Tory MP ‘hit with vile homophobic threats’ after row over government’s shameful LGBTQ+ record

A gay Tory MP says he was hit with “homophobic abuse” and death threats a row over the government’s handling of LGBTQ+ rights.

Chris Clarkson, Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton, said the abuse began after Labour’s Chris Bryant named him among the LGBTQ+ politicians he was stunned to see back prime minister Boris Johnson.

It came as MPs debated a no confidence vote in the government, called by the government itself, on Monday (19 July).

“They [the Conservatives] deliberately drive wedges between people over gender identity and trans rights,” Bryant, who is gay, told the House of Commons.

“[They] ignore the fact that their own equalities minister [Mike Freer] resigned because he thought the government was creating a hostile environment for LGBT people. Which is why the honourable member for Heywood and Middleton [Clarkson] should be ashamed to defend this government.”

Clarkson claimed on Wednesday (20 July) he was inundated with hateful messages following the exchange.

He told the Commons: “All too predictably, the next morning, my inbox was full of the vilest, most threatening and homophobic abuse possible.

“It specifically referenced the honourable gentleman [Bryant] and support for what he said. This is not my first experience of senior members of the Labour party dishing out abuse and of my having to live with the consequences.”

He called on deputy speaker Eleanor Laing to ensure MPs are “mindful of the consequences of the language they use in the chamber”.

Chris Bryant walks down Westminster

Chris Bryant denounced the government’s handling of LGBTQ+ rights. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Laing replied: “It is unacceptable and extremely concerning that the honourable gentleman has had death threats”. She called on MPs to show “good temper and moderation”.

Bryant denied mentioning Clarkson’s sexuality in the debate – and stressed he’s received “plenty” of death threats himself.

“I would never, ever do so,” he said, adding: “That is simply untrue. I very much hope that the honourable member will withdraw that allegation.

“I certainly do think that there are problems relating to the way in which the government have created a hostile environment for LGBT people in this country.”

He added: “I of course, wholly abhor and hate the idea that anybody as a result of anything I might say, either in this chamber or anywhere else might have death threats addressed towards them.

“I have had plenty myself, and I have had the police at my house this week myself, so I wholly deplore that.”

In 2021, Bryant said he feels “physically less safe” than he did 30 years ago as a gay man, blaming the “Tory culture wars”.

Mike Freer, one of the UK’s most well-known LGBTQ+ MPs, was among the avalanche of more than 50 MPs who resigned from government as they lost confidence in Johnson’s leadership.

Stepping down as equalities minister on 6 July, he said Johnson had stoked an “atmosphere of hostility for LGBT+ people” during his tenure. Johnson resigned the following day, with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak now vying to replace him.

Johnson’s government has, among other things, excluded trans people from its conversion therapy ban, scrapped vital reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and given the green light to an immigration pact that will offshore queer asylum seekers to anti-LGBTQ+ Rwanda.

It refused to give non-binary people legal recognition, while ministers have attacked trans people from all sides, from calling for a ban on trans athletes to saying schools should not support trans young people.

PinkNews contacted Chris Bryant for comment.