Blenkinsop: let’s announce ‘a gay’ appointed to cabinet?

Following a number of articles about Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland’s Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, the SKWAWKBOX has received a document circulated by a cabinet member of Redcar and Cleveland council that contains a shocking allegation regarding the MP’s language and attitude.

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Tom Blenkinsop MP

The document dates back to 2012 but concerns events in 2011, just after Labour had won back control of the council. It forms part of an explanation by the councillor, who was in a civil partnership, why he as a gay man would not be supporting a council motion in favour of gay marriage – at this point, legislation on equal marriage had not yet been passed.

The document begins with explanation of the context for his decision:

Many of the group would be expecting me to support this motion on equal marriage. I am in favour of equal marriage for all. However I believe this motion appears to have come out of the blue and had some mystery surrounding it. Members would think that the proposer of the motion would have discussed the idea with myself as I am the only one in the group currently in a Civil Partnership. I believe that the motion is intended to embarrasses and expose myself as being gay to members of the opposition, the press and public at full council. This is not the first time such an attempted has been made.

It then goes on to describe alleged communications between Blenkinsop and the leader of the council:

Following the local elections I was appointed to the cabinet… The leader received communication from Tom Blenkinsop MP [that] requested that a press release was sent that a ‘GAY’ had been appointed to the cabinet. Quite rightly the Leader stated that no press release would be made and Tom failed to respond further on the issue.

A GAY had been appointed‘. If this allegation is true, then this is not language appropriate for anyone in the 21st century, let alone for an elected representative of a progressive party.

A gay reader of this blog commented,

If someone talked about me like this I would be highly offended. This sounds like a comment from the Thatcher period. What has my sexuality got to do with it? Is a gay person somehow less qualified or entitled to be a cabinet member? Would he make reference to a person’s skin colour?!

Even without the offensive phrasing, the implication that it’s somehow surprising for ‘a gay’ to be a cabinet-level councillor would be seriously troubling.

Mr Blenkinsop’s office and the then-leader of Redcar and Cleveland council have been contacted for comment.

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