Queer Question Time – The Verdict

Queer Question Time Birmingham

An all lesbian and gay panel took to the stage in Birmingham last night for Queer Question Time.

Peter Tatchell (Green) - Human rights activist and Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford East
Nikki Sinclaire (UKIP) - MEP for the West Midlands and candidate for her party's leadership
Iain Bowen (Lib Dem) - Birmingham City Councillor for Acocks Green ,
Philippa Roberts (Lab) - Parliamentary Candidate for Hereford
Gareth Compton (Con) - Birmingham City Councillor for Erdington

Chairman Steve Ball kicked off the debate, in the style of BBC's Question Time, in front of a decent crowd of around 150 at the Hippodrome's Patrick Centre. Audience members were asked to submit questions on the way in and as these things often do, the panelists and audience members then veered off into other directions during the debates. Some of the subjects discussed included equalities legislation, tolerance, gay pride events, the BNP, homophobia, education and section 28, the media and the police.

The panelists agreed on a lot of issues but there were some interesting clashes throughout.

Peter Tatchell was the clear winner for me. He barely touched on Green party policy, concentrating more on gay rights in general. He also spent much of his time picking up on the policies of the Labour government, doubtless with one eye on the political situation in Oxford East and Brighton Pavilion. Peter spoke well and was well received by members of the audience from every political hue.

Nikki Sinclaire caused less upset than her last "appearance" at Queer Question Time, but was still controversial. She appeared to defend her UKIP MEP colleague Mike Nattrass when he was accused (by both Gareth Compton and Iain Bowen) of being involved in the controversial New Britain Party (he stood as the "New Britain" candidate in Dudley West in 1994). She also did her best to dodge what specific policies UKIP have on LGBT rights. I found her overall attitude a mix of confrontation and naivety, which for someone with leadership aspirations surprises me.

Iain Bowen spoke well with good local knowledge and personal thoughts, rather than towing the party line, which I always like to see. Although he struggled with one or two questions I felt he put the Liberal Democrat position on equality across well. He was also passionate about the community and the police needing to work closer together, which prompted some heckling from the audience.

Philippa Roberts performed well defending the record of the Labour government on gay rights, for example civil partnerships, provision of goods and services, etc. However, she was uncomfortable when challenged (mainly by Peter Tatchell) on the current Equalities Bill working its way through Parliament.

Gareth Compton began very well but faded towards the end as he got drawn into bickering with Nikki Sinclaire. On more than one ocassion he made the verbal assumption that the next Government would be a Conservative one, which did not sit well with the audience. He also made the mistake of heckling Nikki Sinclaire for UKIP's European partners, not sensible considering the company the Tories keep.

For me the most interesting question was whether "gay pride" had replaced "gay politics". A lot of the battles have been won and therefore politics has fallen down the ladder when it comes to Pride events. But Birmingham Pride this year was far more party political than I remember it being for a long time. I helped to organise the Liberal Democrat presence, LGBT Labour also ran a stall and some Green party activists were in attendance too. In addition to this no less than THREE candidates in the upcoming European elections were there, Liz Lynne (Lib Dem), Nikki Sinclaire (UKIP) and Neena Gill (Lab).


New UKIP MEP – Nikki Sinclaire

Nikki Sinclaire is the new UKIP MEP for the West Midlands and as expected, she made an absolute prat of herself during the acceptance speeches. Calling members of the Lib Dem, Tory and Labour parties fascists (all of whom have campaigned against the BNP) is just plain idiotic and is not going to endear herself to anyone.

There is a hell of a lot of work to do in Brussels and I hope Nikki Sinclaire is well prepared. I also hope she does not replicate certain other UKIP MEP’s and just vote against everything, because this will be a real let-down for the people of the West Midlands. Whatever your views on Europe, you cannot deny that we need the best possible representation in Brussels to get the possible deal given the current structure.

Nikki Sinclaire, we will be watching you. And if you let us down, we will be on your case.


UKIP take Labour seat in the West Midlands

Another long night – thanks to Dudley! 29 out of 30 Council areas had declared before 11pm, but for whatever reason Dudley succumbed to delays and the results weren’t through until after 1pm. All that hanging around gave me the chance to catch up with lots of people, including several Greens that I know and a friend who was on the list for NO2EU!

Earlier in the night I’d been keeping watch on the count in Ladywood constituency. There was limited information to gain from this count but in Ladywood ward it was encouraging to see our vote increase and the Labour and Conservative votes drop.

As for the results, UKIP picked up a Labour seat, which I’d say was largely as expected. The BNP did not perform as well as I had feared, so congratulations must go to all the main parties opposing them and also to the Greens who (in Birmingham at least) fought a good campaign against the BNP.

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