Pride is a golden opportunity to keep the torch of liberty burning bright

Pierre Andrews is Vice-Chair Outreach of LGBT+ Conservatives, Head of Policy at Digital Tories, Senior Parliamentary Assistant to an MP and a CiC-Start Mentee. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn

June is Pride Month. A yearly opportunity to freely express and celebrate the strength and diversity of the whole LGBT+ community.

However, Pride isn’t just about the rainbow flags, live music performances and a celebration of rights and freedoms we enjoy at home in the UK. It is a reminder of the need for constant vigilance in the face of oppression around the world to keep the torch of liberty burning bright; and of the leading role Britain must play in the promotion of  LGBT+ rights globally.

June is not Pride Month by coincidence. It commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a turning point in LGBT+ history. Members of the community pushed back against the state for infringing on their freedoms of expression and association, through regular police raids of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York.

While in Britain today the situation would be unrecognisable to those who lived in fear and desperation in the 1960s – positive relationship education in schools, anti-discrimination legislation, equal marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, and the possibility to change your legal gender – such freedoms are sadly not the case in many parts of the world. Indeed, in 68 countries around the world homosexuality is still criminalised and in too many places repression against LGBT+ people seems to have worsened in recent years.

Last May, in Iran, 20-year old Alireza Fazeli Monfared was allegedly beheaded by his half-brother and cousins after they discovered he was gay. Iran continues to have one of the most homophobic regimes in the world, where homosexuality can be punishable by death. It is thought that the discovery of Fazeli Monfared’s military exemption card – for which gay and trans men can apply to be exempted from military service – led his family to conduct what local LGBT+ rights group 6Rang are calling an ‘honour killing’.

Alireza’s tragic story should serve as a reminder to us all this Pride Month – we cannot and should not rest until every LGBT+ person around the world has the freedom to be themself. Britain must continue to play a leading role on the international stage to achieve LGBT+ equality for all.

This Conservative government has set advancing LGBT+ rights internationally as a priority and our role and influences should not be underestimated. Next June, the UK will host the first ever Global LGBT Conference. Chaired by Lord Herbert – who was recently appointed the UK’s Special Envoy on LGBT Rights – the conference will provide a global platform for the UK, as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, to call for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against LGBT+ people and legal protection from discrimination.

The Stonewall Riots took place 52 years ago, yet around the world, many LGBT+ people still live in fear, with the ultimate threat of death simply for being themselves or loving who they choose to love.

This Pride Month the UK is at the centre of the world stage as we host the G7 Summit in Cornwall, taking a leading role in championing our shared values as we recover from the global pandemic. In doing so, we can look proudly ahead to a year of golden opportunity, by making the most of our world-leading diplomatic networks, to reach out an arm of friendship around the world and encourage all States to attend our Global LGBT Conference, and spread the torch of liberty together.

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This piece was written for 1821.

Joe Biden is good for the UK

GUEST POST: Patrick Adams is a political consultant. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn 

Last Saturday, Boris Johnson was the first European leader to receive a call from the 46th US President Joseph R. Biden Jr (Joe Biden for short). According to the transcripts and tweets – driving “a green and sustainable recovery from Covid-19” are top of the agenda for these two gentlemen.

What I have set out below – regardless of who you thought would or wanted to win the election – is that – despite the choreographed blonde hair and populist tendencies – New York-born Mr Johnson has more in common with Mr Biden than his predecessor and fellow New Yorker Donald J. Trump. That is because, at heart, he’s a liberal conservative.

This year, the UK will host both the G7 Summit in Cornwall and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow and that presents No10 and the White House with a golden opportunity to ‘build back better’, together, and thus strengthen the longstanding alliance between these nations.

As highlighted, Mr Biden and Mr Johnson are keen on driving the ‘green agenda’. With COP26 taking place in November, now is the time for bold initiatives and nothing screams bold than Mr Biden signing an executive order to re-join the Paris Climate Accord the day after his inauguration. The British Government has already made several commitments related to greener energy (and is bound by the accord in the EU-UK trade agreement) and is making steady progress across several areas.  

For example, the UK has prioritised investment in wind energy in its attempt to become the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind power’. Further to this, the UK is committed to banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 – actions the new US administration will likely support.

It appears the President’s first foreign trip will be to the UK rather than an EU27 member state. Whether that’s due to the pandemic or a deliberate move, reports suggest Mr Biden wants to move past any disagreements and start afresh with Mr Johnson and Mr Johnson is no doubt only too happy to hear that.

On China, the US and UK seek to curtail its growing influence and to highlight human rights abuses. Specifically, the UK has imposed harsh sanctions on China as opposed to the mixed response from the EU. The recent China-EU investment agreement, approved by the Council, may be an issue for EU-US relations. Similarly, the Nord Stream Gas pipeline between Russia and Germany will increase divisions for the alliance. As such, the EU risks alienating the US by the company that it keeps.

Defence is another area where the Biden administration will have differences of opinion with some Europeans. President Trump insisted that all NATO member states meet their two per cent defence spending requirements. This issue will not disappear with another president and Mr Biden will likely lobby for an increase in spending, albeit in a much more diplomatic way.

The UK, on the other hand, has already taken the lead on this issue and will be an ally to the US. Firstly, it is one of the few NATO members that meet its spending requirements. Secondly, the UK has increased defence spending by a further £16.5 billion.

There is rarely such a thing as friendly nations, but generally only nations with mutual interests. The UK and US have many mutual interests other than the above topics, and it will be for the President and the Prime Minister to build on them. I’m optimistic.

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This piece was written for our website.