On May 6, Londoners will select their Mayor for the next four years. This election was due to take place last year but was postponed because of the pandemic. With campaign mode now in full swing, Jason Reid spoke to the candidates from the four main political parties to find out where they stand on LGBTQ+ issues.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on business in the capital, especially the hospitality sector; how will you support LGBTQ+ bars and entertainment venues that serve as vital safe places for the most vulnerable in our community and are important for the economy and cultural makeup of the city, as well as encouraging new LGBTQ+ ventures?
Luisa Porritt (Liberal Democrats): London is a proud home to so many fabulous LGBTQ+ venues. We’ve lost far too many of them in the past decade. We must ensure our city’s iconic venues can survive the pandemic and that the unique status of Soho as a hub for the community is preserved.
I’ve been pushing for a lot of support for small businesses more generally, including campaigning for rent relief for debts piled up during the pandemic. But for LGBTQ+ venues we need to go further. I support the idea of community-listing certain venues as being of special importance, to protect them from development plans that would threaten their status. And I think this should apply to non-commercial venues too, like support centres.
There is also a real shortage of data in the UK about LGBTQ+ people and their role in the economy – what sectors they work in, whether they’re self employed or employed, and how much they earn. Closing this data gap is vital in order to properly provide targeted support to LGBTQ+ businesses and workers. I will also campaign to close the LGBTQ+ pay gap which has been reported on, knowing what a difference the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting by companies has made for women.
Shaun Bailey (Conservatives): London simply wouldn’t be London without its LGBTQ+ bars and entertainment venues. As Mayor, I will always support and celebrate these venues, which provide safe spaces for different LGBTQ+ communities. In addition, I plan to shine a light on the contributions of Black and African LGBTQ+ people and businesses in our city, which are too often forgotten.
But I won’t stop there. I’ll appoint a Hospitality Czar to work with LGBTQ+ hospitality businesses, bars and venues to ensure they are supported. This is how we’ll come out of the pandemic stronger than ever and give the hospitality sector a fresh start.
Sadiq Khan (Labour): The impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic for LGBTQ+ venues which were forced to close their doors to stop the spread of Covid-19 but have not been given adequate support by the government for the costs they incurred.
Ministers are failing London’s pub and night-life sector but I have provided £225,000 in grant funding specifically for LGBTQ+ venues including the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Dalston Superstore and West London’s West Five Bar through the Culture at Risk fund.
In the decade up to 2018, London lost a staggering 61% of its LGBTQ+ venues. To help stem this decline, in collaboration with London’s Night Czar, I established the LGBTQ+ Venues Charter to help safeguard the future of London’s LGBTQ+ nightlife. The Charter provides practical guidance and support for developers, venues and pub companies in order to help protect venues at risk of closure and encourage new ones to open and, before the pandemic hit, the number of LGBTQ+ venues in the capital had stabilised.
The fight isn’t over though and I will continue to stand up for London’s LGBTQ+ venues urging the Government to ensure this vibrant and essential element of London’s cultural offering can survive and thrive beyond the pandemic.
Sian Berry (Green Party): LGBTQ+ venues were under threat before the pandemic, and it’s only worsened since. As a Camden Councillor I’ve seen first-hand the impact of losing the Black Cap, and I have worked to push for new planning policies to better protect our more recent heritage and clusters of businesses representing diverse groups.
Making venues Assets of Community Value is a key part of the solution. Developers shouldn’t be allowed to shutter venues. The Mayor and local councils can help support venues to get this protection.
We also have to address runaway commercial rents. My colleague Caroline Russell has been working with small businesses to establish a ‘working rent’. A fair settlement to ensure landlords aren’t bankrupting our businesses. London will become less special if we don’t do something about rents, commercial and residential.
Rent controls exist in Spain, France and Germany. We have to do the same here.