John Nicolson MP (SNP)
Or, never trust a Tory.
I have never for the life of me ever understood how any LGBT+ person in the UK can be a member of or support the Conservative Party. It really seems like turkeys voting for Christmas, and this is not personal on my part. Okay, so it is. I make no bones about the fact that I think all Tories are scum who need to meet with an accident down a dark close. But the fact is I could never support the Conservative Party, on the grounds that I am evolved way beyond the primordial soup and qualify as a human being.
But people of all sexualities and gender do exist within the Tories. Even the leader of the Scottish Conservatives (a rare and endangered species, on a par with porcine birds), Ruth Davidson, is openly lesbian and has been in a relationship with her partner for many years.
Therefore, with such diversity, the Tories can be trusted with LGBT+ legislation, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.
On Thursday, 20 October, John Nicolson, openly gay Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for East Dunbartonshire, tried to introduce a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons for legislation which would give wide-ranging pardons to gay and bisexual men still alive who were convicted of having sex with underage men when the gay age of consent was still 21. The Bill had previously received support from Conservative and Labour Party MPs, as well as Mr Nicolson’s own fellow SNP MPs. The Tories even promised not to block the Bill.
The Bill was touted as a “Turing Bill” or “Turing’s Law”, after the gay computer scientist Alan Turing, who was convicted of offences of gay sex with minors, underwent voluntary chemical castration, and subsequently took his own life. He was pardoned in 2012.
When the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons however, Conservative Justice Minister Sam Gyimah spoke on the government’s opposition to the bill. And he spoke on, and spoke on, and spoke on; eventually taking up the full 25 minutes of debate, when the Bill should have gone to the vote. There were cries of “shame” from supporters as it became clear that the government were deliberately setting out to scupper the Bill.
Mr Nicolson’s Sexual Offences (Pardons) Bill proposed a blanket pardon for all dead and living men convicted of sex with minors when gay age of consent was 21. The government opposition quite insidiously concentrated upon men convicted of sex with boys under 16, and victims of rape. This is wholly disingenious, as John Nicolson’s Bill had already taken such men into consideration and they would not be covered by the Bill.
Instead, the day before the Bill was to be read, the Tories did a deal with the Liberal-Democrat Party, accepting an amendment to the 2012 Policing and Crime Bill by (unelected) Lib-Dem Lord Sharkey, whereby those convicted but since deceased would be granted an automatic pardon, and those living could apply to the Home Office for a “disregard process” to clear their names. The all-too-obvious elephant in the room here is that the Sharkey amendment would automatically clear the names of dead men who did prey upon little boys and under-16 teens. Former Liberal leader Cyril Smith about to have his name cleared, anyone?
Besides which of course, many of the men convicted and still alive are very elderly, some in their 80s and 90s. Their lives already ruined, to ask them to go through the trauma of applying to have their names cleared is despicable and thoughtless beyond belief.
Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, stated “The living would have to apply for a disregard and only then would they be granted a pardon. The onus would be placed right back on the victims of injustice, which, I worry, rather reduces the quality of the apology being offered.”
I partially agree, except for one point; the planned amendment is not even an apology. It is a pardon, which still presumes guilt. Some Tory wets stand by this. Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, himself once convicted of having sex with a young man of under 21, stated on LBC Radio that as it was a crime when he was convicted, then there’s no need to apologise to him.
John Nicolson’s Bill would have set aside nearly 50,000 convictions, of which approximately 15,000 apply to men still alive today. It was a brilliant opportunity, which the government pretended to support, and then pulled that support at the last minute, then completely abused the procedures of the Westminster parliament to bury it.
John Nicolson later stated “I’m very disappointed that the Tory government decided to filibuster and talk out the Turing Bill.
“The bill was intended to be kind and bring closure to generations of gay and bisexual men found guilty of homophobic crimes no longer on the statute book.
“Many of these men are now elderly and have lived with unjust convictions for years – my bill would have given them an automatic pardon.
“I was delighted to receive cross party support from Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs so I was sad on their behalf as well as on behalf of the men that would have been pardoned to see the Tory Justice Minister use political manoeuvring to see off a popular bill.
“As MPs of all parties made clear today there was no good reason for the government to block this Bill. The compromise amendment being suggested instead does not go far enough to right the wrongs committed against these men and their families.
“The Tory whips promised that there would be ‘no tricks and no games’ on their side but it is to their shame that they broke their word.”
Really John? And what else do you expect from a heterosexual Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, who “changed her mind” on equal marriage and stood against adoption of children by gay parents, from heterosexual Sam Gyimah, and from equally heterosexual John Sharkey – whose own party leader, Tim Farron, is a God-botherer who abstained on the equal marriage vote?
Ain’t it amazing how all these straights seem to think they know what is best for us queers? Ever been patronised? You have now.
And of course, we all know what the real opposition to John Nicolson’s Bill was: “SNP BAD!”; to the government’s mind, if it’s an SNP idea, it must be opposed, simple as that.
Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; “I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.” (Virgil, Aeneid; alluding to the legend of the wooden horse of Troy)