On 5 May, Londoners will vote to elect a successor to Mayor Boris Johnson, undoubtedly one of the major personalities on the UK political stage today and top dog in London’s political scene.
The candidate line-up for what is now one of the most powerful and visible political offices in the land is as diverse as the population of the capital itself.
Next week, on the very first day of the official campaign, five of those candidates will be grilled about their plans to improve life for LGBTI Londoners.
All of the major party candidates, including the leading contenders, Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Conservative Zac Goldsmith, will participate in a mayoral hustings hosted by Pride in London and supported by Gay Star News.
Freedoms on paper, not enjoyed by all
When you consider the freedoms now enshrined in law it’s easy to believe the substantive fight for LGBTI equality has effectively reached its conclusion.
But leading voices, such as Lord Cashman, rightly condemn such complacency and point to the challenges that still lie ahead.
Last year, Pride in London introduced our Political Pledge calling on London politicians to work together to make London the best city in the world to be LGBTI.
We want London to be a beacon for inclusion and equality, a place which wholly accepts our basic human dignity and rallies against intolerance. Free to be ourselves, on par with our straight, cisgender brothers and sisters.
We need the mayor to lead
The Pledge centers around three fundamental freedoms – the freedom to be safe, healthy and visible.
Today, our community is still subject to attack, intimidation and threats. Hate crime statistics reveal shocking increases in homophobic crimes in London. While the introduction of better reporting practices undoubtedly helps victims speak out, the sad truth remains the freedom to be safe is not one enjoyed across the community.
Members of our community suffer from health inequalities, including poorer mental and emotional health, higher rates of alcohol and drug use and higher rates of smoking, with the consequent illnesses that stem from these.
Trans and bi people, black and minority ethnic and young people suffer disproportionately with mental health issues and these groups are also more likely to suffer homelessness.
STI rates among LGBTI Londoners are reaching crisis levels and HIV infections continue to rise. Central to the solution is the availability of inclusive screening facilities which welcome and embrace the diversity of our community.
Whether it’s a lack of positive education around LGBTI issues in our schools, the erosion of safe spaces across the capital, the invisibility of bisexual people or trans rights – our freedom to be visible remains unfulfilled.
The Pledge calls on those elected to lead our great city to champion these fundamental freedoms and continue the fight for real equality across every street and borough of London.
We have received cross party political support from local, national and European politicians representing London who have committed to working together to achieve this goal.
The two front runners in the race to succeed Boris Johnson have given their support to the pledge, as indeed have many of the other candidates in the race.
I challenge you to remember that time you felt a little less safe, a little less visible, a little less healthy, a little less you. Ask those who already represent you or are seeking a mandate whether they have a plan to tackle the social division which holds us back? If they don’t the Pride in London Pledge is a good place to start.
Will the next mayor be an advocate for our community, boldly challenging the status quo and delivering real change across the city?
Tune in on social media on 21 March and find out – follow the hashtag #PrideHustings.
Gay Star News is a media partner of Pride in London and the hustings.