UNISON’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) committee has prioritised campaigning against the far right. This factsheet sets out a programme of work for the LGBT group in the run-up to local, national and European elections. But it is also for outside election periods: to combat the far right, we must work consistently to expose their lies. The strategy is for the national LGBT committee in partnership with regional and branch LGBT groups.
Our aim is to participate actively within a broad-based anti-far right coalition of trade unions, trades councils and anti-fascist organisations, such as Hope not Hate and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) to:
increase awareness of the level of threat from the far right and its allies
encourage local UNISON campaigning
increase voter registration within the LGBT community
increase voter turn-out within the LGBT community
stop the far right from winning elections and thereby gaining increased profile and resources
win the battle of ideas against the far-right and its allies.
UNISON nationally has developed a message explaining why we make a stand against the BNP. It explains how the fascist party’s values undermine trade unionism, attack workers’ rights and damage the cohesion of our society. The message underlines the choice between co-operation, partnership and working with others to achieve collective benefits versus the BNP’s extremely nationalistic, xenophobic and isolationist policies that damage our members and damage jobs, rights and prosperity. UNISON promotes a pro-public service message, emphasising the diversity of public service workers.
As an LGBT group, we promote this national message, whilst focusing on the specific homophobic, biphobic and transphobic beliefs of the far right. It is important, however, that we always recognise the far right’s racism and Islamophobia - and the negative effect they have on all communities. It’s not enough to simply focus on their antipathy to the LGBT community.
Evidence shows that targeted local work is the most effective in preventing BNP gains. So as well as having a strong national narrative, messages should be locally tailored to motivate turnout. What are the local issues that people really care about that lead them to the conclusion that voting BNP is the answer?
Fighting for a different type of politics
Whatever our own views, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that the BNP does attract some voters. ‘Anti-politics’ and disillusionment has also propelled greater numbers of people towards UKIP. This has led the coalition government to make ever more strenuous attempts to be seen to be getting tough on immigration, putting the squeeze on the most vulnerable in society. But underneath the immigration debate, it can open the door to a wholesale attack on public services and equality protections.
Creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrant people is not the type of politics we want to be part of or the type of society we want to live in. Many people have fears about losing their jobs, poverty wages, lack of housing. The answer to these fears is decent jobs and pay and decent housing. The answers do not lie in the politics of hate.
Putting the fight against the far right on our agenda
fighting the far right is a standing item on the national LGBT committee agenda, including updates from regional representatives
regional LGBT groups are asked to include fighting the far right as a standing item on their agendas and work programmes
regional LGBT convenors’ days include a standing item on fighting the far right.
Developing a comprehensive campaign
continue to work nationally and regionally with external partners including the TUCs, Hope not Hate, UAF, Operation Black Vote, Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card
support the development of Hope not Hate’s LGBT network, nationally and regionally
seek to co-ordinate work with other national self organised groups
liaise with Labour Link and the General Political Fund to maximise our campaigning strength and resources
build up our intelligence on far right groups and their views.
Disseminating our key messages
regular features in our newsletter Out in Unison and the monthly LGBT e-bulletin
publicise anti-far right resources to regional and branch LGBT groups, encouraging groups to use them
publicise Hope not Hate days and weekends of action to regional and branch groups, encouraging local participation
publicise anti-racism and anti-fascism training for our activists.
Promoting our message at LGBT community events
use our involvement in community and pride events and IDAHO, Black History Month, LGBT History Month, Bi visibility and Trans remembrance events to promote our anti-far right message
continue to have a strong national presence at UK Black Pride and publicise this event to regional and branch LGBT groups.
Building towards local, regional, national and European elections
Promote awareness of:
eligibility for registration
registration procedures, deadlines, and sources of advice
seek opportunities to disseminate electoral registration forms and postal voting forms to members
explore LGBT “member to member” canvassing, using lessons learned from the national project
encourage regional groups to include information on regional anti-BNP activities in mailings to members
challenge negative media stories, seeking to break myths and promote positive images.
Reporting our successes
information on our anti-far right campaigning included in the LGBT committee annual report and stories are included in our newsletter Out in UNISON
all to seek opportunities to speak to other parts of UNISON and external organisations about our work.
we will do regular updates in response to feedback and learning.
