Sunak, Mordaunt and Tugendhat share LGBTQ+ priorities as Truss and Badenoch dodge questions

Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat.

Three of the five remaining Tory leadership candidates answered questions on their LGBTQ+ priorities ahead of the first televised debate on Friday (15 July).

While Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch did not respond to questions from LGBT+ Conservatives, the remaining three (Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt) pledged to tackle discrimination if they were to win the leadership bid.

Former chancellor Sunak claimed his priorities involved “ending new HIV transmissions by 2030”, as well as addressing rising LGBTQ+ hate crime. He did not offer any specifics.

When asked how he would address transphobia within the Conservative Party, Sunak said any “disagreements” should be handled with “respect and understanding” and “never descend into personal attacks”.

“Prejudice against trans people is wrong,” he said, stressing: “Robust debate and disagreement on policy issues must never descend into personal attacks.”

The Mail on Sunday quoted an ally of Sunak’s on 7 July as saying the ex-chancellor would fight gender-neutral language as PM.

“I don’t want anybody in Britain to have to hide who they are or who they love out of fear. I want this to be the safest and greatest country in the world to be LGBT+,” Sunak told LGBT+ Conservatives.

Mordaunt – who has come under fire for trying to appease the anti-trans faction since her leadership bid began, having previously been considered something of an ally – largely dodged the question on transphobia within the Tories.

“Tackling discrimination wherever it rears its head is vital,” the former equalities minister said. “The UK must be a force for good in the world to ensure we help and set an example to others developing their policies in this space.”

Her list of priorities for the LGBTQ+ community was similarly mealy-mouthed.

“Critical to delivering for the LGBT+ community at home and abroad is looking at how we improve the lives of LGBT+ people, especially access to public services and tackling discrimination at work,” Mordaunt said. “We must look at policy based based on the real experience of LGBT+ people.”

Tugendhat explained that his priority was “dignity, equality, and protection” for queer people.

He added that he was “hugely proud” of Jamie Wallis, the UK’s first openly trans MP, and that all the Tory party needs to do to tackle transphobia is “to do is reinforce dignity and respect” and “bridge the trust between communities and groups”.

No candidate mentioned conversion therapy, fertility treatment access, trans healthcare, GRA reform, non-binary recognition, LGBTQ+ asylum, inclusive education and anti-bullying policies, or any other tangible LGBTQ+ issue facing the population.

Nadhim Zahawi and former UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt were eliminated in the first round of the Tory leadership race on Wednesday (13 July), while attorney general Suella Braverman was knocked out of the race on Thursday (14 July). 

The five remaining candidates will face their first debate on Friday on Channel 4, presented by Channel 4 News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Two further debates will take place on Sunday (17 July) and Tuesday (19 July).

The candidates will continue to face votes from Tory MPs until a final two are left.

The pair will face off against each other in a series of husting events around the country where they will set out their plans for the nation. Conservative party members will then pick the winner in a postal vote.

Under the current rules, a new Tory leader will be announced by 5 September at the latest.