DIVA publisher Linda Riley interviews Lisa Nandy
BY LINDA RILEY
Lisa Nandy, one of three candidates still in the race for the Labour leadership, faced disruptive hecklers at the first ever LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester last week. One person in the audience accused the candidates of not knowing “what the definition of woman is” and said “women’s voices are being shut down” in the leadership hopefuls’ support for the trans and non-binary community.
She vowed to “redouble her efforts” standing up for trans rights in response to the attacks.
Lisa has served as MP for Wigan since 2010. She was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tessa Jowell from 2010 to 2012 and Shadow Charities Minister from 2012 to 2015.
She went on to say: “I signed the pledge precisely for this reason, because we have got to be better than this as a level of debate in this party. I will not stop no matter who tries to shout me down,” and she had plenty more to say to DIVA on LGBTQI issues backstage at the event.
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?
LISA NANDY: It’s really important that the Labour Party works with the community in a wider sense. It’s important that we address the concerns that people have. From friends and LGBTQI officers over the years, some of the concerns have been about mental health and access to services, particularly LGBTQI friendly mental health services. Access to prEP which is a huge issue in England and something that needs to urgently be addressed. There are a whole set of other issues bound up in the fact that we have a Prime Minister who has a history of making painful and offensive homophobic comments. We have leaders who are pushing us back on LGBTQI rights. It’s really important in this moment that the Labour Party finds its voice and stands up and champions LGBTQI rights again.
How would you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK that their freedom is safe?
It’s important to reach out to other groups in other countries and work with those communities and raise our concerns together. We’re about to negotiate trade deals around the world and we’ve used our European Union membership to advance the cause for LGBTQI rights and other progressive causes. I want to see the UK still playing that role.
How will you make sure all identities and voices under the LGTBQI umbrella are listened to?
There’s a particular priority that these voices are heard within Labour first. We can’t go out and convince the LGBTQI community that we will be an inclusive government if we don’t do that within our own party first. I want to see the toxic culture that has developed in the past few years, broken. I’ve had a lot of hate come my way for singing the Labour trans pledge, but that’s only a fraction of what the trans community itself has to face. It’s been a real eye-opener for me about the way we debate with one another in the party. I want Labour to set the agenda, so people know that they are included and that their views matter.
You’ve been a great spokesperson for trans rights, do you think in general Labour is doing enough to challenge transphobia in its ranks?
Jeremy Corbyn has definitely been an ally, but I think that the general culture that has grown up in the Labour Party has been a real problem. It’s been a problem for people with disabilities, the BAME community, for women and the LGBTQI community as well. When you have the intersectionality, people who face minorities in more than one way, that’s been a real problem. People feel that they can’t step into the debate without the fear of being shouted down. We need to do a lot more in terms of representation in the party. We need to make sure people are diverse in prominent positions at every level.
Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party and do you consider some of their theories hate speech?
I think that it’s absolutely right that people should be able to speak up about concerns that they have about safe spaces for women. I want us to have a proper nuanced debate about that. I represent a lot of women who have experienced domestic violence. For those women, there will always be a fear about safety even when they’re no longer at risk of harm. Where I think this becomes a problem is when you have individuals who deny that trans people have rights, or even worse, deny that trans people exist. At that stage, no meaningful dialogue is possible. That is not good enough behaviour and it is not acceptable within the Labour Party. We need a proper independent complaints process.
What do you think of the protests in Birmingham regarding sex and relationships education and how would you plan to stop it happening?
I think you have to differentiate between some of the parents. Where there were concerns about what was happening, where schools were making big efforts to actually work with those parents to explain what education was being provided to their children and why. We’ve got to take a really tough stance about that, it’s just simply not good enough when you’ve got a huge rise in hate crimes. You’ve got a lot of people, especially young people feeling deeply, deeply unsafe in the LGBTQI community. It’s important we keep all children safe.
With the government pushing us 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 best person to do this?
I’ve got a track record of doing that. I don’t just stand up for LGBTQI rights, but for the right thing. When we had discussions around equal marriage, that is probably the most controversial thing I’ve had to deal with at home apart from Brexit. Labour has to provide leadership so that LGBTQI people have a voice in the national debate. With the politicians that we currently have in government it’s not going to come from anywhere else. There’s been so many moments in history where Labour has been prepared to stand up and take on some of these battles. This is the moment every generation has to pick up the baton from the next. This is the moment that our generation has to step up.
Why should LGBTQI women back Labour?
Because we have been there and will continue to be there. The government has shown very little interest in advancing the LGBTQI fight and is pandering to people like Donald Trump who are taking those rights and all that progress backwards in the world. At the same time, there are other issues that matter to the LGBTQI community, including things like a properly functioning National Health Service, investment in mental health, and good quality schools with decent sex and relationship education on the curriculum. All of these battles are battles’ that Labour has been fighting and will continue to fight. Now that we’ve had this really shattering election defeat, I think this is the moment where we wake up and realise that we’ve got to get back out there and take on this fight for power in four years. That’s what I want DIVA readers to know, the Labour government that I lead will be there for you and we will fight alongside you and they won’t be your battles alone.
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