New prime minister Rishi Sunak divides LGBTQ+ activists and MPs

Rishi Sunak in front of No 10

New prime minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to build bridges with the LGBTQ+ community.

Sunak was confirmed as the new leader of the Tory party after the only other candidate, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race Monday (24 October).

Boris Johnson had quit the race – without officially declaring his candidacy – the night prior.

It’s expected that Sunak will take office Tuesday after an audience with the King.

Jayne Ozanne, the former government LGBTQ+ advisor and anti-conversion therapy campaigner, was among those to congratulate Sunak.

She urged him to rebuild the Tory party’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community – the party has been condemned for dropping trans people from a conversion therapy ban, for condemning LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to possible death with its Rwanda asylum plan, and for creating an overall toxic environment for LGBTQ+ people.

Ozanne told PinkNews: “In congratulating Mr Sunak on his appointment as prime minister, I would urge him to prioritise the needs of those who are feeling the most vulnerable and scared at this time of extreme uncertainty.

“This includes members of the LGBT+ community, many of whom live in constant fear given the toxic nature of the debate over trans rights, exemplified by soaring hate crime statistics.

“He has an opportunity to address these concerns directly by giving a clear commitment to a full ban on ‘conversion therapy’ and abolishing the barbaric Rwanda asylum policy.

“Moreover, I hope he will look to reset the clock in relation to the Tory party’s disastrous relationship with the LGBT+ community over the past few years.”

Tory MP and former equalities minister Mike Freer said: “Congratulations to Rishi Sunak on becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party – and therefore prime minister in the coming days.

“The challenges facing this country are great and uncertain times lay ahead – but it is vital that we come together to deliver for the country.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was less hopeful.

“Rishi offered nothing to the LGBT+ community during his leadership campaign,” he told PinkNews. “I am not hopeful about any progress on banning conversion therapy or reform of the Gender Recognition Act under his premiership.”

Tatchell called for an immediate election, adding: “Rishi has no mandate for anything. He was not elected by the British people. He was selected by a tiny group of just over 100 Tory MPs.

“There has to be a general election to ensure that our prime minister and his policies have a public mandate.

“Changing prime minister and government policies twice without an election is not democratic.”

This echoed Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who tweeted on Sunday (23 October): “Virtually everyone we spoke to on the doorstep wants a general election now.

“Incomes haven’t kept up with soaring living costs for over a decade – because of decisions made by a Party that is now imploding.

“If Tory MPs have a shred of respect for democracy, they’ll force one.”

And after his coronation, Whittome added: “Rishi Sunak as prime minister isn’t a win for Asian representation.

“He’s a multi-millionaire who, as chancellor, cut taxes on bank profits while overseeing the biggest drop in living standards since 1956.

“Black, white or Asian: if you work for a living, he is not on your side.”

After Liz Truss’s resignation, activists told PinkNews that the next prime minister has “an opportunity to unite the country”.

Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at trans charity Gendered Intelligence, said: “Truss failed to deliver on the ban on conversion practices she promised as minister for women and equalities.

“After Keir Starmer’s commitment to a comprehensive ban at the PinkNews Awards, it’s now up to the Tories to get a bill across the line soon or face the consequences from voters.

“The public want it, the LGBT+ community need it, and it might be the only way to turn around the party’s spiralling approval ratings.”

Sebastian Rocca, CEO of LGBTQ+ asylum charity Micro Rainbow, called on the next prime minister could drop the Rwanda plan.

“This is not a humane policy. This is not a policy that any prime minister can be proud of,” Rocca told PinkNews.

However, Sunak has previously backed the Rwanda plan, suggesting he could change the law so that the plan can proceed.