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Ken Livingstone ‘not homophobic’

Ken Livingstone ‘not homophobic’

London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone claims reports of comments he made about the Conservatives, in which he said the party was 'riddled' with gays, were taken out of context.

The Labour politician, who hopes to become the UK capital's next mayor after May's election, told the New Statesmen: '[The public] should be allowed to know everything, except the nature of private relationships – unless there is hypocrisy, like some Tory MP denouncing homosexuality while they are indulging in it.

'Well, the Labour ones have all come out…As soon as Blair got in, if you came out as lesbian or gay you immediately got a job. It was wonderful…you just knew the Tory party was riddled with it like everywhere else is.'

Speaking to LBC radio this morning, Livingstone defended his comments and responded to a complaint from gay Conservative MP Alan Duncan, saying it was a 'light-hearted' interview and shouldn't be taken seriously.

He added: 'Tory MPs who did nothing to defend lesbian and gay rights have seized on this because they want to spend the entire election talking about anything except fare increases and police cuts.'

Livingstone's spokesman told Gay Star News that he was clearly saying the advance of lesbian and gay people into politics is a good thing.

He said: 'Unlike many in the Conservative party, he has fought for equality for LGBT rights throughout his life, including when it was highly controversial.'

During his long political career, he established Britain’s first civil partnership register, fought Clause 28 and backed LGBT Pride.

Gay activist Peter Tatchell, who ran as a Labour candidate in the Bermondsey by-election in 1983, also stuck up for Livingstone, insisting he is not homophobic and was taken out of context by some publications.

'It was clearly not used with any homophobic intent. All parties have lots of gay and bisexual MPs, as Ken noted,' said Tatchell, who has helped spearhead campaigns for LGBT equality since the early 1970s.

He added: 'After Labour's election victory in 1997, many gay Labour MPs came out, while gay Tories remained in the closet and continued to vote against gay equality. Ken was making a simple statement of fact.'

Tatchell said Livingstone, who was voted the first Mayor of London and ran for eight years until losing to Boris Johnson in 2008, was correct to suggest the Conservatives were anti-gay in the 1980s and 90s.

He said: 'The Conservative party was avowedly anti-gay, while having many gay MPs.

'Lots of Tories opposed gay equality, despite their own homosexuality. They were hypocrites and homophobes.'