Westminster ‘world’s most gay Parliament’

Westminster
Westminster

Westminster has a higher proportion of openly gay and lesbian MPs than any other Parliament in the world, according to a study by US academics.

Some 32 openly gay or lesbian MPs were elected on May 7, making up 4.9 per cent of the House of Commons and far exceeding representation in countries like Sweden, which has 12 “out” MPs and the Netherlands, which has 10.

And with seven “out” MPs to join its five MSPs and one MEP, the Scottish National Party now has the highest proportion of self-declared LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) lawmakers of any party in the world, according to research by the University of North Carolina’s LGBT Representation and Rights Initiative.

Alongside the seven-strong SNP contingent – who include the Commons’ youngest member, 20-year-old student Mhairi Black – 13 Labour and 12 Conservative MPs are now openly gay.

The total of 32 was up from 26 in 2010, when there were 13 gay Tories, nine Labour and four Liberal Democrats on the green benches.

Far from being a hurdle to election, Initiative director Andrew Reynolds found that in some areas of the UK, being openly gay helped boost individual candidates’ votes.

Openly gay Conservatives performed “considerably better” than their straight colleagues, with 72 per cent enjoying larger vote share increases than the national trend.

Of 12 gay Tories standing for re-election, only Eric Ollerenshaw in Lancaster & Fleetwood lost his seat, and his loss was made up by the election of Ben Howlett in Bath.

Labour’s new MPs Wes Streeting and Peter Kyle generated two of the party’s biggest swings, in Ilford North and Hove, and all of the party’s nine incumbent LGBT candidates held onto their seats.

While all four LGBT Lib Dems – David Laws, Simon Hughes, Stephen Williams and Stephen Gilbert – were defeated, the report found that each of them “polled better than they probably should have had any right to do” on a disastrous night for the party.

The report suggested that, despite fears of a backlash over the coalition Government’s legalisation of gay marriage, Britain may have reached “a post-homophobic state of grace” where “being gay or straight barely registers on the hustings”.

Some 155 LGBT candidates stood at the May 7 election – 42 Conservatives, 39 Lib Dems, 36 from Labour, 21 Greens, seven Scottish Nationalists, six for Ukip, three Plaid Cymru and one from the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.