MP Luke Pollard tells Commons he’s a ‘massive gay’ to make important point on Qatar World Cup

A screenshot from MP Luke Pollard's Twitter account showing the MP talking in the House of Commons

Gay Labour MP Luke Pollard has called on the government to apologise for forcing LGBTQ+ people “back into the closet” and said it’s “not safe” for queer people to travel to Qatar for the World Cup.

In a speech made in the House of Commons, Pollard announced: “As an LGBTQ+ England fan it is not safe for someone like me to watch their team at the World Cup in Qatar.”  

His comment was in response to foreign office minister David Rutley, who had previously said Qatar has “repeatedly committed that everybody is welcome to the tournament”.

Qatar may have made some promises about the safety of LGBTQ+ fans, but that hasn’t stopped a World Cup ambassador calling queer people have “damage in the mind” and a Qatar journalist saying they are “abnormal”.

“We will continue to encourage equal treatment and the respect of individual rights, and identify what action the Qatari authorities are taking to match their commitment,” Rutley said.

In response Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, stood up and said: “I declare an interest as a massive gay, but as an England-supporting homosexual it is not safe for someone like me to watch the World Cup in Qatar. 

“Because of the human rights abuses of migrant workers and Qatar’s LGBT population, I personally, don’t think Qatar should ever have been awarded a major sporting competition. 

“So, will the minister back the home nations’ captains in wearing a rainbow armband when they play at the World Cup?” he enquired. 

He then called out the actions of foreign secretary James Cleverly and stated that it is never OK to ask queers fans to “get back in the closet”. 

“Can he [Rutely] apologise for foreign secretary’s remarks that LGBT fans should somehow show compromise because it is never acceptable for a government minister to force LGBT people back into the closet.”

Cleverly told football fans travelling to Qatar to be “respectful” of the host nation and “compromise” with the country where homosexuality remains illegal, and anyone convicted of same-sex activity can be punished by up to seven years in prison. 

Rutley responded to confirm that the “priority” is the “safety of all British nationals” travelling to the World Cup. 

He added: “LGBT+ rights is an issue the UK prioritises internationally and we continue to engage with the Qatar authorities on this issue.

“Many sportsmen and women use their platform to do important work across a range of issues, that’s their personal choice.

“The UK Government stands by our values and our teams stand by the values of our home nations.”

Ahead of the tournament, which starts on 20 November, LGBTQ+ football fans have been repeatedly reassured that they will be able to attend the World Cup in Qatar safely, with FIFA stating that it has a “strategic programme of concrete measures” in place for the event.

Chief executive of the Football Association (FA), Mark Bullingham, promised that fans will not face arrest for holding hands or kissing at the World Cup, but Qatar’s ambassador to the UK has said LGBTQ+ couples should be mindful of “public displays of affection”.

Despite these attempts of assurance, it hasn’t been enough to ease queer people’s concerns about the possibility of being prosecuted in the country.