Election 2017: Ilford election candidates grilled at Redbridge Rainbow Community's LGBT Hustings
PUBLISHED: 13:28 19 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:31 19 May 2017
The issues facing Ilford's LGBT community were at the forefront of the political debate at a general election hustings last night.
The Redbridge Rainbow Community hustings at the Cardinal Heenan Centre in Ilford High Road, saw a number of prospective candidates for Ilford’s two seats discuss their personal views on issues facing the community.
Cllr Emma Best, representing Conservative candidate for Ilford North Lee Scott, told the assembled meeting she was “proud of the achievements of the Conservatives in government over the last seven years”.
She said. “I think people quite rightly have questions about Theresa May’s history when it comes to voting on gay rights, but I’m interested in the journey, and where people are now.
“Theresa May is now a firm ally of the community.”
Conservative candidate for Ilford South, Cllr Chris Chapman spoke about his own experiences tackling homophobia, but told the meeting the country had come a long way.
He said: “When I was at school, the idea of being able to turn around and say, “I am gay” was a million miles away.
“A lot of schools I visit now there has been huge progress.
“I remember going to a local primary school where pupils had created an advocacy group for those of their peers who wanted to come out as gay.
“I found it absolutely fascinating that there has been a total shift from homosexuality being something we are unable to discuss to groups of children coming together to help their peers come together to help the problems they are facing.”
Liberal Democrat Ilford North candidate Richard Clare told the meeting that his party’s proudest moment was passing the legalisation of gay marriage as a part of the 2010 coalition.
With the Lib Dems arguably being the most vocal anti-Brexit party nationally, it wasn’t long before Mr Clare made his stance known.
“Homophobic attacks rose 147pc after the Brexit vote.
“This is not so much a single issue election on Brexit as it is an election on what kind of country and what kind of people we are and how we want to run things.
“We have made our position on Brexit quite clear, we don’t like it, we don’t want it and we will give the people a final say on whether or not we do actually leave.”
Incumbent Ilford South Labour MP Mike Gapes said he had been proud to introduce far-reaching reforms on LGBT laws as part of the 1997 Labour government and pointed out he had voted consistently in favour of equality and diversity.
“It is important to remember you require consistency. It is good that people can change their minds and come to more progressive ways of thinking but in the 1970s the gay liberation front were being denounced in the tabloid press and we have come a very long way since then.
“But we have to remember that we can’t stop here.”
Mr Gapes went on to launch a scathing attack on the Tory manifesto, which he pointed out contained not a single mention to LGBT rights.
That was a point also made by Cllr John Howard, standing in for Ilford North’s Labour candidate for Wes Streeting, who pointed out that the Conservative manifesto had more references to reintroducing fox hunting than it did to supporting the community.
Independent candidate Doris Osen, standing in Ilford North, said there was no need for anyone to be discriminated against in this day and age.
She said: “I’m standing because I care and I am concerned about all people in this country facing problems, whether they are young or elderly, homosexual or heterosexual.
“I don’t care about race, creed, religion or colour. All I care about is people.”
The last of the candidates to introduce themselves, RoseMary Warrington told the hustings that the Green Party, who she is representing in Ilford South, have “equality right at their heart”.
She said: “Respect for individuals is totally at our heart and we have long been at the forefront of rights for those who identify as lesbian, gay, non-binary or queer, as well as other sexual and gender diversity.
“We stand for acceptance and a fairer society.”