The candidates for London mayor faced a grilling from gay voters today (14 April) at a mayoral debate hosted by Stonewall.
The current Conservative mayor Boris Johnson, his Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone, the openly gay Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick, and Green party candidate Jenny Jones sat in a packed theatre to answer questions from the public.
The debate was chaired by chief executive of the UK-based LGBT charity Stonewall Ben Summerskill as candidates hoped to gain votes for the election on 3 May.
Johnson was criticised for not making a single reference to homophobic hate crime or to the gay community in his 152 page manifesto, a document that lists women, children, the elderly, tourists and pets.
While Johnson said he would publish an LGBT manifesto in the next two weeks, Livingstone joked he could simply borrow his.
He stated there are LGBT liaison officers in each borough, a statement criticised by Livingstone and ex-deputy assistant commissioner of the police Paddick who said these positions were voluntary. The Liberal Democrat then stated there was only one permanent LGBT officer in the Metropolitan police.
The mayor was also criticised for removing the Greater London Assembly from the Stonewall equality index, a decision Johnson said had saved the GLA £2,000.
The current Mayor then pledged to re-join the programme after Summerskill said joining the index was free of charge.
Summerskill also asked Johnson to quit his journalism career to allow him to focus on the gay community and homophobia.
Johnson refused, and said he would rather spread the message of tolerance in his column at The Daily Telegraph. He also pointed out Livingstone occupied a similar position at The Independent during his time as London mayor.
Commenting after the debate Summerskill said: ‘It’s really impressive that all of the main mayoral candidates wanted to engage lesbian, gay and bisexual Londoners – something that would have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago.
‘What was particularly interesting was that many of the people in the audience were completely undecided about how they were going to vote, so clearly no-one should take London’s 350,000 gay voters for granted.’