On 27th June, LGBT+ communities from around the country congregated at Baker Street, London, before commencing on the Pride in London Parade of 2015. The parade, held in London each year, aims to unite communities and promote rights and freedom for LGBT+ people; the march consists of the groups who support these aims, charities, non-governmental organisations, companies, trade unions and political parties among them. However, on 5th June, the Pride in London Board of Directors released a statement announcing that Ukip would not be allowed to march in the parade. There has been a backlash against this decision; some have declared it to be politically motivated, stating that any group should have the freedom to participate, whilst Nigel Farage, the Ukip party leader, has condemned it as a prejudiced act within an event which exists to promote tolerance.
The call to exclude Ukip from the parade began in an online petition that reached over 2,400 signatures, with supporters citing Farage’s comments concerning HIV and immigration during the televised election debates earlier this year, along with Ukip’s staunch opposition to the same-sex marriage bill, as evidence that they are not a pro-LGBT+ party, and that their agenda clearly conflicts with the aims of the parade. Meanwhile, the Pride in London board of directors gave ensuring the safety and positive experience of all participants, in particular the volunteer stewards, as their primary concern and reason for reaching the decision.
It is certainly true that Ukip has a somewhat convoluted history when it comes to LGBT+ rights. Their leader has never openly endorsed gay marriage; the party campaigned against the same-sex marriage bill; their manifesto is significantly lacking in policies relating to LGBT+ rights; their position on immigration would make it difficult for LGBT+ people facing persecution in other countries to find asylum in the UK; and let’s not forget David Silvester, the councillor who was suspended from the party in January 2014 for claiming that the passing of the same-sex marriage bill was to blame for flooding. It is therefore understandable that Pride in London did not wish Ukip to use the parade as political platform, or to be seen to be endorsing their backwards and regressive policies on LGBT+ rights.
Nonetheless, it is equally possible to argue that if London Pride is intended as a celebration of LGBT+ rights regardless of political orientation, then surely any individual or organisation should be allowed to take part? The BNP and the EDL were, like Ukip, banned from marching, but when does it stop being a matter of health and safety, and starting becoming a political decision about who is excluded?
Personally, I find the arguments condemning Pride’s lack of inclusivity to be hypocritical and deceitful. Why should the party expect tolerance from Pride, when their own views preach the exact opposite? Ukip excludes minorities and promotes harmful messages; indeed, they expelled their own youth organisation for endorsing same-sex marriage. Pride is not solely an event to promote tolerance and acceptance; it is an LGBT+ event, and at the end of the day, it is this community who should decide who marches beside them.
Pride in London began as a way for LGBT+ communities to reach out and celebrate, and to continue to fight for their rights, and any individuals should have the freedom to join in with this. Nevertheless, a line needs to be drawn in the case of political parties harnessing Pride to promote an anti-LGBT+ agenda. Until organisers construct a more cohesive criteria for participation, the only organisations who should be allowed are those with clear and defined LGBT+ aims. Members of Ukip who wish to make the party more LGBT+ inclusive should be applauded, but until the party is willing to defend the basic human rights of the LGBT+ community, they should not be given a platform at Pride.