Two men were recently stabbed outside one of London’s most beloved LGBTQ+ venues, the Two Brewers, in what is being treated as a homophobic attack by police. From social media posts to appearances on the news, everyone from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finalist Divina De Campo to the Mayor of London has shared their horror and devastation at the incident – and yet many of the Conservative Party’s leading politicians remain silent.
Indeed, the likes of Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and even Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities Minister, have all apparently been too busy to send so much as a sympathetic tweet or, better yet, announce an action plan to prevent these kinds of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks from happening in the first place. Make no mistake, that’s not to say the Labour Party has been perfect on this either, but we’ve at least seen its leader, Keir Starmer, condemn the incident in its entirety – is that too much to ask for from those in government? Instead, in the week since the stabbing, Sunak found the time to respond to Jeremy Clarkson’s annual (and insufferable) tweet about his A-Level results, while Braverman spouted her routine claims of “working to keep the British people safe” without reassuring the UK’s LGBTQ+ community that the Conservative Party is on its side in the wake of this vicious attack.
Perhaps most alarmingly, however, is Badenoch (whose job entails overseeing equality and tackling discrimination) also remaining silent – something that feels all the more distressing given her less than golden track record on LGBTQ+ issues. Having already faced calls to consider her position in the Equalities Office given that she mocked same-sex marriage, referred to trans women as “men” and opposed a number of LGBTQ-inclusive policies – all while flying the flag for gender-critical beliefs – this was a chance for Badenoch to show the community the bare minimum level of support at a time when we need leadership most. Apparently she didn’t see the need.
When approached by GAY TIMES for comment on the stabbing, which took place on the same day Badenoch’s department announced an absurd crackdown on gender-neutral toilets, her team instead provided a quote from the government’s ministerial lead on LGBTQ+ equalities, Stuart Andrew, who said “everyone should feel safe to be themselves” and urged those with information to come forward. Badenoch’s team did not address the part of our request that asked about her priorities when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and/or her plan to reduce the number of hate crimes taking place in society. Sunak’s team did not respond to a similar request for comment by GAY TIMES, while Braverman’s gave us a quote from an unnamed government spokesperson that called the incident “deeply concerning”. They also stated that “it’s right that we give the police space to investigate this incident”, adding that “it would be inappropriate to comment further while an investigation is ongoing” – even though the Met already publicly confirmed that the stabbing was being treated as homophobic.
One of the starkest things highlighted by the recent stabbing is that, while horrified, many LGBTQ+ people were in no way surprised that such a thing happened given the backdrop it took place against. The number of hate crimes recorded by police are at record highs in England and Wales, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from the far-right is becoming more mainstream and – perhaps most importantly – our government continues to use LGBTQ+ issues as a way of whipping up hysteria among potential voters. Just look at Lee Anderson, a senior Tory MP who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, who in February said that the next general election will “probably” be fought on “a mix of culture wars and trans debate”.
Why is it that the hard-fought rights of the community, instead of being advanced, or at least left alone, are subjected to unjust scrutiny from both politicians and social commentators alike? This year, we’ve seen bizarre discussions over whether or not a woman can have a penis dominate the news agenda, questions around who can use which toilets relentlessly debated and, as if that didn’t stoke up enough hatred, there have been baseless attacks on drag artists reading to children in schools (or, in Cheryl Hole’s case, people feigning outrage over an appearance on Celebrity MasterChef).
Some will argue that what happened in Clapham is an isolated incident. It’s not. In fact, the harsh reality is that we are seeing the real world impact of this endless stream of anti-LGBTQ+ hatred, which is now even reaching safe spaces like the Two Brewers. There is no denying that this is partially the fault of our government’s actions and that leaders on both sides could and should be doing a lot more to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in this country – which starts with the simple action of showing them compassion in the wake of an attack that police are investigating as being motivated by hate. What’s more, as Stonewall highlighted after the stabbing, there has been no hate crime strategy in place for more than three years – despite those motivated by someone’s sexual orientation being up by 41 per cent and anti-trans offences more than doubling in the year ending March 2022, according to the Home Office.
Where there is a clear need for LGBTQ+ people to be protected, we instead have a government allowing hostility to grow. Where there is a need for unity, we instead see division driven from the top down. Where there is a need for one of the UK’s minority communities to be heard, the silence from those we need to listen is deafening. Granted, nobody wants insincere support if there is no intention of implementing meaningful policies and change, but if an event like what we saw in Clapham can’t inspire the government to shift gears when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ people, then it’s dangerously unclear what will.