Q: Historically UKIP has been criticised and wrongfully labelled as a homophobic party. As leader of the party, how would you address this?
A: UKIP is not homophobic and has no interest whatsoever in turning its back on the equalities agenda which successive governments have pursued as a result of societal pressure and need in the past few decades. We are a welcoming and entirely non-discriminatory party.
I want a country which is comfortable within itself, and which does not oppress or discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexuality, within the law. Therefore I will not tolerate any effort to discriminate against people on illegal grounds, either within our party or in our society at large. Currently, our greatest threats in the equalities arena in modern Britain are, as I see it, against women and against the Jewish, Christian, and LGBT communities; sadly from mainly other minority groups and their fellow travellers, the extreme left Labour Party, Islamic fundamentalists, patriarchal misogynists and so-called jihadist terrorists.
Q: Whilst I am sure that you agree freedom of speech must be protected, some use this as validation to voice opinions or use language that may be deemed to incite hatred (homophobic/transphobic). How do you stand on freedom of speech vs. freedom from hatred/ abuse?
A: The laws of this country are the only instruments which I will recognise as having any right to proscribe free speech. I will not seek any further proscription of free speech, but let us have the debate if there are those that deem it necessary and new circumstances arise, such as social media trolling and stalking.
Hurtful or cruel some speech might be, if it is not illegal within the current parameters, then the underlying principle of an individual’s right to express themselves is so fundamentally important to a free society and to UKIP as a libertarian party, that there can be no justification for further reducing freedom of speech beyond the already considerable amount to which it has been reduced, unless a very great wrong is being condoned as a result.
It is a false dichotomy to suggest that there is only a zero sum game here; that for every slight, every insult, and every blow perceived through listening to or reading free speech, the immediate response ought to be a ban on democratic free speech: that is impetuous and dangerous. It is the sort of argument which led directly to the authorities condoning sex grooming and mass rape of young girls in modern-day England because they instilled fear in themselves and others to such a degree as to suppress the discussion of the existence of these disgusting crimes. Ultimately, any society which exercises its right to legislate to suppress and disallow free speech without the most overwhelming justification, is a tyranny in the making, and UKIP would strongly resist that.
Q: What are your views on same sex marriage?
A: The law provides for such marriages to be freely available in the UK, and as a fully qualified practising family solicitor, so clearly involved in this field of the law from time to time, I fully support that. That covers the civil sphere universally and equally in our country.
Legislators have refrained from imposing that civic marital ceremony and status upon certain recognised religious institutions, who have theologically-based, legally-recognised rights to conduct marriage for those who want it, to depend upon their own specific definition of the word ‘marriage’ to be the basis of eligibility upon which they will conduct such ceremonies themselves with their official recognition, and that many of those institutions do not recognise ‘same sex marriage’ as fitting their criteria.
I live by the laws of my country, which always seek to promote the greatest good of the greatest number. However, I respect the caution against the utilitarian ‘tyranny of the majority’ and I would not seek to force those who do not recognise ‘same sex marriage’ to provide it within the parameters of their own theological organisations to people they do not wish to marry. To do so would be tantamount to tyranny.
Q: Northern Ireland is the last place in the British Isles to refuse to recognise same sex marriage after a majority vote was vetoed. What is your opinion on this?
A: I believe in the British equalities laws being applied equally to one and all, but because these are developmental matters which carry much moral, ethical and philosophical weight, I am ready to accept a moderated, tempered approach to incremental implementation administered with calmness, tolerance and patience, where there is greatest resistance.
Civil life in Northern Ireland is not a bunch of roses. There is mass urban housing segregation based upon religion/sectarianism, school segregation and a legacy of social bitterness and hate, and a security threat only just below the surface. Let’s not go into Northern Ireland with a bludgeon over too many things at once.
Q: Current blood donation regulations require a homosexual male to remain celibate for over 12 months before being permitted to donate blood regardless of circumstance (not applied to heterosexuals). What is your opinion on this?
A: This is just one example of a number of people who are circumscribed from giving blood in the UK. Others include sex-workers, those with hepatitis B/C, intravenous drugs users, and the partners of those in such categories. Notable also are people who have had sex in Africa or other places where HIV is common-place.
However, it should also be noted that there are other restrictions which are almost too obvious to need stating; such as being healthy and fit, being of sufficient age and not over a certain age, pregnancy and so on. These criteria have been extremely carefully considered and I am happy that they are there for the best of all reasons and should therefore continue to be applied. I want the UK to be self-sufficient in blood supplies and I want that supply to be of the highest possible quality.
Q: In the last year there have been several examples of the problems faces by members of the transgender community, i.e. transgender women being denied female state pension age/being placed in male prisons. What is your view on such matters?
A: I am not yet convinced that there is any social gain by attributing certain values to a presumed group of people labelled as ‘the transgender community’ which seem to grant them multiple ‘exceptional’ privileges, by which I mean exceptions to a wide number of social norms is being sought after in such cases.
For instance, we need to be clear if we are describing and seeking to have views on the interests of people who like to wear the clothing of the opposite sex, sometimes called transvestites, or people who have been through sex-change surgery, or people who do not want to do so but want to emulate women in as many respects as they can whilst maintaining male genitalia, or women in such circumstances, or hermaphroditic people, there is a very wide spectrum.
I am not prepared to make exceptions to the pensionable age, for obvious reasons. There should be equality in pensionable age plain and simple whatever gender status one may lay claim to, as well as rejecting the ‘exceptional’ grounds on principle.