Exclusive: John Bercow praises Labour, Tories and Lib Dems for supporting equality

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, heaped praise on the current Coalition and previous Labour government for advancing LGBT rights over the past 16 years at last night’s PinkNews Awards.

“We have travelled a huge distance, have we not, on LGBT matters, over the last decade or so,” the Speaker said. “I think it is fair to say that that there is credit to be reflected in all of the three main parties and far beyond.”

Wednesday evening’s PinkNews Awards were held inside the State Rooms of Speaker’s House at the Palace of Westminster.

Just before the event began, PinkNews Deputy Editor Joseph Patrick McCormick proposed to his partner, James Hanson.

Congratulating the couple, Speaker Bercow said: “First, I hope that you will agree that it is a testament both to the greatness of PinkNews and to the magnificence of this occasion that the Deputy Editor of PinkNews, one Joseph Patrick McCormick, who has come out from the shadows to reveal himself, has this evening, here in Speaker’s House, a matter of minutes ago, proposed to his partner James Hansom. And the proposal has been accepted! So, I would argue, and I do, that PinkNews, on the one hand, and the Speaker of the House on the other, have established their reputations as matchmakers.”

Turning his attention to this year’s Royal Assent of the same-sex marriage act, Speaker Bercow said all three political leaders should take credit in helping to steer the legislation through Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – who presented an award at the ceremony – was first to receive Speaker Bercow’s praise.

He said: “We’re hugely delighted to have the Deputy Prime Minister amongst our number from whom we are going to hear in a few moments. Someone whose track record on these matters are of long-standing and speaks for itself. A source of pride, I hope, to him, but to everybody from across the spectrum here present. Nick, thank you, as Leader of your party and Deputy Prime Minister of our country, for your presence.”

Senior Labour and Conservative figures, including Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Culture Secretary Maria Miller were also present at the PinkNews Awards.

Of Labour’s record in government, Speaker Bercow said “In the period 1997-2010, there was the single greatest raft of reforming equality legislation that has taken place under any government of any colour at any time. And that’s something of which Yvette Cooper, Gloria de Piero and Ed Miliband are hugely proud and rightly so. The equalisation of the age of consent; the repeal of the Section 28; the removal on the ban of gays in the armed forces; the change to adoptions regulations; the Sexuality Orientation Regulations, Civil Partnership legislations. It is all there on the record and I hope they take great pride in what have they accomplished.”

Speaker Bercow then turned his attention to the party he previously took the whip from. The signing into law of equal marriage by a Conservative Prime Minister was testament to Britain’s journey on equality.

“And the fact is that nobody would have anticipated it even five years ago, let alone ten years ago. It has been under Conservative-led administration. A Coalition Government, but very much led from the front by Prime Minister Cameron, that the final step in the legislative course has been adopted and we have moved from a position fifty years ago where the criminalisation of a type of love to the imminent practical prospect of complete legal equality. That is quite a trek.”

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