London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for members of UKIP’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group to be allowed to take part in the capital’s annual Pride march later this month.
Plans by organisers to include the group sparked controversy with some members of the LGBT community due to the national party’s lack of support for gay rights and a series of homophobic comments made by some of its spokespeople.
After opponents launched a petition against the party’s inclusion, organisers said they would no longer be allowed to march as a formal grouping “in order to protect participants and ensure the event passes off safely and in the right spirit.”
In a statement they denied the decision had been made “on a political basis,” adding: “we aim to unite our community, not divide it, and our intention is to serve the whole of our community with an inclusive event, so to exclude any group is not a decision we take lightly.”
Flo Lewis, chair of LGBT in UKIP, has accused organisers of u-turning “under threats from, and complaints by, other members of the LGBT community.”
The annual event is part funded by City Hall and carries its “supported by the Mayor of London” branding on all publicity materials including its website.
That link spurred questions from members of all four parties on the London Assembly who queried the appropriateness of a publicly-funded event banning members of a lawful political party.
The Mayor has now joined those criticising the ban, which he says contradicts Pride’s “values of equality”.
Mr Johnson told MayorWatch: “I do not agree at all with this policy. I passionately believe in the Pride march and the values of equality it represents and think that all should be allowed to participate. I hope this is sorted out as soon as possible.”
City Hall says officials will be working with organisers to discuss security and stewarding arrangements to ensure all groups can take part in a positive atmosphere.