‘Why we won’t be at York Pride 2018’ – by the city’s Conservatives

The York Conservatives stall at York Pride in 2017. Photograph: Paul Doughty on Twitter
5 Jun 2018 @ 7.19 pm
| News, Opinion, Politics

The abuse levelled at us 12 months ago means we don’t feel safe to return this year, writes a senior York Conservative

Whilst on June 9 the weather cannot be guaranteed for York Pride, pretty much everything else can.

It is bound to be bigger than ever, with more colour and fun. The parade through York adds a tiny amount of disruption to some people’s lives but adds excitement and enjoyment to far more.

However, with great regret, there will be no Conservative stand at Pride this year. Conservative Party members will not be there in any official capacity.

Just like the ongoing anti-semitism from a minority of far left activists which has been shown to the world in recent months, the people on our stall last year – including members of the LGBT community itself – were subjected to such a level of intimidation, nastiness and venom that they now feel it would not be safe for them to return.

Coordinated attacks

The York Pride flag. Photographs: Richard McDougall

When we go to Pride we are always happy for debate, and we expect some disagreement.

Politics can bring out strong emotions. Though we’ve had a tiny minority of people in the past give us abuse, the level of co-ordinated attacks last year – with encouragement at times from those who we expected to behave better – went far beyond what anybody would expect within the inclusive and celebratory environment of Pride.

Protest is an extremely kind way of describing people who stood or sat with placards and tried to block our stand. Whilst some were silent, others abused us and people approaching our stall.

Of course not a single aspect of what the protestors said may happen if the Conservatives did a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has come true. But that is not even the point.

We would never dream of protesting at the Labour stand due to the LGBT record of the groups with links to many in the Labour Party.

Card image cap

Police and Armed Forces show their full York Pride colours

Indeed we did not protest at the Labour Party stand when they talked with the DUP about a possible coalition in 2010! York Pride should be a positive not negative day. But last year those that simply view it as party-political saw the high point to revel in their anti-Conservative hatred.

We know, more than anyone, that our party has got things wrong with LGBT issues in the past. But it has also done a lot of good, for example with equal marriage and current plans to make gender identification changes easier.

Surely though, the past, good or bad, is the past. It is about us all working together for the greater good. The mindset of hatred we had this time is only a few steps on from the ‘Never Kissed A Tory’ T-shirts that we have to endure every year.

To some wearing them it is ‘humour’; to many, they would admit, it is hatred. Which other group would such T-shirts be used for? It is hoped, none.

Hugely disappointed

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Photograph: Jane Barlow / PA Wire

The specifics are too many to mention, whether the Corbynite who spent 15 minutes slating one of our councillors for the ‘evil’ of their politics, a gay man on our stall who was repeatedly called ‘disgusting’ or the lesbian woman in her 70s who said she had never seen anything like the hatred in all her life.

Those at the stall would like to place on record thanks to all those people, especially some from other parties, who came to offer us support and also to the police who were fantastic throughout the day.

Sadly we are hugely disappointed at Pride organisers who stayed silent on the issue and who offered no public condemnation; instead they merely suggested this year that our stand be closer to that of the police.

What should be a day of celebration with a serious message has lost its appeal to us when, understandably, the people who last year ran our stall are too afraid to turn up for an afternoon for fear of being abused and physically intimidated

We wish everyone at Pride a great day and are fully supportive of the achievements to date and aims going forward of all in supporting LGBT issues.

However, what should be a day of celebration with a serious message has lost its appeal to us when, understandably the people that last year ran our stall are too afraid to turn up for an afternoon for fear of being abused and physically intimidated.

Sadly we suspect those on the far left will see this as a victory. They will feel they have won and frightened us away. For the many moderates in York with influence, we ask you to think carefully about the environment you are allowing to grow. Last year it was us they turned on. Who might it be next time?

The Conservative Party is a welcoming place for LGBT people as members, MPs, councillors, cabinet members or the Scottish party leader. We hope the minority on the extreme left and the organisers of Pride – who sadly stayed silent last year – will try to make Pride a place Conservatives feel welcome in the future; but, at worst, just safe and tolerated.

YorkMix has agreed to withhold the writer’s name to ensure they are not targeted with personal abuse