Why are we debating whether “conversion therapy” should or shouldn’t be illegal in the UK in 2020?

Government

It has only been four days since Pride Month ended, and yet, in an insensitive move that has rightly backfired, the Petitions Committee wanted to gather more intel on how to define “conversion therapy” and the impact that it has on the LGBT+ community by getting people to fill out a survey as a platform for people to share their opinions about something that is clearly wrong.

This sparked outrage because it felt like the process was being drawn out, and people were being asked to justify why something that causes incredible harm like this form of torture should be made illegal. It also came across as tone-deaf, with a handful of unsympathetic questions.

In a response that was welcomed, links to the survey were subsequently deleted, although there were some reports of the survey still being active hours after this. The apology itself (below) sounds incredibly arrogant, but at least they responded quickly.

What this does highlight is unnecessary levels of intransigence and delay, which characterise many other areas of policy I discuss here. And there is a clear way to approach this.

The Government committed to taking action on this two years ago. A petition (and I note, that petitions are something that the Government has not initiated) with enough signatures to be debated in Parliament may have reminded them of this, but the response will not exactly be reassuring.

When responding to the petition, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said that the Government was still considering how to move forward with this “very complex issue”. I can think of other “very complex issues” which have been being discussed relentlessly at a similar time to this which apparently are not a problem (Brexit).

I would be interested to know what exactly is complex about “conversion therapy”. If anyone had undergone significant amounts of psychological trauma that were later revealed, action would be demanded. This is exactly what “conversion therapy” involves. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to defend the indefensible. And yet, nothing obvious is being done about this issue which continues to have an impact on people’s lives on a daily basis.

Things like “conversion therapy” still being legal highlight the UK still has a long way to go in overcoming LGBT+ discrimination and poor treatment. It’s not just about putting up a Pride flag for one month a year, it’s about taking real action.

Action in the future is not good enough. Action needs to happen now.

Iran, Royals, the EU and Labour candidates

This Week in UK Politics

Just when you thought UK politics would calm down a bit with a newly dominant Conservative Party and the return to easy majorities for the Government – things seemed to flare up a bit.

Iran

First among these was the escalation of tension in Iran, where the US assassinated a senior general, and Trump took to Twitter to brag about it. Classy. The fact that this happened on another sovereign nation’s soil raised alarm bells with many who started talking about the possibility of World War Three – and drew comparisons with the ‘dodgy dossier’ ahead of the Iraq conflict.

Iran retaliated by bombing a seemingly unoccupied US airbase, and things seemed to calm down. What is now emerging is that caught up in this may have been a Boeing aircraft heading for Ukraine being shot down by Iran – although the facts of this are still being settled.

The Government was slow to respond, with Boris Johnson still being on holiday and seeming to ignore a letter from Jeremy Corbyn who still has the right to ask questions of the Government in these matters as a member of the privy council. This inaction opened the Conservatives up to a fair amount of criticism. Once the response came, it was ambiguous – claiming to be working on a European response; while condemning and praising the assassination at the same time.

In PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn asked the Prime Minister a series of questions around whether the activity was illegal, what would happen to British people living in the are and whether the Government’s response was related to a potential trade deal. The initial exchanges between them were helpful and there were constructive answers to the questions. Things took a turn when Corbyn mentioned links to a trade deal, where the Prime Minister started on the attack, criticising Corbyn and claiming the allegation was “absolute fiction”.

You can watch how this all played out below.

The Royals

When people thought nothing else could fit into the news agenda, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan) unilaterally declared they were going to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. This was apparently without the knowledge of anybody else and was apparently due to The Sun being on the brink of telling everyone anyway. And how did they announce this? Via Instagram.

Many people would probably wonder this is being mentioned on a politics blog, as surely the Royal Family is above politics? Arguably, there are massive implications here as even though these royals are working to be financially independent as they call it, this has not turned out well for other members of the family i.e. the Wessexes, and there will still be a fair amount of public money spent on the couple such as their security detail. It is telling that the Government is now involved with the “emergency” negotiations with the Royal Family.

Secondly, it has raised further questions about the role of the Royal Family – and how it should look going into a new decade. Many had touted that the Cambridges and Sussexes were the ‘new face’, and represented a new approach, but this has raised several questions. This also highlights potential issues with press behaviour towards certain members of the Royal Family, which has been invasive and particularly in Meghan’s case teetering on abusive.

In a broader sense, it relates to many comments made on here previously about the nature of debate recently being toxic and highly personal. It shows that this issue is not just confined to the explicitly political space and that a wider conversation should be started in society about addressing this.

The EU

Less than a month to Brexit (part one) and conversation has started to turn toward the future relationship between the UK and the European Union where negotiations cannot formally start until the UK ceases to be a Member State.

The new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, made it clear in a speech at the London School of Economics that a full trade deal between the UK and EU (which Boris Johnson is aiming for) will be ‘impossible’ to conclude by the end of the transition period in December.

She took a pragmatic stance and said that the EU was ready to negotiate an “ambitious” partnership – but that the talks would be tough. As discussed in the 2019 review post on here, this reaffirmation of a trade deal being extremely difficult to achieve in less than a year is something to be expected and many in Number 10 and the Department for Exiting the European Union will be studying this closely.

It shows that even though the first hurdle may have been crossed by Johnson, the next one will be much more pressurised – where the expectations are much higher.

Labour Candidates

The Labour leadership election has started, with the party’s ruling committee meeting at the start of the week to decide the rules for electing a new leader.

There was much speculation about the rules potentially being tampered with to ensure a Corbyn 2.0 candidate had the most success. This was not the case, and the rules for the leadership election were not deemed to be too controversial.

In the early stages, Keir Starmer emerged as the frontrunner – easily reaching the necessary number of nominations from MPs and MEPs, and with Unison putting its weight behind him. Other candidates in the running (as of Sunday evening) are Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy.

Each of these candidates represents a very diverse range of opinions within the party, and the question that will be asked is how they will bring the party together when the election results sparked a new wave of internal disagreement.

The following week will be a key part of the campaign, with nominations closing for both leader and deputy leader before an extensive voting process takes place.

Meanwhile, there has been little word about the internal post-mortem that Corbyn spoke of after the election, which is highly likely to have an impact on the leadership campaign as it progresses.

Welcome.

Announcements

It is a very interesting time in UK politics.

Great, this blog has started with what has quickly become a cliché. Interesting is also one of those words that can be positive, but usually has negative connotations.

Pedantry aside, the aim of this blog is to provide an alternative place to discuss developments in politics.

Full disclosure: the author of this blog is a Labour supporter, but the posts here are designed to raise questions on all sides of the debate.

However, it is clear that it is important that the Government’s work is scrutinised, especially with the increased majority they have gained; whilst wider trends and developments are also analysed in detail.

Debate is welcome, encouraged even. But the thing that has often gone missing along the way recently is polite debate. Engage with the content of people’s arguments, rather than making assumptions or personally criticising someone for holding a view.

The plan is to gradually add content on here, and experiment with what works and does not work.

I might even branch into a podcast later in the New Year.

For now, feel free to comment on this post with suggestions on what I can look at, and follow the Twitter account @TheLandscapeUK. DMs are open.