World Pride in London in July 2012. Photo: Getty
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How to enjoy Gay Pride (if you’re straight)

Do drink slightly warm cider, dance in public and raise your voice in support of LGBT rights. Don’t dare each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Glitter supplies are running low, corporations have gone rainbow to hide their bastardism, religious nuts are upset: yay for Gay Pride season. In case you don’t know any LGBT people who have been in the throes of the annual “Do We Still Need Pride?” debate for the past fortnight, the London one is happening this weekend. Famously, any friends of The Gays are welcome. Now, straight people, I love you, but some of you need a bit of handholding when it comes to doing Pride. Here’s my guide to not ruining it for everyone:

Remember: you’re not on safari

Breeders, I hate to break this to you – Pride may well be this wacky, thongy hootenanny, but it doesn’t happen for your entertainment. Stop taking pictures of absolutely everything, like you’re some kind of cultural Kaspar Hauser who’s never seen a balloon. It isn’t, “ZOMFG random o’clock”, it’s probably just a body builder in a pineapple bra. Chill.

And stop daring each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Watch your fucking language

No, those aren’t “trannies”.

“But they’re blokes in resplendent evening gowns,” you protest, “They look like my auntie Brenda on her wedding day, if she’d been 6’5” and had hands like Le Creusets.”

Yes, and you look like Norman Tebbit’s podiatrist, but duller. I’m not going to make a thing of it though.

Remember folks, just because you once gave a lesbian directions to the nearest Boots, and were “totally cool” about it, you can’t use the word “dyke”. Even on special occasions.

Enjoy yourself

Aside from the inevitable rain, nothing puts a dampener on Pride quite like a group of straight people looking like George Galloway in a synagogue. Whatever’s happening, just go with it. How many times a year do you get to grind to Beyoncé with an oiled Adonis in a Miley Cyrus mask, in broad daylight?

Oh, and I’m allowed to look like I’m chewing a turd: I’m a lesbian.

Be supportive

Even LGBT people often forget that Pride is, at its root, political. Sure, it’s about drinking enough slightly warm cider to dance in public. But it also serves to remind people like you that the queer community has a voice, and that, in the words of Conchita Wurst, “We are unstoppable”. So please don’t be afraid to shout as loud as us, or louder even.

Don’t buy a penis balloon

Every year, vendors turn up to Pride with heaving fistfuls of dicks. I’m not sure who these people are, or why they think Pride is some kind of pagan fertility rite. Last year I saw one of them being arrested, so I’m guessing they’re not supposed to be there. But anyway, Pride isn’t your own, personal Saturnalia (well, maybe it is a little bit…) so please don’t meander though Soho, wielding a phallus on a stick like a disturbing lost child. If you absolutely have to wield something, just opt for a rainbow flag like everybody else.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.