Johann Hari has recently interviewed the three main mayoral candidates, in a magazine for homosexuals. Ken Livingstone’s most newsworthy comment was to state his continued support for Yusuf al Qaradawi, while Boris Johnson’s revealed little, save that he still appears fairly shambolic. For me, Brian Paddick’s promised to be the most interesting, as he lacks the performing ability of Johnson or Livingstone, yet has more experience of the world beyond politics. Sadly, he comes across badly in this interview.
While he is a gay man being interviewed for a magazine with homosexual readers, I was still very disappointed that he stated that homosexuals are somehow more at risk from crime because they like to go out at night:
“Crime is an issue for everybody but it is particularly an issue for the LGBT community – not just in terms of homophobic crime, but because we like to party, and I’ve lost count of the number of friends who’ve come out of the Shadow Lounge a little bit the worse for wear at two o’clock in the morning and have been mugged and marched round to the cash point at knife point.”
And he continued on this theme about how homosexuals are party animals who are somehow apart from the rest of society:
“Thereâ€™s no point being a black judge or an openly gay police officer if you behave like a straight white man. And even if every time I go to Barcode in Vauxhall, which is my local, a diary item appears in one newspaper or another saying that I have been dancing without a shirt on, that isn’t going to stop me. Whether I’m mayor or not, Iâ€™m going to go on living a life as a gay man, because that’s what I am and I’m very proud of that.”
How does a straight white man behave Brian? Your two challengers are hardly shrinking violets. Brian Paddick has fallen into the trap of categorizing people by one identity. Saying that someone thinks or acts in a certain way because of their race, religion or sexuality helps to reinforce artifical divisions between various people. Some homosexuals do like to party, others do not, while some are indifferent. You would expect Brian Paddick to know this, or at least be aware of the effect of his words.
Worst of all was his utter failure to propose any solutions to combat homophobic bullying in schools. Given that he was a gay authority figure, you would think that he would have some practical ideas. Instead when asked he told a story about his experiences of being bullied at school, so Johann Hari had to press him again:
“JH: What can we practically do about this?
BP: I don’t think the Mayor is vocal enough on these sorts of issues. You know, okay, he and I formed were on the lead float at Pride â€“ Ken Livingstone, I and Shirley Bassey, or at least a wax image of Shirley Bassey, were on the lead float of Pride, and it’s all very well for him showing his support like that, but he needs to be vocal in supporting groups like Schools Out, Sue Sanders. He’s very pro-Caribbean community in his rhetoric and yet he’s not said a word about disproportionality in stop and search by the police. He is a superficial supporter of minority groups. When you come down to making a real difference to the day to day lives of LGBT people, then I don’t think Ken’s done very much.”
Before publishing his three interviews, Johann Hari treated us to his assessment of the candidates. On Brian Paddick, sadly, he was spot on:
“The Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick isnâ€™t embarrassed to appeal to the gay vote as One of Us. He says, â€œYou know, we went through decades of being targeted by the police. Now it’s pay back time.â€ He speaks about gay issues as a man who has fought through them all: he pledges to crack down on homophobic bullying in schools, as a survivor of it himself, and he promises to crack open homophobia in the police, as a man who rose through it to be Number Two in the Met. He has moving stories and some fresh ideas â€“ but at times they are sketchy. When I ask him specifically what we should be doing about homophobic bullying, he keeps vaguely saying we must â€œdo more.â€ Ken, by contrast, talked on this issue about the specific organisations he wants to fund, and the projects he wants to pursue.”
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