough to challenge transphobia in its ranks? 

Any transphobia or any phobia, needs to be dealt with in a zero-tolerance approach manner. There is a big debate at the moment, of course about trans rights. Those kinds of debates are obviously difficult debates for the party. There’s a polarised and very poisonous debate in some parts of the party about this. Do I think anybody who’s looking to have a debate about the Gender Recognition Act is transphobic? No, I don’t because it’s a lot of people in the Labour Party that I really respect that want these questions answered. I think the Labour movement has got to bring people together. But one transphobic person in the Labour Party is one to many. 

What you are saying then is that you don’t believe that the theories of trans exclusionary feminists are hate speech? 

I haven’t seen this. It has been reported to me and some of the things that are being said make me very uncomfortable. I do think we have to be quite careful about calling anything hate speech and the word hate in itself. As deputy leader of the party, what we would really have to do is find a way of winning that argument. We have to make sure that anybody who’s having any sort of hate or discriminatory views is stopped from being in the party

Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists if they portray what you perceive to be hate speech? 

Of course, and any group actually. Any group who will be having hate speech in the Labour Party. Anti-Semitism is a big one of course, at the moment. There’s no place for that kind of stuff in the Labour Party. 

What are your thoughts on LGBTQI education programmes such as No Outsiders, and how would you attempt to stop any protests that arise from them? 

There’s a circular argument here, because actually if we had the inclusive education about sex, relationships and family, maybe we wouldn’t have had the issues we had in Birmingham last year. What it would have taught children in the wider community was that loving families all have different shapes and sizes and colours and sexualities. It’s quite clear that until we have that kind of inclusive education in school, we can’t have those arguments in society. 

We have a government pushing us further and further right and an equalities minister who abstained on same-sex marriage. We need a strong opposition committed to protecting marginalised communities. What makes you the right person to deliver this?

I want to be an advocate standing up for marginalised communities. In this current political environment, the key thing is we need to be in government because I don’t want to be sitting there making the arguments and losing the votes. I want to be winning the votes and changing legislation and changing society. That’s why we’re having this deputy leadership contest, because we need to win. If you look at the fact the Labour Party’s only been in government for 30 years, look at the progress we made in those 30 years. Think about what would happen if we were in power for another 30 years and what we can do to advance. Of course, we’ll fight this Tory government every step of the way, but we need to be in government to be able to do it. 

Why should LGBTQI women back Labour? 

Because we have a history of being absolutely for equality. We have a history of not just talking about it but doing it. The Labour movement and the Labour Party is the only vehicle for that in this country. We’re on the side of minority groups and on the side of tackling discrimination already. That’s what the Labour Party lives for and that’s where people need to go. They need to put their cross in the Labour box so we can do these things in government. 

DIVA magazine celebrates 26 years on the newsstands in 2020. Get behind LGBTQI media and help us celebrate another 26, at least. Your support is invaluable. Get the latest issue here now.

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