Kate Osborne blasts government rhetoric after homophobic abuse: ‘We will not be silenced’

Kate Osborne

Labour MP Kate Osborne has spoken out after being sent vile homophobic abuse and blamed government rhetoric for emboldening those who employ hate speech. 

The veteran LGBTQ+ activist, who has been the MP for Jarrow in Tyne and Wear since 2019, received a barrage of homophobic abuse via email and social media following an appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight

This is not the first time the Labour politician has faced homophobic abuse. In 2022, her own constituent was convicted of harassing her with “homophobic content” and in the same month, she discovered a vulgar poster stuck to a lamppost which called her a “militant commie, rug munching fake MP”.

Osborne – who worked for Royal Mail for 25 years – appeared on Newsnight for a single issue interview to discuss the ongoing Post Office scandal, which saw more than 900 subpostmasters prosecuted for shortfalls at their branches due to errors in the Post Office’s Horizon accounting software.

Speaking exclusively with PinkNews about the abuse, Osborne said it had “astounded” her that discussing a topic completely unrelated to LGBTQ+ rights would result in people attacking her sexuality, labelling the abuse “obviously unacceptable and disgraceful”. 

“Your hate won’t win,” is Osborne’s message to the trolls and bigots. “And to the people that are receiving it to stay strong: we will not be silenced.” 

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She noted that whilst politicians will likely always be open to a “certain level of abuse” due to the nature of their work, Osborne says women, LGBTQ+ folks and her Black and ethnic minority colleagues face the most trolling and online attacks. 

Research has previously shown that a majority of female MPs received online and verbal abuse from the public and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women MPs suffer significantly higher rates of abuse than their white counterparts. 

Whilst research on the abuse levelled at LGBTQ+ politicians specifically is more scant, the experiences of Chris Clarkson, Luke Pollard and many others have been well documented in the press and on social media. 

Osborne says the blame for this emboldened speech sits squarely with the government’s rhetoric and the anti-LGBTQ+ narratives it is pushing through policies. 

“I do feel like the progress that was made through the 80s and 90s, or even into the noughties, is being damaged and rode back partly because of the rhetoric that the government and other people use at times,” the Jarrow MP continues.

“It is normalised and I think that’s what we mustn’t do, we mustn’t allow this kind of hatred regardless of what minority group or whoever it’s aimed at. We mustn’t normalise it.

“It’s the government and how they speak, the language they use, the rhetoric they use, their ‘war on woke’ and I think we’ll see it more and more going into the election period.” 

Osborne went on to say that while the Tories see that “kind of hate” as “some kind of vote winner”, the people she speaks with and constituent emails she receives are predominantly “people who are struggling to pay their bills and want support and help in their everyday life”. 

“[They] very rarely mention anything around LGBTQ+ people and most people, I believe, just want to live and let live. They have other more serious things to think about than other people’s sexuality, or whatever.”

Kate Osborne has faced homophobic abuse before (Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images)

In recent months, LGBTQ+ voters have been expressing increasing concerns about the Labour Party’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights alongside that of the Conservative government, mainly regarding trans rights and the topics of trans pupils in schools, gender-affirming care, single-sex spaces and self-ID. 

Voters have been critical of Keir Starmer’s fence-sitting on trans issues, the party’s backslide on its commitment to introducing self-ID and controversial Labour MP Rosie Duffield’s views.

Earlier this month, Duffield was cleared of transphobia and antisemitism by Labour’s National Executive Committee. 

Just this week, Laura Pascal – Labour’s candidate for the by-election in Hackney’s Cazenove – was suspended and reinstated three days later following an investigation into complaints of transphobic social media activity. On Thursday (18 January), she lost the by-election to Conservative candidate Ian Sharer, who took the seat with 53.8 per cent of the vote. 

Addressing this topic, Kate Osborne said: “In my view, it doesn’t matter what your political allegiance or colours are, homophobia and transphobia is completely unacceptable on every level by anyone. 

“I don’t accept it from anyone. I would call out anybody who used any kind of hate language as being unacceptable and it’s disappointing that somebody who is looking to be a representative within my party would use that kind of language.”

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

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