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Ed Miliband unclear on gay marriage equality on the island of love

July 30, 2010

I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Miliband this afternoon at a local meeting on Ynys Mon arranged by Albert Owen.  A very late Ed began by welcoming comrades and talked of being a child of immigrants who taught him the importance of speaking up on injustices, instead of “walking on by”. There was also a poor joke about how his mother could vote for anyone but Dianne Abbott, which has probably been well rehearsed but perhaps lost a little because of his obvious tiredness (and some nervousness evidenced by the occasional tie playing).

Ed was very pleasant and talked a good line on listening to “ordinary” people, regulating banking including the use of regional banking systems, and developing Anglesey as an ‘energy island’ which would create much needed jobs.  The Living Wage campaign was also outlined, focusing somewhat bizarrely on agency workers undermining contracted workers which clashed a little with Miliband’s insistence that a focus on terms and conditions is as important as wages. Not many of us choose to work in an ad hoc way if we had the option of more secure employment with a contract (and I don’t mean a zero-hours contract).

It didn’t take long to hear the Ed catchphrase of ‘too late’ with “we came to this too late” and “we woke up to this too late” which mean little after 13 years of government, but hey, Ed wasn’t there for all of these years so I can cut some slack. The admission of “We still left Britain more unequal than it was before” cannot be escaped and is shameful legacy from a Labour administration, but I welcome its recognition from a member of that administration.   But then he uttered the old New Labour trope of ‘responsibilities’ from the “poorest in society, who are on welfare” for no apparent reason at all, when talking about the aim for a “more equal society”.  Why not an aim for actual equality?  But I digress.

There were some great questions from Ed’s ‘comrades’, and he mostly agreed with everyone saying that Labour should listen to their members a lot more, explaining that “there was an over-reaction to militant of the 70′s and 80′s” which was responsible and that has to stop.

On trade unions, I was pleased.  Ed pointed out that Labour have seen trade unions as their “embarrassing relations” for too long and in fact they are an integral part of Labour.  He finds it unacceptable that only 15% of private-sector workers belong to their unions, pointing out that part of “creating the fair society we want” needs a much higher proportion of union membership, and most importantly by young people.

On losing the election, Ed believes that voters don’t see anything between the parties, stating “people lost that sense of difference” – something which I find hard to believe as voters clearly changed their voting behaviour and didn’t vote Labour.  Ed also stressed the need for unity – getting away from the “Brownites, Blairites, all the -ites”, and is pleased that the leadership contest isn’t proving to be a devisive affair.  Ed believes that family traditions on voting Labour aren’t being passed on, “partly because of what we did”, but didn’t expand on why this might be.

A question on Palestine/Israel was answered with”‘the attack on the flotilla was a disgrace, the blockade must be lifted”.  There was no agreement with legalising drugs.  Ed believes the ‘war on drugs’ isn’t doing well, but legalising drugs would encourage more drug use, apparently.    The answer to the rise in numbers of retired people is to raise fertility rates – more children to support an ageing population – which was accompanied with the statement “given debate about immigration, that might be an odd thing to say”.  I would of welcomed a recognition of what Labour has done to help parents to participate in paid work, but there wasn’t much of a hard sell around the whole session.

RickB of TenPercent asked for thoughts on the New Green Deal which were agreeable, as would be expected.  Rick, who has a brother serving in Afghanistan, also asked about Ed’s thoughts of getting out of Afghanistan.  This led to much of a non-answer really.  Ed thanked Rick’s brother for serving the country then went on to say ‘I support the mission in Afghanistan’ (not a war you understand as it is with drugs) and stressed that a military solution isn’t possible, there has to be a political solution with all parties involved, including the Taliban forces.  I managed not to mention the position of women in negotiations with the Taliban, and not surprisingly, Ed didn’t mention it either.

As for my question, I asked Ed that considering much of his talk today had been about equality, why was it that he didn’t personally believe there should be equality for lesbian and gay people when it comes to marriage.  This follows on from Sunny Hundal’s interview with Ed in June when he came out with this rubbish:

Would you allow gays to be legally married, rather than just be registered as a civil partnership?

He hesitates. “I will listen to what people have to say on going further than that if there is a demand. No one has yet put that to me in the leadership election.” He said his feeling was that not enough people were asking for the policy.

Ed, today, answered that he had only been asked about marriage equality once before, but then went on to say “I’m very happy to support gay marriage” before adding that there would have to be a consultation.  He got confused about civil partnerships, saying that “they were available to everyone” which he recognised was a mistake when I pointed out that they aren’t.  Apparently “civil partnership was a massive step”, which I suppose it was, but nothing that couldn’t be reasonably expected, and still only a stepping stone to actual equality.  I was then told he would talk about it after the formal section of the meeting, which he did.  Ed said that he had spoken to LGBT groups during the election campaign and nobody had talked about marriage equality.  I pointed out that there are a lot of people campaigning about this, but he seemed underwhelmed and asked me irritably “was it an election issue?”.  I think he needed his lunch at this point.  But the lack of a simple answer points me to believe that Ed simply doesn’t understand that a two tier system of civil partnerships and marriage isn’t just an issue for elections, but a fundamental issue of equality for the ‘ordinary’ people he had been talking about during the whole session.

Shame really, as it has been reported on Liberal Conspiracy that Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham (in the Tablet no less!) and Ed Balls have all previously confirmed their support for gay marriage, and this morning Ed’s brother, David, published a piece on his website in support.  I have no idea why Ed Miliband couldn’t have just said a simple ‘yes, I support gay marriage’, but he didn’t.

Edit:

It’s not a simple yes, but when asked on Twitter earlier about marriage equality, Ed Miliband tweeted this:

Ed_Miliband @JaeKay Got asked abt this today &made clear I support principle of gay marriage. Need to consult on how to implement.

2nd Edit:

Ed Miliband was asked about again about his position on marriage equality following his interview with Sunny Hundal and chose not to support it, here. For all his talk about listening to ‘ordinary’ people he seems chooses his views on LGBT equality from Stonewall who don’t campaign on marriage equality and don’t support transgender people.

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