Labour MEP: Tories are ‘paranoid’ and ‘echoing UKIP’ over LGBT rights pledge row

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Labour MEP-elect Seb Dance has criticised the Conservative Party for refusing to sign ILGA-Europe’s pledge on LGBT rights.

Speaking to on Wednesday evening, the newly elected MEP for London said: “I find it quite extraordinary that they are defending their decision by saying EU action against homophobia would be ‘federalist’”.

“Their response echoes UKIP’s paranoid language on what the European Union is all about.

“The Conservatives are essentially saying Member States cannot work together to eliminate discrimination against the LGBTI community in Europe. Given the threats faced by LGBTI people across Europe this is surely an issue they ought to be prioritising and pursuing with other countries.”

Mr Dance added: “The Tories are saying that dealing with prejudice at a European level is something they cannot commit to as it is a step too far for the EU.

“It is further proof that the Tories are now moving further to the right because of UKIP.”

Tom Burke, National Co-Chair of LGBTLabour, also criticised the decision.

Mr Burke told “This is just another example of the Tories failing to support European action on LGBT rights.

“ILGA is a respected pan-European group working across the political spectrum.

“It’s tragic that Tories narrow-sighted and blinkered anti-European attitude is getting in the way of supporting positive reform. EU policies have a big impact on LGBT people across Europe. Getting the Commission to adopt an anti-discrimination strategy can ensure these policies bolster LGBT rights.

“Tory posturing on Europe is stopping them making a difference to LGBT people’s lives.”

He added: “Labour uses all it’s efforts to combat discrimination; whether in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff or Brussels. It’s about time the Tories caught up.”

Twenty one of the UK’s 73 newly elected MEPs, including Mr Dance, have signed the ILGA-Europe pledge, which urges Members of the European Parliament to advance LGBT rights over the next five years.

Labour, Sein Fein, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party were all signatories.

But the Conservative Party and UKIP appeared absent from the list.

The Chairman of LGBTory, Colm Howard-Lloyd, said it was because the pledge meant “taking powers away from the UK”, with issues such as equal marriage moving to the European Parliament and away from individual member states.

ILGA-Europe rejected Mr Howard-Lloyd’s remarks, saying “it is wrong to suggest we even address marriage equality in our work at EU level”.

An ILGA spokesperson added: “What we are calling for is an EU-wide strategy for LGBTI equality, similar to those already existing on gender equality, rights of Roman and people with disabilities.”

But outgoing Tory MEP Marina Yannakoudakis told PinkNews that the concerns expressed by Mr Howard-Lloyd were justified.

She said: “I can understand why many MEPs and candidates who don’t believe in a federal Europe would be unwilling to sign such a pledge and ILGA is making mischief by suggesting there were anti-equality reasons for not signing.”

However, Liberal Democrat MEP-elect Catherine Bearder told PinkNews that she was “surprised and disappointed” over the Conservative Party’s stance.

Mrs Bearder said the decision ran counter to David Cameron’s flagship equality policy of legalising same-sex marriage in England and Wales.