Comment: Our Parliament will be poorer for the loss of Julian Huppert

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Sarah Brown writes on the impact of Liberal Democrat former MP Julian Huppert losing his seat.

Last Thursday, the parliamentary Liberal Democrat party was all but wiped out in an election which would see the Tories in power alone, unrestrained by coalition.

49 seats were lost, amongst them by a soul-destroying 599 votes was Cambridge, served for the last 5 years by Julian Huppert.

I was elected to Cambridge City Council in 2010, the same time Julian was elected to parliament, and it has been a privilege to be a colleague and a constituent. I serve on the executive of the Liberal Democrats national LGBT+ body, and our proudest achievement was perhaps introducing marriage equality as party policy back at our 2010 Autumn Conference, which we then saw develop, thanks to the relentless efforts of Lynne Featherstone, who also lost her seat, into the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and then into law.

Throughout that journey Julian was there fighting for the rights and dignity of LGBT+ people in parliament. When the coalition government scrapped Gordon Brown’s controversial ID card scheme in 2010, Labour tried to introduce a desperate amendment to preserve the cards, but only for transgender people. Julian stood up in parliament and explained that this amounted to a scheme which automatically outed trans people, and helped defeat the amendment.

When the same sex marriage bill failed to make any provision to restore marriages taken from trans people and our spouses under duress, and included the insidious Spousal Veto, I asked Julian to help and he introduced amendments in the House of Commons to address both. Sadly the amendments were not taken, but Julian’s vocal support of trans people on the floor of the Commons was unprecedented.

As a colleague, Julian was an inspiration to work with, both in Cambridge and nationally. As a constituency MP he was always approachable. As a campaigner he was tireless. As a colleague he was supportive; when in the final year of my term as a councillor I fell victim to anxiety and depression partly in response to an online and offline campaign of transphobic harassment, Julian took the time to sit down with me over a cup of tea and offer his support.

In recognition of the support given to LGBT+ people, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats declared Julian one of our “six saints”, along with Lynne Featherstone, Stephen Gilbert, John Leech (who led the fight against homophobia in sport), Jo Swinson and Stephen Williams. These were people who we felt had gone above and beyond the call of duty to support LGBT+ people in parliament. All have now lost their seats and I think our parliament will be poorer for it.

I will feel Julian’s loss the most. He was my MP and my colleague. More that that though, he is my friend, and a friend to all trans people. I hope we will see him back in 2020, if not sooner. LGBT+ people need him, and more like like him.

Sarah Brown is a trans campaigner and former Cambridge councillor.

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