Boris Johnson apologises to LGBT+ advisers forced to quit over ‘hostile environment’

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has apologised to the three members of the government’s LGBT+ Advisory Panel who quit this week over inaction on conversion therapy and a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people.

Jayne Ozanne was the first to quit the LGBT+ Advisory Panel on Wednesday (10 March), and was followed hours later by James Morton and Ellen Murray.

When asked about the delay in delivering a conversion therapy ban during a visit to Queen’s University Belfast on Friday (12 March), Johnson told reporters: “I think this practice is repulsive and I think it’s abhorrent and I’m sorry these advisers have gone but be in no doubt that we will deal with this issue.

“It is technically complex to deal with but we’re determined to take further steps to stamp it out.”

The resignations of the three LGBT+ advisors came on the back of a parliament debate on conversion therapy, more than two and half years since the Tories pledged in 2018 to “eradicate” the abhorrent practice in the UK as part of their LGBT+ Action Plan.

Under-secretary of state for equalities Kemi Badenoch was widely criticised for giving a “vague” speech during the debate, in which she gave no timeline, mentioned no specifics relating to potential legislation and repeatedly refused to use the word “ban” in relation to conversion therapy.

Liz Truss promised to bring forward a conversion therapy ban “shortly”.

On the same day as the statement by Boris Johnson, equalities minister Liz Truss promised to bring forward a ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy “shortly”, leaving campaigners cautiously optimistic.

Jayne Ozanne, who also quit her membership of the Conservative Party on the same day that she resigned from the LGBT+ Advisory Panel, said in a statement: “I am pleased to hear that Liz Truss has now, finally and unequivocally said that she will ‘ban’ conversion therapy.

“However, the devil remains in the detail. We will need to wait and see whether she will protect everyone from harm or just a few.

“Particularly, we will be watching closely to see whether she prioritises protecting vulnerable LGBT+ victims, who often believe they are ‘doing the right thing’ by agreeing to go through ‘conversion therapy’, over appeasing religious pressure groups who want to a door left open so that they can continue with this horrendous practice.”

At the time of her resignation, Ozanne told ITV that she was particularly concerned that trans people and adults who had consented to conversion therapy would be overlooked in the legislation.

On Kemi Badenoch’s speech, Ozanne said that that while the under-secretary of state for equalities did discuss the need to protect minors, she showed “no understanding” of the “impact conversion therapy has on adults, like myself, who consented to it, but nearly ended up dying because of it”.

She said that Badenoch and Truss were “known among the community as the ‘ministers for inequality'”, and added: “I don’t believe that they understand LGBT+ people, particularly transgender people.”