Politicians coming out is still important, say Stonewall

A protester holds a rainbow flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 3, 2013, as protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage

In the media storm surrounding his revelation that former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath was warned off cruising for sex, the thrust of Brian Coleman’s article for the New Statesman has been sidelined.

Mr Coleman, the Chairman of the London Assembly, who is a Conservative, said that MPs and other prominent figures coming out and being forthright about their sexual orientation was not necessary.

“I am not sure if public life is healthier because Mr and Mrs Average happens to know that Mark Oaten had a taste for rent boys or that Simon Hughes has had gay relationships,” wrote Mr Coleman.

“The average voter could not care less if their Member of Parliament visits Hampstead Heath at midnight as long as they get the holes in the road mended.

“Let those politicians who just want to serve their constituents and the community in general and do not feel the need to parade their sexuality stand for election on their own terms.”

The chief executive of Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, said that the actual number of gay MPs showed that sexuality was not yet irrelevant.

“Polling that Stonewall will be publishing in the next few weeks will show that the vast majority of people in Britain are perfectly comfortable with gay politicians,” he told PinkNews.co.uk

“We are not at a stage where it doesn’t matter, because the parties themselves are much more conservative than the general public.

“We only just got our first out Liberal Democrat elected in 2005.

“There is only one open lesbian in both Houses of Parliament and the number of openly gay Labour MPs has actually declined in the last 10 years.

“There is still a very long way to go before political parties look more like wider society.”

Mr Summerskill revealed that a new opinion poll showed that most voters agreed with Mr Coleman’s contempt for hypocritical closeted MPs who vote for homophobic legislation.

“Clearly the issue that has aroused most anger over the years is when politicians that may be gay have voted against equality legislation.”

Commenting on the revelation that Sir Edward Heath may have been gay, Mr Summerskill recalled the 1970 – 74 Conservative administration:

“The generation like me that is old enough to remember Mr Heath as Prime Minister will remember the three day week, the television being switched off at 10pm and industrial chaos, more than the rumours about his sexual orientation.”