Tony Blair says LGBT progress only happened because of ‘tireless’ campaigners

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that progress on LGBT+ rights only happened because of those who “campaigned tirelessly” for change.

The former Labour leader was a keynote speaker at the PinkNews Awards ceremony held in London on October 17, where he presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to the founders of LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.

Speaking to PinkNews, Blair said that change only happened “because people got up and made it happen.”

He also said he is glad that there is now consensus among major political parties that LGBT+ rights need to be advanced.

“I’m sure they can always do more. I’m sure they should do more,” Blair said of the current Conservative government led by Prime Minister Theresa May. “But the very first debates I used to attend in the House of Commons, there were speeches of prejudice and bigotry that today would be completely unthinkable.

“Even though I’m not from the Conservative party, one of the positive things that has emerged over the past couple of decades has been the Conservative party joining the Labour party in consensus over gay issues. That’s a big achievement I think.”

He also addressed his own time in government, and said that he “always wanted to have gone further and done it faster” in furthering LGBT+ rights, however he also said that he was operating in a different climate.

(Noam Galai/Getty)

“When I look back frankly on what we did do, it was a lot. Sure, we could have done more, but I think we’re proud of what we did do.”

In a speech delivered to the PinkNews Awards attendees, Blair said that the country “is united in appreciation of the LGBT+ community and in appreciation that LGBT+ is not against nature but a part of nature.”

Stonewall was set up in 1989 to campaign for the repeal of Section 28, legislation that was introduced the previous year by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The legislation prohibited schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

Tony Blair (Paul Grace)

The law was finally repealed in Scotland in 2000 and the rest of the UK in 2003 under the Blair government .

Among other civil rights victories that happened during Blair’s time as Prime Minister included 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), and adoption rights for LGBT+ parents (once the Adoption and Children Act of 2002 entered into force in 2005).