British political party Liberal Democrats are being accused of homophobia during a by-election campaign.
Gay Conservative Adrian Amer was beaten by straight Liberal candidate Rebekah Moll by just 23 votes yesterday (5 July) in Kingston Grove, a constituency of south-west London.
The Lib Dems released leaflets saying ‘It’s always a straight fight in Grove ward,’ with Amer painted as the ‘unknown candidate’.
Following the announcement of Moll’s likely win, chief executive of UK-based gay rights charity Stonewall Ben Summerskill tweeted: ‘Shocking, really shocking, that people are getting elected to public office in 2012 on a ‘straight choice’ platform.’
Chairman of LGBTory, the Conservative party’s LGBT group, Matthew Sephton said he was also shocked to hear about the allegations of homophobic campaigning.
He said: ‘Talk of a ‘straight fight’ or a ‘straight choice in such a campaign is at best insensitive and at worst a poor veil for blatant prejudice.’
A spokesman from the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats told Gay Star News that no one had ever heard of Amer being gay at all, and it was his own party that brought his personal life into the public.
Local newspaper Surrey Comet reported the leader of Kingston Liberal Democrats Derek Osborne had laughed off the accusations.
He said: ‘There will be a lot of people roaring with laughter about this. It is nonsense. I doubt any of us knew he was gay.
‘It is just an expression that we use in our leaflets and have been using for a long time – because it is a two horse race. Homophobic? Bizarre beyond belief.’
Summerskill said the campaign was an echo of the 1983 Bermondsey-by election which was drowned in homophobia.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was running for a Labour seat and future Liberal Democrat leader Simon Hughes was the opposition.
Male Liberal canvassers were seen wearing badges saying ‘I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell’, and leaflets ran describing the contest as a ‘straight choice’.
When challenged about the leaflets on BBC TV show Newsnight in 2006, Hughes now openly gay admitted it was an ‘unacceptable form of language’ and ‘those are the sort of things that shouldn’t have happened’.