Concerns have been raised that the organisers of London’s annual Pride celebrations “are straying into overt party political judgements” after they banned a UKIP group from taking part in this year’s parade.
Plans to include the party’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group in the march sparked controversy with some members of the LGBT community.
Citing UKIP’s lack of support for gay rights and a series of homophobic comments made by some of its politicians, opponents launched a petition against the party’s inclusion.
The move prompted organisers to announce on Friday “that UKIP’s application to join the Pride in London Parade, 27th June 2015, will be turned down.”
In a statement they said: “This decision has been made after careful consultation in order to protect participants and ensure the event passes off safely and in the right spirit, it has not been made on a political basis.”
“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 questioned the accuracy of Pride’s statement, saying: “The board of Pride in London have not decided to reject our application. Instead they have decided to rescind the invitation under threats from and complaints by other members of the LGBT community.”
In 2012 the annual event ran into financial difficulties after the previous organisers were unable to attract sufficient commercial support.
Mayor Boris Johnson stepped in to ensure the event proceeded, albeit in a scaled down form, and later awarded a five-year £500,000 grant to a new community-led group aimed at ensuring its future viability.
This weekend’s decision to ban members of a lawful political party from taking part has raised concerns at City Hall.
Darren Johnson, a Green party member of the London Assembly, says he’s worried that organisers “are straying into overt party political judgements” and says a distinction “needs to be made between UKIP as a whole, which clearly does contain some awful bigoted views, and the UKIP LGBT Group.”
Mr Johnson added: “As long as the latter group upholds the pro-equality principles of Pride like every other organisation taking part, they should not be banned.
“In the years before either Conservatives or Labour adopted pro-equality policies nationally and a number of their MPs routinely made horribly homophobic remarks, their gay campaign groups, quite rightly, were still allowed to march on Pride. The same should apply to UKIP.”
Mr Johnson’s comments were later backed by Labour’s Tom Copley and Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff:
— Tom Copley (@tomcopley) June 8, 2015
@MayorWatch It is not the role of pride to stop gay people marching.
— Andrew Boff (@AndrewBoff) June 8, 2015
In addition, Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon has tabled a question for this month’s Mayor’s Question Time session in which she asks the Mayor whether he accepts “that ultimately UKIP should be allowed to fully participate in this year’s Pride event?”
She also urges him to advise the organisers “that the exclusion of UKIP on ‘safety grounds’ is a dubious concept and potentially provides support to foreign authorities that ban LGBT groups from marching at all on such grounds.”