What will Boris Johnson’s new cabinet mean for LGBTI Britains?


Boris Johnson became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom yesterday (24 July) and has performed a brutal re-shuffle of the government’s cabinet of top ministers.

With a growing urgency to get the UK out of the EU to meet the upcoming 31 October deadline, Brexit appears to have influenced many of the appointments.

Yet, in a cabinet with no LGBTI members, how do these new ministers stand on LGBTI rights?

Who’s who?

Johnson walked into Number 10 and promptly purged Theresa May’s members from his cabinet and appointed a range of loyalists and hard-line Brexiteers to the freshly vacant posts.

His cabinet is packed with 33 ministers. In total, 18 of May’s original cabinet were sacked or resigned.

Close allies rose up the ranks, such as Sajid Javid promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stephen Barclay as Brexit Secretary, and Michael Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Moreover, a number of ministers who are not full members have been given a golden ticket to attend cabinet.

Such as Boris’s brother, Jo Johnson, who catapulted to Minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, and education, as well as Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

However, with only eight women and six people of color in Johnson’s cabinet, his premiership is one that lacks diversity.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State Education

Gavin Williamson LGBTI rights

Gavin Williamson | Photo: Chris McAndrew, Wikimedia Commons

Williamson enters the Department of Education at a critical time for LGBTI people.

After a school in Birmingham introduced an LGBTI-inclusive program of study, it ignited waves or protests across primary schools in the city.

And, even more recently, the protest fever has spread to Nottingham.

The office-head will have to face this head-on, but his voting record has raised a red flag among LGBTI rights activists.

He opposed marriage equality in 2013, and voted against extending same-sex marriage to armed forces personnel outside of the UK in 2014.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons

The Honourable Jacob William Rees-Mogg, Member of Parliament for North East Somerset

From the backbenches to the Despatch Box. Rees-Mogg’s⁠ new role will place him central to organizing governmental business – and invited to attend cabinet meetings

As a result, political pundits and the public alike are nervous. Considering that the MP for North East Somerset has consistently voted against marriage equality.

Moreover, he has adamantly advocated that the teachings of the Catholic Church take precedence on the issue.

Priti Patel, Secretary of state for the Home Department 

Priti Patel | Picture: Foreign an Commonwealth Office / Wikimedia Commons

Priti Patel | Picture: Foreign an Commonwealth Office / Wikimedia Commons

‘For her to be put in charge of the Home Office is extremely concerning,’ explained Clare Collier of the human rights group Liberty to The Guardian.

Indeed. Human rights agencies from all sides have greeted Johnson’s appointment of Patel into his inner circle with caution.

Furthermore, at a time where LGBTI asylum seekers become tangled in bureaucracy, often leaving them exasperated or unable to enter the UK altogether, Patel’s consistent voting record against basic human rights protections is concerning.

She has voted for a stricter asylum system and a stronger enforcement of immigration rules.

Many LGBTI asylum seekers find their applications rejected. In fact, just 21% of LGBTI Kenyans are granted asylum.

Esther McVey, Minister of housing, communities, and local government 

Esther McVey

Conservative MP for Tatton | Picture: Chris McAndrew

McVey is back in government for the third time in a role that will see her oversee the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Meanwhile, the core of the chaos in Birmingham has been a single question: Do parents have the right to remove their children from schools that teach LGBTI lessons?

To the blue-tie Tory McVey, they do have the right.

Although she has condemned the protests themselves, she has she twice voted against marriage equality.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom | Picture: Flickr

Leadsom’s voting record LGBTI rights is defined by one word: abstained.

She has never gone one way or the other when it came to marriage equality or education.

But on the latter, she had controversial opinions. In an interview on LBC, she said families should be able to withdraw children from lessons about LGBTI relationships ‘up to a certain age.’

Dominic Raab, Secretary of State 

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab | Photo: Chris McAndrew

Raab is one of the loudest voices in the Leave the European Union arena. As a result, equally loud Johnson awarded him the high-profile position of foreign secretary.

His voting record isn’t too bad, but in May when running in the leadership race, he said that he would not make it easier for trans people to change their gender.

‘I certainly don’t think I want to make it easier,’ he said in an interview with ITV News, ‘I think you need to be very careful with young people that age.’

White, male, and heterosexual

But while all eyes are on just how the PM will carry out his ‘no ifs, no buts’ approach to Brexit, Johnson took some time to talk equality in his first public statement as PM on the steps of Downing Street.

He voiced how the world admires the UK ‘for the equalities on which we insist, whether race or gender, or LGBT.’

Yet, the PM in the past has insisted himself that gay people are ‘bum boys,’ and that gay weddings are comparable to ‘three men and a dog.’

Theresa May said her successor will create a ‘bright future for’ the UK during her farewell speech.

But in a cabinet dominated by white, heterosexual, privately educated men, according to data, the future is uncertain for LGBTIs.

As LGBTI rights campaigner Peter Tatchell tweeted: Be afraid! Be very afraid!’

See also

Boris Johnson: ‘Not appropriate’ to veto Bermuda anti-gay marriage law

Gay MP resigns in protest as Boris Johnson looks set to become PM

Boris Johnson named UK’s new Prime Minister: What this means for LGBTIs


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