Lib Dem peer resigns over Farron’s views on homosexuality

Brian Paddick, who was UK’s most senior gay police officer, quits home affairs role citing concerns highlighted during election

Brian Paddick
Brian Paddick said he was concerned about ‘the leader’s views on issues that were highlighted’ during the election campaign. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, Brian Paddick, has resigned from his post, citing concerns about the party leader’s views.

Paddick said he was concerned about the leader’s views on various issues that were highlighted during the campaign. Throughout the election campaign, Tim Farron was dogged by questions over his attitude to homosexuality and abortion, though he has insisted he does not believe gay sex is a sin and has said he is pro-choice.

The Lib Dem peer, formerly the Metropolitan police’s deputy assistant commissioner and the UK’s most senior gay police officer, has stood as the party’s mayoral candidate in past elections.

Farron has made it clear to allies he believes the party has made significant progress in the general election and he has no intention of standing down. The Lib Dem leader still enjoys wide support from much of the party membership, particularly for his uncompromising stance on remaining in the EU.

On Wednesday morning, the Lib Dems announced they would hold a deputy leadership election amid reports that MPs were mulling a leadership challenge. The party gained four seats from the eight it won in 2015, and ran several others very close.

However, several MPs lost their seats, including the former party leader Nick Clegg and the Richmond Park byelection winner, Sarah Olney. The MP lost her seat to Zac Goldsmith by less than 50 votes.

Several prominent former MPs won back seats they lost in the 2015 election, including former cabinet ministers and coalition frontbenchers Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson.

Farron’s majority was slashed from more than 9,000 to about 700 votes. Sources close to the leadership said he was determined to stay on, given pre-election predictions that the party would lose seats.

Despite seat gains,some in the party also expressed doubts about focusing the campaign on a second EU referendum and Farron’s appearances were dominated by questions about his views on gay sex and later on abortion.

Asked several times during the campaign whether he believed gay sex was a sin, having previously told Channel 4 News “we’re all sinners”, Farron repeatedly said he was not prepared to make theological pronouncements, before insisting he did not believe it was a sin and that he was pro-life.

Tim Farron speaking in the House of Commons during its first sitting since the election.
Tim Farron speaking in the House of Commons during its first sitting since the election. Photograph: PA

One senior Lib Dem source suggested that loyalty to the party had prevented people raising their concerns publicly during the election campaign.

Senior party figures believe the party’s election performance was significantly affected by stories about Farron, including in progressive metropolitan areas such as Sheffield Hallam and Leeds North West, where Clegg and his fellow Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland lost their seats to Labour.

The party also failed to win back Bermondsey and Old Southwark in south London, where Simon Hughes lost ground in his former seat to Labour’s Neil Coyle, who took the seat in 2015.

However, Farron’s leadership has given the party a clean break from the coalition government, having never been a minister and having voted against measures such as tuition fees and the bedroom tax. Cable, Davey and Swinson were all members of the coalition who backed unpopular measures.

“It’s a dilemma,” a Lib Dem source said. “It’s an opportunity also to have a first female leader, but there are some who feel anybody as leader who was part of the coalition government would be poisonous. That’s the conundrum.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Farron said the time had come for a deputy leader, given the party had elected a number of new women MPs when only men were elected in 2015. Swinson, who won her East Dunbartonshire seat from the Scottish National party, will be favourite to take the position unless a leadership challenger to Farron emerges.

OPINION I’m black and gay. Black Lives Matter Toronto doesn’t speak for me

I believe Toronto police should be allowed to participate in Pride in their uniforms

I can honestly say I feel uncomfortable at Caribana due to black homophobia, which Black Lives Matter casually ignores.

No one appointed Black Lives Matter (BLM) to act as spokesperson for the entire black community. Much of the public, however, has taken them as representative of an entire race.

I am black and gay, and I do not agree with the divisive tactics adopted by BLM Toronto — including its disruption of last year’s Pride parade in Toronto, and its subsequent demand that uniformed officers not participate in the event.

In fact, a lot of black people in Toronto and elsewhere don’t agree with the group, but they are afraid to speak out. Many are worried about being called an “Uncle Tom” or a “House Negro” for expressing their opinions.

Not a monolithic community

American writer Zora Neale Hurston captured this idea when reflecting on her own disassociation with the black political elite, famously saying, “My skin folk ain’t my kin folk.”

Hurston was a Republican who was critical of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools, which made her an easy target for criticism in the black community. Her point, nevertheless, was that just because people share a racial background does not mean they necessarily agree with each other on certain issues — a truth that is often overlooked in commentary about racial issues.

I, like many people who make up what is likely the silent majority, believe that the Toronto police should be allowed to participate in the gay Pride parade in their uniforms. For one thing, more uniformed officers would mean help would be easier to find if someone is in distress and immediately needs assistance.

But beyond that, the Toronto police has worked hard to build bridges with the gay community — by formally apologizing for the 1981 bathhouse raids, by regularly participating in Pride parades, by raising a rainbow flag outside headquarters for the first time and so forth. Not allowing them to wear their uniforms at Pride is a step backwards for the relationship.

Toronto Pride Parade Hamilton police

Toronto police has worked hard to build bridges with the gay community. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

What’s more, Pride Toronto has worked hard to create safe spaces for gay LGBTQ people of colour. For instance, for the last near-20 years, Pride has hosted “Blockorama” during the weekend of the parade — an area specifically for black artists, musicians, writers, singers, dancers and regular folk to celebrate black and African cultures. By contrast, there has never been an official program for LGBTQ people during the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly (and colloquially) known as “Caribana.”

Indeed, I can honestly say I feel uncomfortable at Caribana due to black homophobia, which Black Lives Matter casually ignores. I am constantly looking over my shoulder in fear of being attacked, simply because I am a gay man. In recent years, I have stayed away entirely. Yet there is virtually no dialogue about anti-LGBTQ prejudice within the black community.

Speaking for others

Black Lives Matter could use their political and social power to actually raise awareness about this issue, but it is apparently easier for them to target the white gay community than it is to tackle black homophobia. And Pride Toronto yields to their requests, as if the black community is a monolithic entity represented by a single group.

In her essay “The Problem of Speaking For Others,” feminist writer Linda Alcoff writes about the quandary of certain individuals or groups speaking on behalf of marginalized communities, which she argues can stifle the diversity of voices being heard. Indeed, that seems to be happening here.

Yet no one appointed BLM to speak for the entire black community. The police, Pride Toronto, the media and the public need to remember that.

This article is part of CBC’s Opinion section.

Thousands march in Israel’s gay pride parade


Tens of thousands of rainbow flag-toting revelers attended the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parade in Tel Aviv on Friday, billed as the largest of its kind in the deeply conservative Middle East.

The annual parade featured floats with blaring sound systems and gyrating dancers. Revelers could be seen dancing on the balconies of surrounding building.

“We need to show ourselves and we also need to fight for others who need to feel like they can show themselves too, to empower everyone around us,” Max Kratz, a parade participant from Germany told Reuters.

Same-sex marriage is against the law in Israel, but polls published in the country’s media this week suggested that around three quarters of Israeli Jews supported permitting it.

“We are here to party and to celebrate with them, their freedom in Israel and we are hoping they are going in the right direction and have more privileges in the country,” party-goer Shir Geri told Reuters.

The parade caps a week of pride festivities in the city, which authorities expected to draw 35,000 tourists. The parade is sponsored by the municipality, which said it had invested heavily to promote gay tourism in recent years.

(Reporting by Amir Cohen; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)