To mark the end of Pride month, local MP Nickie Aiken spoke in the House to champion the rich LGBTQ social and cultural heritage that can be found in the Cities of London & Westminster.
Nickie spoke of how proud she was for how our community rallies together to celebrate.
Nickie lamented the fact that London’s Pride March has yet again had to be postponed this year due to Covid, but suggested a cross party effort, from both Houses, to have a group representing Parliament at the next event.
Nickie highlighted not only the Government’s landmark ban on conversion therapy, but also how the UK remains one of the most open and tolerant countries in the world. She also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that the UK will host its first ever global LGBTQ conference in June next year, to bring into sharp focus a fresh discussion on legislative reform to tackle violence and discrimination, and ensure equal access to public services, including health services, for LGBTQ+ people.
In the debate, Nickie contributed
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker. May I first start by thanking the Honourable Members for Wallasey, Carshalton & Wallington and Ochil & South Perthshire for securing this debate. And I'd like to also pay tribute to the Member for Liverpool Walton for his powerful personal contribution to this debate. And I think we were all very, very touched by his words in this house.
Madam Deputy Speaker, LGBT heritage is everywhere in central London, within my constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster. It is embedded in buildings, landscapes, all around us, as well as in the significant contributions made by the personalities connected to those landmarks. And I feel truly honoured that I represent an area with such a rich LGBTQ social and cultural history.
From the West End, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and to the incredible cultural hub that is Soho. In fact, the first gay bar in Britain in the modern sense was The Cave of the Golden Calf, opening in 1912, in Heddon Street, in the heart of the West End. I think a couple of my fellow members may have been to the opening. With Pride Month drawing to a close, I wanted to put on record how incredibly proud I am of our community for rallying together to celebrate. Indeed, despite the great challenges faced by the LGBTQ people during COVID-19, one thing the crisis has shown is the value and the power of community. I am proud that when I became Leader of Westminster City Council, one of the first appointments I made was to establish a lead member for the LGBT community. And I'm delighted that Councillor Ian Adams, who I appointed, retains that position today. Owing to his success of championing LGBTQ rights in London, Ian has won the Global Outstanding LGBTQ Role Model Award. And I'm sure the whole House will join me in celebrating this momentous achievement.
Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, in normal times, we are so fortunate here in London to have such a wealth of celebrations during Pride Month. Not least the Great London Pride March, which last time, it was held in 2019, attracted an estimated 1.5 million spectators. I, in fact, took part in that Pride March. It was my first and by no means my last. I was part of the Westminster City Council parade group. And perhaps, I'm not sure if there is one in Parliament, perhaps if there isn't, we should organise a cross-party, cross, in both this place and the other place parliamentary group to take part in the next Pride March. But even without the scale of events we are used to, I remain proud of my constituents, my constituency's LGBTQ history, and how people here have still made sure we've had a really great Pride Month. It is this fortitude, madam Deputy Speaker, that represents the ultimate triumph of London. After all, though the vibrant festivities remain a key part of our celebrations, what this year has afforded us is the time to reflect, to remember, and to regalvanise our efforts to support the LGBTQ community. On this, I wholeheartedly support the government in its ambitions to ensure the UK remains one of the most open and tolerant countries in the world.
Like other members, I also welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that the UK will host its first ever LGBTQ conference in June next year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first ever London Pride March. It is my hope that here we can bring into sharp focus a fresh discussion on legislative reform to tackle violence and discrimination, and ensuring equal access to public services, including health services for LGBTQ+ people. I also want to take this opportunity to welcome the government's landmark ban on conversion therapy. Our special envoy on LGBTQ+ rights, Lord Herbert, is correct when he says that this is a cruel practise that has no place in modern society. Especially in London, this Pride Month is wholly different, as I've said, from years before. But it still serves as a tribute to all those who have fought for an equal society where people can love freely, and live in peace and away from inequality.
We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we thank them for all they faced to get to where we are here today. Even in this place, I was shocked to discover that it was only 19 years ago, in 2002, that Sir Alan Duncan became the first sitting Conservative MP to voluntarily announce that he is gay. With this, I wish everyone a happy Pride Month. May the spirit of love continue throughout the year. And as a former constituent of mine, the brilliant Oscar Wilde, once said, We must keep love in our hearts. A life without it is like a sunless garden.
Watch Nickie's contribution in full here