LGBTQ+ activists blast Liz Truss’s ‘disappointing and frightening’ Tory conference speech

Oct 05, 22
LGBTQ+ activists blast Liz Truss’s ‘disappointing and frightening’ Tory conference speech

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LGBTQ+ activists have said they’re “disappointed and frightened” after hearing Liz Truss’ Conservative Party conference speech.

In her lengthy keynote address, the prime minister didn’t touch on vital LGBTQ+ issues such as conversion therapy or trans rights.

She did however use her time at the podium to speak out in favour of stricter border policies.

Truss also said home secretary Suella Braverman is working on new powers that would allow the UK government to overrule rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.

A similar plan was previously developed by Dominic Raab in his much-criticised Bill of Rights, which was set to replace the Human Rights Act – however, Truss scrapped that when she became prime minister, with sources close to the prime minister describing it as a “complete mess”.

One of the stand out moments in Truss’ speech came when Greenpeace protesters stood up in the crowd and held up a banner reading: “Who voted for this?”

The prime minister was forced to stop her speech and asked that they be removed from the room.

Elsewhere, Truss spoke at length about what she described as the “anti-growth coalition”, which she said “prefers protesting to doing”.

“They prefer talking on Twitter to making tough decisions,” Truss said.

“They taxi from North London townhouses to the BBC studio to dismiss anyone challenging the status quo.”

She also reflected on her own upbringing, saying she grew up in a Labour controlled council that was “more interested in political correctness” than in improving school standards.

LGBTQ+ campaigners ‘disappointed and frightened’ by Liz Truss’ speech

Jayne Ozanne, an LGBTQ+ activist and conversion therapy survivor, told PinkNews that she found Truss’ speech – and the one delivered immediately beforehand by equalities minister Nadhim Zahawi – “really worrying”.

“Neither mentioned the government’s long-term commitment to banning conversion therapy and yet instead we had the renewed mantra of ‘fairness of opportunity’ rather than a commitment to equality,” Ozanne said.

“Perhaps most worrying of all was the announcement by the prime minister that she intends to bring in new legislation to ensure ‘that no European judge will be able to overrule us’ – which would imply that she intends to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore the Council of Europe? If so, where is her mandate to do so – the British people have not voted for this.”

A spokesperson for No 10 said that was a “mischaracterisation” of what Truss said.

“More legislation will be issued in due course,” a spokesperson told PinkNews. “That wouldn’t be how we would characterise her statement.”

Daniel Sohege is the director of Stand for All, an asylum advocacy organisations. He said Truss and Braverman’s asylum plans “demonstrated a rehashing of the same tired and inhumane policies which governments have been pitching for years”.

“Attacking European judges as Liz Truss did in her speech, particularly while talking about expanding the already harmful plan to deport vulnerable asylum seekers to Rwanda, demonstrates a continued lack of care about the human rights of those seeking safety,” Sohege told PinkNews.

We need to scrap the Rwanda deal and start building a humane and dignified immigration system that we can all be proud of.

Sohege said Truss’ speech shows just how “out of touch” her government is.

“What is needed, if we were to truly have a radical approach, is to ensure that there are safer and simpler means for people to seek asylum in the UK, and for politicians to stop fearmongering about a relatively small number of people who just need protection.”

That was echoed by Sebastian Rocca, CEO of Micro Rainbow, a charity that helps LGBTQ+ refugees find safe accommodation.

“We are very disappointed and frightened to see that Liz Truss is surrounding herself with and endorsing people like Suella Braverman who seems to have decided to lead with hate, by creating divisions and continuing a culture of scapegoating,” Rocca said.

A protester holds a placard describing the Rwanda deportations as dangerous for LGBTQ people during a demonstration.
The UK government is attempting to deport refugees to Rwanda. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty/Vuk Valcic)

“We need a prime minister who leads with knowledge, compassion and humanity.

“The government has already made a welcomed U-turn on the 45 per cent tax rate – we now need another U-turn to avoid turning the UK into a country that is famous for its cruel policies and attitudes towards people who need safety.

“We need to scrap the Rwanda deal and start building a humane and dignified immigration system that we can all be proud of.”

Truss urged to ban ‘barbaric’ conversion therapy

During her time as equalities minister, Truss repeatedly promised to ban conversion therapy – but legislation has not been brought forward in the four years since it was originally promised.

The status of a conversion therapy ban remains unclear.

Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley said Truss now has an opportunity to “deliver on her own commitments” and outlaw the “barbaric” practice.

“Countries around the world are increasingly adopting a ban that safeguards LGBTQ+ people from attempts to change who they are and the UK, which has historically been a leader in LGBTQ+ rights, is fast falling behind,” she said.

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