Thursday, 29 April 2010

Michael Cashman responds to our criticism of Labour's international LGBT record

Michael Cashman MEPImage by LGBT History Month UK via Flickr
By Paul Canning

On Tuesday publicised my strong criticism of UK Labour's international manifesto. It was titled 'Labour is shunning gay Iraqis, asylum seekers' as this was my main point - neither is mentioned in either that or their domestic manifesto and on both Labour has failed to offer support, quite the opposite.

Leading gay politician Michael Cashman MEP has today defended Labour against my criticism in an interview with

This is what was said:
Today, Mr Cashman pointed to Labour's record on the issue and said the party was continuing to work with groups such as Iraqi LGBT.

He told "No British government has done more to tackle discrimination and promote equal rights for LGBT people than this Labour government.

"We are proud to support the campaign within the UN for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality. It is abhorrent that countries exist which consider it a crime punishable by death.

"Labour’s LGBT International Manifesto has been criticised for not mentioning Iraq. Let’s be clear about this – homophobia exists in every society and every state. There is no fixed list of ‘homophobia free’ states. The manifesto mentions a number of states for which there are particular concerns. That does not mean that there are no concerns elsewhere.

"We remain concerned about the situation in Iraq. That is why we continue to make representations on behalf of individuals like Mr Ali Hili who, as founder of Iraqi LGBT, has worked with the Foreign Office and campaigns against LGBT persecution in Iraq.

"No civilised society condones or supports discrimination and, while it continues to exist, it is right to that we should all remain impatient and be critical of states and institutions that do nothing to address it.

"But the fact remains that this Labour government has led international efforts to tackle discrimination and promote equal rights. Labour is also at the forefront in Europe, not only shaping the EU institutions but shaping attitudes as well."

Mr Cashman added: "It is a regrettable that some people appear to be critical of Labour for producing an International LGBT Manifesto. Perhaps they should be asking why other parties have not published one."
Here is my comment in response to Michael (with additional emphasis):
Michael Cashman has much to be proud of in his work for gay rights internationally. I would single him out in this respect.

Unfortunately, the rest of the party retains an appalling position on asylum. It is the government which he supports which is directly affecting Iraqi gays through denying Ali Hili's request for his asylum claim to be expedited. To prove otherwise all they have to do is for Alan Johnson to intervene and order it. We don't just vote for the Michael Cashmans but also the Alan Johnsons and unfortunately LGBT labour people are left generally trying to claim things will somehow change or in the case of their two manifestos ignoring them.

How, exactly, is 'the party' supporting Iraqi gays? No, it is simply failing to take responsibility for the results of its actions and I stand by 'shunning'. Michael is an exception within his party.

There are also exceptions within the Tories – I would point to London MEP John Bowis' support for Iranian Mehdi Kazemi who Jacqui Smith tried to deport but there are others. Pointing at the Tories in a knee-jerk way simply doesn't work when you fail to address the party's own record. Michael's comments would have more weight if he admitted where the party has gone wrong.

I do not think the Tories would be 'better', but on asylum they could hardly be worse.

And of course it is simply false to say "perhaps they should be asking why other parties have not published [an international manifesto]" when both the LibDems and Greens incorporate strong commitments in their manifestos.

I am glad Michael says "we should all remain impatient and be critical of states and institutions that do nothing to address [the situation in Iraq]". What I wrote was not an criticism of you but the rest of your party and its actions in government. I know and you know that what is promised in the international manifesto may be good but is not good enough.

I truly respect you Michael but it is a plain fact that on Iraq and asylum neither LGBT Labour manifesto has anything to say.

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