How regional and branch groups can get involved
Each regional LGBT group is asked to develop an anti-fascist action plan as part of their annual work plan. This should be drawn up in liaison with the regional anti-BNP contact. Ideas include:
promote campaign at regional meetings
encourage branch LGBT groups and activists to sign up to the campaign
promote voter registration and postal voting via regional or branch newsletters and regional LGBT web pages
promote anti-BNP and pro-public services messages at LGBT community events such as LGBT History Month, IDAHO and pride festivals
encourage branch groups to map activists and mobilise local membership
work with other regional self organised groups
build links with local/regional organisations, such as Trades Councils or local TUCs
work with UNISON regional anti-BNP contact and join regional and local days of action organised by Hope not Hate.
Many of these actions can be undertaken by branch LGBT groups in partnership with your regional group.
Any proposals for direct mail, or particular publicity, must be discussed with UNISON head office before proceeding.
Funding constraints are complex and potential breaches of the law are serious. Legal advice is issued to branches and regions in advance of elections. Expenditure on political activity may only be made from the GPF or the Labour Link. Coordination between the union’s political work is managed by an elections board and arrangements are in place to ensure that all expenditure is appropriately authorised, allocated and reported to the Electoral Commission. No election cost should be incurred without prior national authorisation.
Examples of regional actions
All UNISON regional LGBT groups have been campaigning to encourage voter registration and turnout against the BNP. Here are some examples of actions.
In Scotland, members in the Highlands campaigned against the BNP on the streets of Inverness during the recent European elections. Members in Glasgow alerted members by text to come into town and counter-leaflet, whenever it was known that the BNP were on the streets. This was very successful and BNP did not stay long once members arrived.
Members of South West UNISON LGBT group found out that the BNP were planning a meeting in a small village on the outskirts of Exeter. They prepared a simple script explaining what the BNP stand for, which they circulated to colleagues and friends. A concerted campaign of phone calls persuaded the village hall caretaker that it was not a good idea for the BNP to hold a rally in their area. Half an hour before the meeting was due to take place, the caretaker and the village cancelled the meeting.
Yorkshire and Humberside regional LGBT group distributed Pride not Prejudice leaflets, publicising the Hope not Hate campaign and celebrating the diversity of the LGBT community, at pride and other community events across the region.
UNISON South East LGBT group produced a newsletter highlighting the need for all to vote in the local elections and actively oppose the BNP.
UNISON Greater London LGBT group worked with their regional TUC LGBT network to produce anti-BNP leaflets targeted at the LGBT community. They took these to LGBT venues and organisations and did face-to-face canvassing in LGBT bars.
UNISON Cymru/Wales LGBT group used a ‘We are all family’ theme at their pride events as a tool in the anti-BNP campaign, in light of their views of a ‘normal’ family being a man and woman.
UNISON West Midlands LGBT group is working with Hope not Hate on a regional Hope not Hate network for the Midlands.
For more information
Carola Towle, national officer, LGBT equality firstname.lastname@example.org
Khadiee Campbell, national officer, race equality email@example.com
Daniel Zeichner, UNISON elections team firstname.lastname@example.org
Each UNISON region has an anti-far right contact – ask you regional office for details
Anti-fascist and anti-racist groups
HOPE not hate campaigns to counter racism and fascism in elections and beyond hopenothate.org.uk .
Unite Against Fascism campaigns to alert British society to the rising threat of the extreme right uaf.org.uk
UK Black Pride promotes unity and co-operation among all Black people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent, as well as their friends and families, who identify as LGBT ukblackpride.org.uk .
Operation Black Vote is a non party-political campaign which, among other aims, urges Black people to register to vote and confronts politicians with the reality of what it means to be Black in Britain obv.org.uk .
Show Racism the Red Card is an anti-racism charity which produces anti-racist educational resources, harnessing the high profile of professional footballers to combat racism. They have also developed excellent anti-homophobia materials: ‘Homophobia: Let’s tackle it.’ srtrc.org
Kick it out works in football, education and the community to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change. It is supported and funded by the game's governing bodies. Their website has resources on kicking out homophobia (and some on transphobia) as well as racism kickitout.org