Gloria de Piero and Tristram Hunt are rolling out Labour's LGBT plans. Photo: Getty
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Why is Labour planning to make LGBT-inclusive sex education compulsory?

The party is building on its progressive legacy in its LGBT policy announcement this week.

Equality and social justice are values that lie at the very heart of the Labour movement. From the campaign for universal suffrage through the social reforms of the Sixties; the introduction of the Equal Pay Act inspired by the women of Ford Dagenham to Sure Start and the Equality Act. It’s Labour governments that have always strived to make Britain a more equal, fair and tolerant country.

Indeed, one of the greatest legacies of the last Labour government was the progress we made to sweep away decades of legislation based on the prejudice and persecution of lesbian, gay and trans individuals. Abolishing Section 28, equalizing the age of consent, adoption rights for gay couples, fertility treatments for lesbian couples, removing the laws which prevented our armed service men and women from being open about their sexuality, and establishing civil partnerships.

In politics too, we have seen pioneers in our party – Chris Smith and Angela Eagle who stood up and spoke out at a time when being openly gay or lesbian in British politics was a lonely experience. Today, we have record numbers of openly LGBT candidates standing for Labour at this election, including Emily Brothers, our party’s first openly trans candidate in Sutton and Cheam. And another political pioneer, Michael Cashman OBE, will become Britain’s first LGBT rights ambassador under a Labour government. These are recent advances our country has taken that we should never forget, particularly as we celebrate LGBT History Month.

The next Labour government still has work to do to ensure LGBT people experience equal treatment: as users of public services, in the workplace, in our communities and across the world. And key to delivering this progress will be working with colleagues in every department to ensure equality is a priority across every area of government. But, although it doesn’t seem like it to some in politics, legislating is often the easy part. Cultural change, the battle for hearts and minds takes time and will need renewed commitment from all those who’ve fought for progress.

That process has to start with education, which is why it is absolutely right that the Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has committed to tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying as a priority. Key to this is inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE). A Labour government will make SRE compulsory in every state-funded school, including faith schools and academies. We will do so because want to make sure our young people are equipped to deal with the pressures of the modern world, of the internet, and also grow up aware of the diversity of modern families, and to celebrate diversity amongst us. 

We need conversations in the classroom about same sex relationships and parenting, conversations about issues such as consent, and about diversity in identity. We know pornography is more accessible than ever before and in the absence of a proper discussion in schools it can become the only sex education young people receive.

Though Section 28 is long gone, its legacy still casts a long shadow over our schools. Far, far too many lesbian, gay and bisexual young people suffer the effects of depression, self-harm and attempted suicide – and we see even higher rates for trans young people. Addressing the challenges of mental health will be a priority for the next Labour government, and as part of this we will focus particularly on ending the scandal of the neglect of young child mental health.

And we will give pupils ownership over setting standards and expectations for their own behaviour. Some of the most effective and inspiring examples of initiatives to tackle homophobic bullying and celebrate difference are those that have been devised and led by young people themselves. By giving young people ownership some schools have seen some significant reductions in incidents of prejudice-based bullying.

Labour will continue to build on our legacy and fight for the values of social justice and equality until every child can go to school to learn in an environment free from bullying and discrimination and until every LGBT person can be proud of who they are and who they love free from fear or prejudice.

Gloria De Piero is Labour MP for Ashfield and shadow women and equalities minister.

Editor's note, 19.09: This article originally stated that Emily Brothers was the country's first openly transgender candidate. This was corrected to say that she is Labour's first openly trans candidate.

Gloria De Piero is Labour MP for Ashfield. 

Photo:Getty
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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

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