A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
I’m sure if I was to back any one party on this blog I would come in for criticism off those who I wasn’t backing (branded a “typical lefty liberal academic” or “naive right winger taken in by Cameron’s smooth talking” depending on which way I go). Given I’ve been criticised as a lefty liberal on FB and Twitter in recent months you can probably guess which way I’m leaning but then again long standing blog readers will note my various discussions of an earlier life in Tory politics. What can I say? I’m complicated.
I’m not going to say who I’m backing although I have pretty much made my mind up in the last couple of weeks and it was different to what I would have said 6 months ago so who knows what I’ll decide by the time of the election (which will probably be May). For most of us, the choice at the next UK general election will be a three horse race – Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative. The Greens are gaining round and are in many ways the most progressive in addressing the LGBTQ agenda, but let’s be honest, they will be lucky to win one seat (I think they will). The Tories remain ahead in the polls by around 9 points (Labour in second place and Lib Dems trailing behind at around 18%) which means there is a strong possibility of a hung Parliament and a second election later this year.
The Labour years saw a mass of legislation that transformed the social landscape – the Civil Partnership Act, Gender Recognition Act, Equality Act and so on. The Human Rights Act was in my view the most important of these. The Conservatives are committed to repealing that Act. I am among the growing number of voices to criticise these various legislative examples and argue for a greater embracing of queer perspectives and (in simple terms) flexibility in how we view gender, sexuality and the state’s relationship with individual lives. For example why should straight = marriage and gay = civil partnership? Can we have more flexible and creative forms of union that move beyond the monogamous heterosexist and narrowly defined partnerships of old? Yet, despite this criticism, I also recognise the huge steps forward we have taken as a nation and given a choice between having this legislation and not – I would in pretty much each case choose to have them.
Nonetheless, we could and we should have a public conversation about a more radical agenda that moves issues of sexuality and gender further forward. Yet, in reality, none of the main parties are proposing anything along those lines. We can however look at attitudes on issues such as sex work (or prostitution for Tories and Labour), social welfare reforms targeted at families and the married, alongside attitudes toward gender and sexuality more generally.
These issues are not reasons alone to determine the choice of party (or indeed to choose an independent) but they are the issues this blog will be focusing on in the run up to a general election. It’s hard to remember a leader so despised as Brown (Major was seen as weak but liked), the economy is still looking seriously dodgy, the public remain a little sceptical about the Tories and the Lib Dems will have a greater profile than ever before thanks to the leadership debates. It should be an interesting ride.