Tell Theresa May: Brenda Namigadde must stay

The Ugandan lesbian faces imprisonment and even death if repatriated today. Sign the petition urgently!

There are only twelve hours left. Following the tragic murder this week of the Ugandan openly gay activist, David Kato, who had fought long and hard for gay rights in Uganda for over a decade -- and had just won a court victory against Rolling Stone, the Ugandan newspaper that had called for him to be hanged -- the world's attention is now turned urgently to Brenda Namigadde, the Ugandan lesbian whose future hangs agonisingly in the balance.

Brenda is currently interned in the Yarl's Wood detention centre in the UK, having fled to Britain in 2003, but faces deportation back to Uganda in the next 12 hours, despite this new government's promise to put an end to the repatriation of homosexuals if their lives would be endangered following a court ruling last July. At the time, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said:

I welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which vindicates the position of the coalition Government. We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum-seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution. I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.

If Brenda is repatriated there, she will be arrested as soon as her plane touches down, and there is every likelihood she will be tortured and murdered. The reason for her deportation? Apparently, despite her relationship with a woman -- the Canadian Janet Hoffman with whom she lived in Uganda but has not seen since they both fled in 2003 following persecution -- a judge has deemed her not to be gay. "She has been found not to have a right to remain here," Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency said. "An immigration judge found on the evidence before him that Ms Namigadde was not homosexual."

Although Brenda doubtless is gay -- and the fact she has to prove this seems horribly offensive in itself -- at this critical stage the ins and out, ifs and maybes of her sexuality are largely irrelevant, and the baying, homophobic mob in Uganda are hardly ones for nuance. The facts remain: if Brenda Namigadde is sent back to Uganda, a country with one of the most hostile and punishing climates on earth for LGBT people, her life will be in danger. The New Statesman urges you to sign the petition now to prevent this.

Thomas Calvocoressi is Chief Sub (Digital) at the New Statesman and writes about visual arts for the magazine.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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