John Bercow on LGBT lessons row: ‘You can’t appease bigots and homophobes’

Speaker for the House of Commons John Bercow made a clear statement on the ongoing LGBT-inclusive lessons debate, saying: “You can’t appease bigots and homophobes.”

In reference to the parents opposing the ‘No Outsiders’ lessons programme, he said: “In my experience as a Member of Parliament for more than 20 years, I often find that when people say, ‘We haven’t been properly consulted,’ what they really mean is, ‘You haven’t done what I told you to do.'”

In his typical forthright style, Bercow continued: “Secondly, again on the strength of experience, we cannot appease bigots and homophobes; we have to confront them and defeat them.

“My strong sense is that there is unity across the House in that conviction.”

The statement was shared on Twitter to resounding approval.

Bercow is a fervent supporter of LGBT+ rights, and previously added pink triangles and the words “All are equal” to his official coat of arms to reflect this.

Government urged to stop “misinformation” on LGBT+ lessons

Bercow made the comments in Parliament on Tuesday (July 16). The issue was raised by the Labour MP Emma Hardy, who asked the Secretary of State for Education how he is countering misinformation about relationship education in schools.

Last week Hardy wrote a letter co-signed by nearly 70 MPs calling for stronger backing for schools on providing LGBT-inclusive lessons.

As Damian Hinds was absent from Parliament, her question was instead answered by the Minister of State for Education, Nick Gibb.

He said he was “aware that misinformation is circulating” but maintained the Department for Education is combatting this by publishing shareable infographics and guides for parents, sending emails to teachers and having conversations with the National Association of Headteachers.

Protesters believe that if they make enough noise, and turn up with loudhailers and hurl abuse at headteachers, other schools will back down, too.

Hardy countered that a BBC Panorama programme broadcast on Monday (July 15) suggested the government applied pressure on Parkfield School to suspend its equality programme in order to get the school out of the national news.

She said: “This has led to copycat protests elsewhere, as protesters believe that if they make enough noise, and turn up with loudhailers and hurl abuse at headteachers, other schools will back down, too.

“There is a desperate need for clear, firm leadership from the Department.”

Protestors lined up outside of Parkfield School, Birmingham

People demonstrate against the No Outsiders programme, which teaches children about LGBT rights, at Parkfield Community School (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Gibb responded that the guidance published is “a well-crafted document that has received widespread support.”

He stressed the importance of allowing schools to decide what and when to teach, and that simply “telling” schools to teach the programme “would not have achieved the consensus” needed.

“A large number of schools would not have adopted the guidance,” he said. “It has been very successfully landed, because of the careful way that we have done this.”

But Jess Philips, the Labour MP for the Birmingham constituency at the centre of the debates, disagreed. “If the Minister thinks the guidance is right, he might want to come and live where I live for a while, because it clearly is not working,” she said.