Senior Tory claims Labour have ‘hijacked’ Pride

A Conservative council leader has sparked anger with complaints that the LGBT Pride movement has been “hijacked” by the Labour Party.

The divisive claim comes from councillor Simon Cook, the Conservative leader of Canterbury City Council.

Writing on ConservativeHome, Cook said the local party would modernise as part of a campaign “to hold Canterbury City Council in 2019 and win back the parliamentary seat at the next General Election,” after the traditionally-Conservative seat in Parliament fell to Labour MP Rosie Duffield in 2017.

Cook wrote: “Where we need to, we are also challenging some voters’ perception of the Conservative party.

“For example, Canterbury Pride is the biggest Pride in Kent and local Conservatives have always played a vital role in organising and supporting it – but in the past, we have allowed Labour to hijack the event.

“This year, local Conservatives are a proud official sponsor of Canterbury Pride, so if you’d like to join us on 9th June, come to the main site in Dane John Gardens and we’ll see you there.”

Simon Cook (Canterbury Conservatives)

The claim that Labour had “hijacked” the event have been criticised by Pride organisers and Labour activists.

Many pointed out that former Tory MP for Canterbury Sir Julian Brazier, who was unseated in 2017, was a strong opponent of LGBT rights who voted against an equal age of consent for gay people, same-sex adoption, equal marriage and the repeal of Section 28.

Brazier previously claimed gay people getting married would “undermine a treasured institution and could have unforeseen consequences,” and just last year called for TV shows about transgender people to be censored to avoid “confusing” impressionable children.

Brazier was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours, traditionally signed off by the Prime Minister.

Conservative politician Julian Brazier (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Pride Canterbury chair Edd Withers told the BBC: “Pride Canterbury is for everyone in the LGBT+ community, no matter who they vote for, and so all mainstream political parties have been able to contribute financially to the event.

“We have had dialogue with both the local Labour party and the local Conservative party, both of which are taking part in the event at different levels.”

Labour’s Rosie Duffield pointed to Labour’s decades of support for LGBT rights and criticised the “incendiary” remarks.

Rosie Duffield at Canterbury Pride (Photo via Rosie Duffield)

She said: “I think we’ve got a long history of supporting LGBT equality and rights – rights in the workplace and rights in society.

“Perhaps we are the natural home for that. It’s great that the local Tories are much more open to those kinds of things, now, but nationally the Tories are still allied with the DUP, who have really backwards views on this.”

Duffield marched at Canterbury Pride in 2017 in her first appearance after getting elected.

Rosie Duffield at Canterbury Pride (Photo via Rosie Duffield)

The BBC also spoke to gay Conservative councillor Ben Fitter-Harding, who defended the remarks.

He said: “As Conservatives we tend to support something like Pride very quietly, in the background, working away… we’re not very good at making a big song and dance about things.

“That I regret because in the past couple of years, there’s been a really strong showing by Labour and unions like Unite. For me, a gay Conservative in Canterbury, that has felt a little bit intimidating, like my party isn’t represented.”