Emily Thornberry and Michael Fallon on Marr. BBC
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Emily Thornberry tells Michael Fallon the Tories are talking "bollocks" on foreign policy

Come for the Thornberry shade, stay for the swearing.

The sofa chat on the Andrew Marr show is usually a couple of minutes of lighthearted banter before a 5-piece folk band plays a song about puffins and the politicians have to smile politely, looking as though they understand the concept of rhythm. 

But this morning it was rather more interesting. Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry must have been anticipating a tough time, and was clearly braced for both Marr and Conservative politician Michael Fallon to bring up Jeremy Corbyn's meetings with IRA sympathisers in the 1980s.

So she decided that the best form of defence was attack - pointing out that the defence secretary had attended a celebration of the re-election of Syria's Bashar Al-Assad in 2007.

"Do you remember where you were on the 27th of May 2007?" she asked Fallon.

Fallon, demonstrating the unflappable quality that once saw him appointed "Minister for the Today programme", did not look panicked as a normal human might. "I'm sure you're going to tell me," he shot back.

Thornberry pointed out that Assad had "won" the election with 99 per cent of the vote, which suggests it might not have been all that democratic. (The opposition boycotted the election and only Baathist candidates were allowed to run.)

Fallon said that ten years ago "we had a different relationship with Assad" and that it was different to meet a foreign leader compared with Jeremy Corbyn's "open support for the IRA". (Corbyn has said he always wanted a "political solution" in Ireland, and that he condemned violence by the IRA and by the British Army.)

Thornberry was unperturbed. "You can't go around making stuff up... you've said, for example, that I want to negotiate the future of the Falklands. That is . . . bollocks."

She added that Fallon could not go "slinging around dead cats" - a reference to the 2015 election, where Fallon derailed a good day for Labour talking about non-doms by accusing Ed Miliband of "stabbing his brother in the back". (The phrase comes from Conservative election strategist Lynton Crosby, who is said to advocate throwing out a wild and unfair accusation when the argument is being lost, because - just as if you threw a dead cat on the table - people immediately start talking about that and forget the original subject.)

Who won the exchange? Hard to say. While Corbyn's 1980s track record is worrying, it is also worth pointing out that foreign policy makes hypocrites of us all. Britain has sold more than £5bn in arms to Saudi Arabia since 2010, for example, despite long-standing accusations of human rights abuses

I'm a mole, innit.

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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