Diane Abbott: Sultan of Brunei keeping honours legitimises stone-the-gays-law

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Labour MP Diane Abbott has questioned the decision of King’s College London not to rescind an Honorary Law Doctorate given to the Sultan of Brunei in light of the country’s law which allows gay people to be stoned.

In April, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave approval to Brunei’s revised penal code, which urges death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.

PinkNews publisher Benjamin Cohen spoke at a graduation dinner at King’s last weekend and called for the honour to be withdrawn.

However, a King’s spokesperson said the college would not rescind the honour, given that it was awarded before the new law was introduced.

“I don’t think people should be giving honorary doctorates to someone like that,” Labour MP Diane Abbott told PinkNews.co.uk on Tuesday.

“I don’t think you should be doing it full stop, and also given the tide of really unpleasant legislation in the world, it’s really important that everyone shows that it’s wrong.”

“If he [Sultan Bolkiah] can be passing legislation like that and remain honoured it almost legitimises what he’s doing and feeds the rising tide of really quite brutally homophobic legislation.”

The Hackney MP added: “We want to be trying to turn the tide [of homophobia] – not encourage it.”

When asked if she supported calls for a boycott of Brunei-owned businesses, Ms Abbott told PinkNews.co.uk: “I think boycotts can make a difference, South Africa is living proof that a boycott can make a difference.”

Ms Abbott said she backed the idea of putting pressure on charities and other business not to host events at The Dorchester in Park Lane, part of the Sultan’s international Dorchester Collection hotel portfolio.

“It is symbolic”, the MP said of the boycott, adding that its “impact” would be felt on the Sultan.

The Sultan, whose family has governed Brunei for 600 years and whose fortune is estimated at $13 billion (£7.75 billion), received an honorary knighthood from the Queen in 1992 and has been awarded a string of honours by British universities, including an Honorary Law Doctorate from King’s in 2011.

Earlier today former Conservative Party Chairman Lord Deben criticised King’s College London for choosing not to rescind the doctorate.

A string of celebrities, including Ellen DegeneresStephen Fry, Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson and Sharon Osbourne in April began a boycott campaign against The Dorchester Collection, famous for its Beverly Hills venue.

In the UK, the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) announced it will not stage its awards dinner at The Dorchester in London.

Gay rights charity Stonewall held its annual Equality Dinner there in April.

Last month, the charity attracted criticism for criticising the nature of the boycott, whilst failing to say if it would hold future events at the hotel.

Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt confirmed three days later that it would no longer use The Dorchester Hotel for events.

Kate Middleton was a guest at a wedding held at The Dorchester on Friday 30 May.