Should UKIP – a party accused of homophobia and transphobia – be allowed to march at Pride in London?
My very dear friend Scott Flashheart thinks so. In a commentary on Gay Star News, he argues that freedom of expression is at the core of the Pride festival. Banning UKIP would equate to censoring this very freedom and undermine everything that Pride stands for, is Scott’s argument.
While I understand his logic, I disagree vehemently. I believe UKIP should be banned from walking at Pride in London.
Every year, Pride in London sends a signal of love, acceptance and LGBTI liberation to the world.
Pride in London is not just a big street party! It is a beacon of hope to every LGBTI person in the world; be they persecuted by oppressive regimes, struggling with coming out, or bullied in their workplace or school.
The Pride festival in London is one of the biggest on the planet. It is precisely the people who march from Marylebone to Trafalgar Square who send out these rays of acceptance and love. They signify a society that values diversity and will stand up for equality.
In contrast, since its birth into the political spectrum, UKIP has been a magnet for politicians and voters with extremely distasteful right-win political views. In fact, most UKIP votes in the last general election came from people who previously voted far-right British National Party (BNP); or who felt the once anti-gay Conservatives no longer represented them.
Admittedly, in a bid to become more mainstream, UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage stated it was not longer on his immediate agenda to reverse equal marriage. However, up until election day, incidents of hate speech and inappropriate behavior by UKIP candidates were reported weekly. Most of them were kicked out of the party, but only after they had caused it national embarrassment.
Of course, it cannot be said that there are no LGBTI members in UKIP. And yes, Pride belongs to them, too. However, this does not make UKIP a LGBTI-friendly party. Until now, UKIP has opposed every political initiative that has advanced our equality.
So I ask you, why would UKIP want to march at Pride in London, at all?
If it UKIP’s LGBT faction – they should come to Pride. Just as every person who identifies as LGBTI or is a supporter of equal rights, they are more than welcome to attend Pride and celebrate how far we have come.
But they should leave the party banners at home.
Allowing UKIP to use the Pride festival’s positive message of acceptance and equality for a party rebrand is unacceptable. As long as the gross of UKIP remains a political force attempting to inhibit the very values Pride stands for, it would make a mockery of the festival if UKIP marched at it. If they want to march, they have to change.