“The last Labour government did more for LGBT+ rights than any other in UK history”
That was the claim from the Labour party last week as they marked the beginning of LGBT+ history month.
But does it stack up? FactCheck takes a look.
The last Labour government did a lot for LGBT rights
We asked Labour for the source of this claim. They pointed out that when they were in office between 1997 and 2010, they passed a lot of legislation to promote LGBT equality, including:
- bringing the age of consent for homosexual men and women in line with that of heterosexual sex
- ending the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces
- extending adoption rights to LGBT individuals and couples, and
- creating civil partnerships
But was it better than all the rest?
An impressive record for sure.
But Labour couldn’t tell us how they’d reached the conclusion that their last administration did more than any other UK government in history.
And it’s not clear that it would ever be possible to award that title to any one government. It all depends on how important you consider each policy change to be.
For example, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition introduced same-sex marriage, which some campaigners consider more significant than creating civil partnerships.
And for many, even that would pale in comparison to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which happened in 1967. Harold Wilson was the Labour Prime Minister at the time, although the cabinet officially remained neutral and allowed a free vote. The Conservative peer, Lord Arran, proposed a motion in the Lords in 1965, and in 1966, the Labour backbencher, Leo Abse, sponsored a Sexual Offences Bill.
Beyond law-making, a Labour spokesperson also highlighted the “significant cultural changes [that took place during Labour’s time in government] which we would attribute to Labour.”
But again, that’s a very difficult claim to prove either way.
It’s true that the public’s acceptance of same-sex relationships did increase under the last Labour government, according to the British Social Attitudes report.
But even if that was thanks to government policy at the time, the same data shows a more marked increase in positive attitudes to same-sex relationships in the last four years – i.e. under the Conservative government.
What is difficult to prove is whether government policy changes the public’s attitude or whether public sentiment guides policy. The answer is probably a messy combination of the two.
The last Labour government undoubtedly made significant steps to promoting LGBT rights and equality.
But Labour themselves couldn’t provide evidence to back up the claim that their record is better than all other UK governments before and since.
All three main parties can claim significant victories for LGBT rights: it was a Labour Prime Minister who oversaw the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and it was the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition that brought in same-sex marriage.
The title of best government for LGBT rights is still up for grabs.