Stephen Williams condemns Bristol Tories' attack on anti-homophobia charity

by Stephen Tall on August 28, 2009

Pink News has the story:

A Liberal Democrat MP has accused both the Tories on Bristol council and one of the city’s newspapers of misrepresenting a National Lottery grant to a gay group. The Bristol Evening Post ran a story yesterday on Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH). The highly-respected group has been awarded £391,668 by the Big Lottery Fund for a project reaching out to LGBT young people.

EACH said on its website:

“Throughout the next five years this will be spent upon EACH’s ground-breaking project, REACH: supporting lesbian, gay or bisexual young people develop a sense of pride in their identity and help their peers and adults in young people’s settings challenge homophobic bullying.”

The leader of the Conservative group on Bristol City Council, Councillor Richard Eddy, told the paper the grant was “mistaken and misguided” and “an outrageous waste of money.”

“Sadly, it seems to be further confirmation that the Big Lottery has long since ceased to impartially distribute lottery cash to worthwhile and respected causes, instead it seems obliged to dole out punters’ money to a raft of politically correct lobbies which clearly sit within the Labour Government’s priority,” Cllr Eddy said.

Stephen Williams, Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, told the paper:

It is very depressing, but the Tory party has form going back 20 years in Bristol, they are always campaigning about grants. Back when I was a councillor we used to have this argument constantly. What is infuriating is that the local paper is backing them. They have twisted the facts here – they failed to point out that the grant is for five years and is for their work not just in Bristol but in Bath and other areas.”

Stephen – whose complaints have drawn support from Labour’s LGBT group – has written to the paper protesting at their coverage:

I believe your front page story and editorial criticising the lottery grant to Bristol based charity EACH to be irresponsible and misleading journalism. Surely the award of £391,000 to a local charity with a national remit and strong reputation is a cause for celebration, not criticism?

“Homophobic bullying of children is an issue I have raised many times both in Bristol and Westminster. As someone who suffered from such bullying when I was in school, I know the distress it causes and will continue to use my position as an MP to work with anyone who seeks to make all our schools safe and happy places for children to learn.

“The local Conservative councillors have long standing form on this and other equalities issues. In the recent past they have attacked any support given to ethnic minorities, travellers and gay people. The usual trick is to compare Council or Lottery grants to awards (or lack of them) given to community groups such as the scouts.

“I will leave it up to Post readers to decide whether the Cameron era Conservative Party in Bristol really has changed.

“But the Evening Post has a responsibility to give readers all the relevant facts and not to prop up the Tory Party’s victimisation of Bristol’s minority groups. The City Council and local charities do vital work promoting community cohesion and combatting ignorance and prejudice.

“The outburst by local Tories and the support given to them in your editorial shows that we still have a long way to go before everyone is accepted and valued as equal human beings.”

Of course Bristol Tories are not alone – only a couple of weeks ago, Tory MEP Roger Helmer was quoted arguing that homophobia doesn’t exist, but “is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions, which have been held by most people through most of recorded history.”