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Will a new Prime Minister ban trans conversion therapy?

Trans Conversion Therapy
Ben HEad

Ben Howlett

Chair, LGBT+ Commission & CEO of Chamber

The next few weeks are not just going to decide who is our next Prime Minister, they are going to choose whether conversion therapy is going to be banned for all LGB and T people.

It does not take a deep dive analysis to decide which of the candidates for the Conservative leadership race have a better track record on equality issues, but some candidate’s private views will surprise you.

Boris Johnson’s U-turn

As car crash policy announcements go from a communications point of view, the decision to exclude trans conversion therapy from a future Conversion Therapy Ban Bill was up there.

The decision clearly surprised campaigners after the Conservative Party had committed to a ban in their manifesto, but worryingly, it also stunned the then Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer as well as the Secretary of State, Liz Truss.

Prior to his departure, it is understood that the Minister was working behind the scenes with Number 10 trying to persuade them of the merits for an inclusive ban. The 60+ Members of Parliament that had written to the soon-to-be former Prime Minister to ask him to bring forwards an inclusive ban for the trans community was cited as a reason for bringing forwards an inclusive ban.

Should the legislation be bought forwards, it was clear that there would be egg on the Government’s face when MPs put down amendments to include a ban on trans conversion.

Surprising support

What is surprising is that leadership contender and current Secretary of State for Equalities, Liz Truss privately agrees.

She has been working behind the scenes alongside the then Minister Freer to persuade Number 10 of its merits. Truss has long been a supporter of the LGBT+ community. Not just with episodes of robotic dancing at the Conservative Party Conference Pride Party, but also in terms of policy.

To her credit, she had been working to change Downing Street’s view. However, as one of the favourites for the Conservative Party leadership, it will be interesting to see whether her public position will match her private views.

Conservatives support a ban on trans conversion therapy

Recent polling has suggested that 58% of Conservatives support a conversion therapy ban for gender identity. I repeat, a majority of conservative voters support a ban on conversion therapy for trans people. Only 19% are against.

If you were a Conservative candidate for the leadership contest browsing the newspapers, you may conclude that a majority of conservatives are against a trans inclusive ban on conversion therapy.

I implore all candidates to consider the polling, understand the facts. Yes, it is likely that the hustings will bring up the issue to try and trip you up, but with a considered and evidence-based approach, they may replicate what David Cameron achieved for the Conservative Party’s reputation with equal marriage for the trans community by making the conversion therapy bill trans inclusive.

50 years of Pride

Consensus is a rare thing in politics, however after one of the most turbulent weeks in British politics for 300 years, sometimes it is important to reflect on what we have in common.

To celebrate 50 years since the first pride march in London, Chamber UK hosted a special Levelling Up the Conversation with a panel of thought leaders from across the LGBT+ community. With the state of the political landscape as febrile as ever, it was refreshing to see how much the panellists come to a similar conclusion over solutions to LGBT+ policy progress.

On the rare occasion where you find a Minister and Shadow Minister on the same panel, one would expect political fireworks. With the now former Equalities Minister Mike Freer and Shadow Minister for Equalities, Baroness Glenys Thornton kicking off the event with opening speeches, it was clear the tone was set for accord.

You can watch the full episode here.

At the event Curia also published our LGBT+ Commission interim report highlighting some of the policy areas that all parties need to focus in on.

Trans inclusive ban on conversion therapy

Of course, there was some disagreement, particularly over the ban to trans inclusive conversion therapy. With the events of this week, it will be down to the new Prime Minister to decide whether the decision to U-turn on the Conservative manifesto commitment to ban all LGB&T conversion therapy will be overturned.

Now former Minister Freer outlined that the Government Equalities Office was reviewing “all options” regarding the protection for trans people in forthcoming legislation. Labour committed to a trans inclusive ban.

Final thought

For political pundits this is going to be a busy summer, avengers are assembling across the country backing their favourite candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

Having worked on the campaign to install Theresa May as Prime Minister in 2016, I can already see some of the candidates making some of the same mistakes as some of those who failed to make the cut in 2016 or reach the final two in 2019.

The most important of which is policy. We have already seen ideological pushes for the right of the party, one endorsement involving “smiles” over substance however, we are yet to hear from any candidate a comprehensive menu of options.

Smiles over substance

I suspect this is largely due to most candidates using a leadership election as an opportunity to get a good job in government once we know who will become the new Prime Minister.

As Chair of the LGBT+ Commission, I want to stress to all leadership contenders that Conservatives SUPPORT a ban on conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people. I hope they will be asked a direct question about their positions. I hope their public stances match their private ones. I hope all candidates will brush up on the facts. This is not an issue that will go away, it is one they must confront head on and it will define their premiership and the potential electability of the Conservative Party at the next General Election.

But, most importantly, let’s not weaponise a vulnerable community to win votes from particular wings of the Conservative Party.

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