Cat Smith column: Pride is about more than freedom

Pride celebrates the diversity in our communities
Pride celebrates the diversity in our communities

In her regular column, the Fleetwood MP celebrates the Pride events which have been happening across the region, but says much more needs to be done to ensure LGBTQ+ people are full accepted in society

This weekend I’ve been involved with a number of Pride events that have taken place across the constituency. Pride is a brilliant celebration of diversity and brings lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people together for a vibrant and joyful party.

But the event has greater significance than just being a time to mark difference. It’s also about campaigning for the freedom to live our lives without fear of hate, violence or prejudice – a campaign that must be ongoing as recent events have proven. Its reported that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, including stalking, harassment and violent assault, have more than doubled in England and Wales over the last five years.

The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In the most recent year of data, police recorded 11,600 crimes, more than doubling from 4,600 during this period. Transphobic attacks have soared in recent years, trebling from 550 reports to 1,650. Almost half (46 per cent) of these crimes in 2017-2018 were violent offences, ranging from common assault to grievous bodily harm.

These findings come after two women were attacked on a bus in London for refusing to kiss in front of a group of men. The incident rightly sparked widespread condemnation.

Campaigners say this rise could partly be down to better reporting, but I’m also concerned hatred is growing on British streets because of the rise of right-wing populism.

Life as an LGB and/or T person have challenges, difficulties and sometimes conflicts that are not experienced by heterosexual men and women. Sadly, for many LGBT people, isolation, homophobia and hate crimes are still big issues.

We are still not living in a society where every LGBT person is able to achieve their potential, and many still live in fear of physical or verbal violence for being who they are. I hope that everyone in the local LGBT community enjoys the fantastic celebrations over the coming weeks and finds an opportunity to be proud of their difference.

It’s now three years since my friend and colleague Jo Cox was murdered by a politically motivated far-right extremist. This weekend I was involved with one of the many ‘Great Get Together’ events founded in Jo’s memory. This national campaign brings communities together to achieve unity.

Based on Jo’s values of kindness, compassion and inclusivity, the campaign seeks to promote the powerful message that we have more in common than that which divides us. This weekend would have been Jo’s 45th birthday and I still miss her.

I’m still waiting for a response from Wyre Borough Council about the future of Store 21 on Lord Street. It’s nearly a year now since I first wrote to the council highlighting what an absolute eyesore this building is and requesting to know who owns it. I’m still in the dark and in the meantime the building has fallen into further disrepair.

It’s a huge health and safety issue given bits of it keep falling off. Does someone have to get hurt before the owners take responsibility, refurbish and find new retailers?

I’m incredibly disappointed that the council have failed to take action and left the high street looking so shabby. It’s not fair on other traders who are trying to make a living near to a building that has been used for growing cannabis and gets targeted by vandals.

You don’t see buildings left in this state in Cleveleys, Garstang or Poulton, so why do Tory councillors think it’s reasonable for Fleetwood? Why is Fleetwood the poor relation when it comes to Wyre Borough Council’s priorities?