A country at a crossroads 

Today our country stands at a crossroads: by placing a small cross in a box we are making a monumental decision about which path our country takes. With  less than one hour until polling stations close I feel an immense feeling of fear and anticipation.

In recent years British politics has moved towards the middle ground. People have complained that there has been very little choice between the main political parties. This election has changed that. The campaigns of Labour and the Conservatives have been polar opposites: Labour have focused on public services ‘for the many’ whilst the Conservatives have been fixated on Brexit and May’s ‘strong and stable’ leadership. In many ways I welcome this variation; we finally have a clear choice with parties sticking to their core values rather than squabbling for the centre ground of politics. 

Six weeks ago nobody would have thought that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign would have been such a success. As a Labour voter I have been pleasantly surprised by his professional and robust campaign that has sparked both curiosity and admiration. Slowly, but surely, Corbyn has proved his critics wrong with a Labour campaign that gathered pace as we headed towards polling day. Whilst the last six weeks have not been a completely smooth path for Labour it has been a far bumpier ride for Mrs May and her counterparts. People have started to become numb to her tired rhetoric and the broken record of Brexit: their campaign has felt miscalculated. 

Our vote today is about more than Brexit: it is about the direction of our country. Yes, the winner of this election will lead us through negotiations to leave the EU but they will also be responsible for our NHS, education system and care of our elderly. Whatever the outcome of this election we will have learnt a few things:

1. Mrs May underestimated Corbyn’s ability to create a campaign that would ignite a passion for a fairer Britain.

2. Our country is more than Brexit and any politician who has neglected important issues such as education has misjudged our country’s priorities.

3. Young people have been inspired to take an interest in politics and vote.

The path chosen by the British people, at this time, remains unclear but, over the coming hours we will learn the direction of the country for the next five years. 

Dear Theresa May: an open letter

Dear Theresa May

The appalling and shocking news of the treatment of gay men in Chechnya cannot have escaped your attention; there have been reports of LGBT people being rounded up, tortured, beaten and placed in a form of concentration camp. There has been outcry on social media and protests to show solidarity and raise awareness of the situation. At the time of writing this I am concerned that no senior member of government has spoken out about these autrocities. I hope this letter outlines why it is essential for you to publically address this situation and explain how the British government can help put an end to this crisis.

The recent events in Chechnya are a sobering reminder that many LGBT people across the world still live in fear and under threat of persecution. When news such of this reaches us silence is not an option. In Great Britain we are fortunate to be able to live freely and marry whoever we choose; the law protects all of our citizens no matter their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. This freedom has not come easily: individuals and groups of people have fought to be treated equally in this country and recent events remind us that rights can be taken away as well as won. Communities across Britain have come together to protest against events in Chechnya with the aims of showing solidarity with those facing persecution as well as attempting to put pressure on our government to speak out and act.

Russian attitudes towards members of the LGBT community is anything but supportive; there have been numerous stories of people being mistreated in the country whilst it is illegal to discuss homosexuality with people under the age of 18. The last LGBT execution in Russia was in 1996 and, whilst it is currently suspended, the death penalty for homosexuality in still part of the country’s laws. The Kremlin has denied any knowledge of the events in Chechnya and the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that the reports cannot be true as there are no gay men in Chechnya. Applications for LGBT asylum in Britain are up 40 per cent. My question to you, Mrs May, is: ‘What can you do about this?’.

A group of cross party MEPs have recently written to you requesting that you make a public statement to outline the government’s position and have also asked you to call an immediate meeting with the Russian ambassador. Currently neither of these things have been done. It is appalling that no senior official has made a statement over a week after this news surfaced. At a demonstration in Norwich on Thursday evening, I was proud to hear that our MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, has launched an Early Day Motion regarding the mistreatment of gay men in Chechnya. The British government must discuss this issue in Parliament and stand up against this injustice; an inability to do this sends a message of acceptance. What value does Britain place on LGBT rights?

Rights for groups of people around the globe have been hard won and must therefore be hard protected. As the leader of one of the most powerful and influential countries, silence is not an option: stand up for what is right.

Yours sincerely,

The Gutsy Gay

Dear Daily Mail

Dear Daily Mail

I am writing regarding your front page on Tuesday 28th March which included a picture of Nicola Sturgeon and Teressa May with the caption ‘Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!’.  I am aware that you have received much media attention and criticism regarding this matter and I wanted to take the time to express my deep concern for the message your newspaper is presenting.

When driving home from work today I heard commentary on the radio condemning the headline and the subsequent article that made similar comments including that their ‘pins’ were their ‘finest weapons’.  I have to admit that I assumed that this was written by a man; it did not even enter my head that a woman would choose to objectify the two most influential women in Great Britain in this way.  On my arrival home I learnt that this article was in fact written by a woman: Sarah Vine. I was appalled. I immediately questioned why a woman would choose to lead on this highly important story with this tone.

Your later attempt to passify the outcry fell on deaf ears; referring to Vine’s comments as ‘lighthearted’ emphasises your inability to give the public what we want. We do not want our politicians objectified and we do not want important news stories to be made light of.  This is a turning point in British history and the public want facts and educated opinions rather than trivial, sexist comments.  As a historian, it both upsets and worries me that making comments about female politicians’ bodies and clothes is printed in our national newspapers, let alone making headline news. As a high school teacher, it concerns me that young people are subjected to this media coverage. Young girls are suffering more than ever from a lack of body confidence and mental health issues due unrealistic media expectations: you have a duty of care to ensure that your coverage does nothing to exaggerate this growing problem. It is bad enough that, due in part to media coverage, young women and girls already have poor body confidence, without the issue being reinforced, or even amplified, by today’s message that no matter how successful you are as a woman, you will never be more than the sum of your body parts.

Your response to critics telling us to ‘get a life’ is appalling: listen to the public and hear our disgust, do not ignore us. Vine’s comment of ‘that’s just what’ tabloid newspapers do is equally ignorant: you can make the news more accessible without causing outcry and offence.

I have no doubt that you will continue to report the news in the blunt and obtuse way that you always do but please be aware that this will always be met with scorn and criticism.

Yours faithfully

The Gutsy Gay