PinkNews Awards 2018: Former PM Tony Blair celebrates LGBT rights advancements

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has celebrated the change in attitudes towards LGBT+ people at the PinkNews Awards 2018.

“The country is united in appreciation of the LGBT+ community and in appreciation that LGBT+ is not against nature but a part of nature,” the former Labour leader said, speaking at the ceremony held on Wednesday (October 17) at Church House London and welcomed by enthusiastic applause.

Blair appeared at the event on stage to present the Lifetime Achievement Award, which honours the work of an individual or organisation throughout the decades, to the founders of LGBT+ rights group Stonewall.

The organisation will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its founding next year, as it was created in 1989 to campaign for the repeal of Section 28. The legislation was introduced the previous year by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and prohibited schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

The law was finally repealed in Scotland in 2000 and the rest of the UK in 2003 under the Blair government—one of several LGBT+ rights accomplishments that took place during the time New Labour was in power that the former prime minister highlighted in his speech.

Among the civil rights victories achieved during the Blair government were the equalisation of the age of consent (2001), the end of the ban on LGBT+ people serving in the armed forces (2000), the creation of civil partnerships (2004), adoption rights for LGBT+ parents (once the Adoption and Children Act of 2002 entered into force in 2005).


Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Stonewall founders, pose with former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Paul Grace)

“The greatest achievement was changing the cultural landscape,” Blair said, recognising the role of civil society organisations such as Stonewall in bringing about those changes.

He added: “They reached out and brought people on side. They liberated the nation’s mind and won its heart.

“There are many new challenges, many things still to do, but tonight it’s worth celebrating where we were, where we are, and celebrating the contribution of those who made a difference.”

Lisa Power MBE collected the award on behalf of all Stonewall founders, which included Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman. “When we started it, we had no idea we would be here 30 years later. We had some dreams, but many people have helped us along the way. Thank you to everyone,” she said.

Politicians such as Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable all presented awards at the ceremony, which was also attended by personalities such as broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire, performer Will Young, and the star of Channel 4’s series Humans Emily Berrington.

Read more: The complete list of winners of the PinkNews Awards 2018

The PinkNews Awards is supported by Lloyds Banking Group.