Election season is truly underway. It's virtually impossible to miss the array of posters, leaflets, billboards, news articles, social media posts and, of course, the television debates. What you may have missed however is the important stuff; the policies, the manifestos. Let's face it, we hear the rhetoric all the time, we broadly know what one party agrees with and what another doesn't, so what is a long document actually going to tell us that we don't already know? The answer is quite a lot.
The manifestos are the backbone of the political parties' campaigns. They're the promises that focus the thinking of the parties, the commitments that form the basis of the new Government, and they're the bit that people tend to ignore until those promises are broken.
We've now seen manifestos from all the political parties, with plenty of commitments about how they're going to make things better. For LGBT people there have been some very specific commitments included in those manifestos, which Stonewall certainly welcomes.
At the beginning of the election campaign we outlined four key things which we believe, if tackled, will have a positive impact on the LGBT community. The first of these was a tangible commitment to help combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime. With the exception of the SNP and Ukip, this featured in the manifestos of almost all the major political parties; a great first step, but we must see this translated into real action with the next government.
We also asked the parties to commit to statutory PSHE and Sex and Relationship Education, which includes talking about the diversity of family life in primary schools, and about same-sex relationships in secondary schools. This is incredibly important as it will play a big role in helping to tackle discrimination in schools. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru have all included this as part of their manifestos, which is hugely reassuring, but I am disappointed to see this missing from the other parties' commitments.
There have also been commitments from all the major political parties, with the exception of the Conservatives and Ukip, to help improve rights for LGBT people abroad. We cannot forget that in 77 countries across the world it is illegal to be gay, and in five of these, it is punishable by death. We have a responsibility to use our knowledge and experience to help improve the plight of international LGBT communities, so seeing this feature so prominently among so many of the parties' manifestos is certainly encouraging. Action points for international development were however largely overlooked by the parties, with only Labour, in its LGBT manifesto, explicitly stating that it will ensure that international aid meets the needs of LGBT communities and activists across the world.
Noticeably absent from the manifestos was an overriding commitment to review laws that specifically affect trans people. Plaid Cymru was the only party to mention specific action on trans healthcare in its party manifesto, and Labour, in its LGBT manifesto (although not its party manifesto), mentioned that it will undertake a review of gender identity law and policy. A review of these laws, including the Gender Recognition Act, is 100% vital. Across the UK trans people have to fight for the right to be themselves, often struggling with a legal system that doesn't make that easy. Laws must be reviewed and changed to ensure that all trans people are treated as equal citizens with equal rights.
I've spoken before about the risk of complacency, and I believe that is still a very real risk. Most of the political parties have been proactive in demonstrating their support for LGBT equality in their manifestos. However, worryingly, we've seen very little in the way of commitment from a couple of the major political parties, and absolutely no mention of LGBT equality at all in the Ukip manifesto. This just isn't acceptable.
We're at an extremely important point in the LGBT movement where, if we have any hope of achieving full equality, complacency is not an option. We've read the manifestos and we'll remember the commitments. We hope that whoever is elected on 7 May will do the same.