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Thursday 10 May 2007


Iraq was more than just a mistake. The relationship with Bush is toxic and ... I could go on. And on.

But on this day there is one other thing worth noting for the history books. Blair has led cultural change for the better in this country.

In particular, he has been a friend and shown leadership on lesbian and gay equality (you could pick this apart, Labour have often appeared forced by the EU in legal change) but for this I admire him.

And it is not new, he has been a supporter since becoming an MP in 1983.

One of his farewell speeches, notably, was to the gay rights organisation Stonewall last month:

... And I really just wanted to say two things about the changes that have happened over the past ten years, which you will know very well.

There are a lot of important things, but I think civil partnerships is really the thing … as I was saying to people earlier, it doesn’t just give you a lot of pride, but it actually brought real joy.

I don’t know whether you remember the very first day, and it was quite a bizarre circumstance that the first ceremonies were actually in Northern Ireland.


I was so struck by it, it was so alive, I remember actually seeing the pictures on television. It is not often that you sort of skip around in my job, I can assure you, But it really the fact that that the people were so happy and the fact that you felt just one major, major change had happened, of which everyone can feel really proud.

And now I think we were just saying, was it 16,000 civil partnerships, and what is interesting now is that other countries in Europe are looking at this legislation, and it is very divisive still in Spain and Italy at the moment. But nonetheless it is happening.

This is my second reflection about it all.

There are a whole load of different pieces of legislation, which I will not rehearse here, but what has happened is that the culture of the country has changed in a definable way as a result of it. And here is what I think is really interesting.

The change in the culture and the civilising effect of it has gone far greater than the gay and lesbian community.

In other words, by taking a stand on these issues and by removing prejudice and discrimination, and by enabling people to stand proud as what they are, it has had an impact that I think is far more profound in the way the country thinks about itself.

And I want to say we have an immensely proud history, that is able to stand on its own merits in the 21st Century and say that we know we have a great future.

One thing I think is very important for any country that is to succeed in the future you make the most of the talents and abilities of your people.

If you allow discrimination to fester, that is a complete rejection of that modernising and civilising notion.

One of the other interesting things he talked about in that speech was the role of the gay and lesbian 'nice guy' organisations, like Stonewall, in change — as opposed to the 'crazies', like Outrage!

When you are trying to do something that is difficult, divisive and when, as a politician, you do something that you know is going to be controversial … it is all very well saying well I want to do this and you can see some of you people are up for it and some of them are thinking “well, hmm”


What actually matters enormously is that the people from outside politics that you are trying to do it with have a sufficient intelligence and sensitivity, which I think has really defined the Stonewall campaign, I define it as a polite determination.

What Stonewall or any of the 'polite' guys would tell you though is that they only look like that because they have the 'fundies' to be compared with.

All movements need a 'left-field' and any activist worth their salt knows that the agenda only gets started and pushed further by the brave fundies.

They're first over the parapet, the Shock Troops. Stonewall, coming along behind, wouldn't exist without them.

Coming full circle, Blair's "change in the culture and the civilising effect of it" is precisely what early fundies (Gay Liberation Front, 1971) were arguing for.

They called it the end of "
the Patriarchal Family".
Human beings could be much more various than our constricted patterns of 'masculine' and 'feminine' permit-we should be free to develop with greater individuality.

In a society dominated by the sexist culture it is very difficult, if not impossible, for heterosexual men and women to escape their rigid gender-role structuring and the roles of oppressor and oppressed.

Etcetera. GLF was Marxist and Feminist.

This was the world then, quoting a US psychiatry manual:
Our values in Western civilisation are founded upon the sanctity of the family, the right to property, and the worthwhileness of 'getting ahead ' The family can be established only through heterosexual intercourse, and this gives the woman a high value.
And these were what the GLF summed up, in 1971, as their 'immediate demands'.
  • that all discrimination against gay people, male and female, by the law, by employers, and by society at large, should end.
  • that all people who feel attracted to a member of their own sex be taught that such feeling are perfectly valid.
  • that sex education in schools stop being exclusively heterosexual.
  • that psychiatrists stop treating homosexuality as though it were a sickness, thereby giving gay people senseless guilt complexes.
  • that gay people be as legally free to contact other gay people, though newspaper ads, on the streets and by any other means they may want as are heterosexuals, and that police harassment should cease right now.
  • that employers should no longer be allowed to discrim inate against anyone on accou nt of their sexual preferences.
  • that the age of consent for gay males be reduced to the same as for straight.
  • that gay people be free to hold hands and kiss in public, as are heterosexuals.
Not all of these demands have been met in 2007.

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