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Leicester Mayoral Candidates’ Opinions on LGBT+ health and HIV

Tuesday, 25th April 2023

On 4 May 2023, local elections are being held in Leicester to select the new City Mayor and all councillors. There are six candidates hoping to be elected as Mayor: Parmjit Gill (Liberal Democrats); Mags Lewis (Green Party); Sanjay Modhwadia (Local Conservatives); Rita Patel (Independent); Steve Score (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), and Sir Peter Soulsby (Labour Party). 

Trade Sexual Health recently wrote to all six mayoral candidates to ask their views on three key issues relevant to our work as an LGBT health and HIV charity: 

  1. The challenges impacting on the health and wellbeing of LGBT+ people in Leicester; 
  2. Trans safety and wellbeing; 
  3. Opt-out HIV testing. 

The candidates were asked to send us their answers by 24 April. We received three responses by that date. The replies from these three candidates are listed below, unedited (in alphabetic order). We invite the other candidates to send us their replies – if we receive any, we will add late replies to this webpage as they arrive. 

We hope you find these answers useful and informative. 

Q1: What do you think are the biggest challenges impacting on the health and wellbeing of LGBT+ people in Leicester? And, as Mayor, what would you do to tackle these issues? 

Mags Lewis (Green Party)

There are significant challenges relating to stigma and of hostility, facing the LGBT+ community, and these problems are exacerbated by the chronic underfunding in the health service, especially CAMHs and GIDS and mental health. One eighth of the LGBT+ Community report unequal treatment and stigma, when accessing care, and despite being more likely to require complex care, discrimination can lead to people avoiding access to healthcare.

As mayor, the public health remit falls under my jurisdiction, and I would have a crucial role in supporting public health and the development of services for this group, I would set about identifying holes in the services across health and social care, and working with the NHS,  the LGBT plus community and charities and groups, such as TRADE, to reduce stigma, focus on early intervention and treatment, and make sure Care is accessible. For example, I’d want to understand why the life links service doesn’t cover Leicester only Leicestershire. We need to fight stigma, and work with public health to ensure health packs, prevention and support happen far earlier.

Rita Patel (Independent)

I want to start off by reaffriming my commitment to have a meaningful dialogue with organisations like Trade around issues that affect the LGBT+ community in Leicester. 

The City Council's remit when it comes to health and wellbeing of the residents in the city focuses on the general health of the public, knowledge sharing around healthy habits, health protection, sexual health and advice to the NHS around public health.  

Sexual health is a core element of this and the City Council commissions partner organisations to provide services (help and support) to residents. 

I know, from my time as Assistant Mayor for Equalities, different parts of the LGBT+ community have different issues when it comes to their health. For example, LGBTQ Health Awareness Week highlighted that gay men are at higher risk of HIV and transgender people can face increased health risks from gender affriming hormone therapy as just a couple of examples.  

My view is that one of the biggest challenges overall is the fact that the LGBT+ community is not a homogenous group and there are issues to do with accessing services, stigma held by health practitoners, general awareness of the LGBT+ community in society as well as increasing waiting times for appropriate mental health provisions. That is even before you add the nuances of racial disaprities in accessing healthcare services, as an example. These things together have a really damaging impact on people's lives and they need to be fixed.  

I can't promise to wave a magic wand and fix every single problem in Leicester but I know that the best solutions come from working in partnership with the community. I would want to ensure that organisations like Trade, the Leicester LGBT Centre, the health boards and Leicester City Council are also in constant dialogue to find solutions that have the residents and community's interest at heart.  

Steve Score (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)

The Socialist Party, of which I’m a member, has a record of standing with LGBTQ+ workers and youth against bigotry and discrimination and fighting for rights and to defend and extend public services. Our members attended the first Pride march in Britain, we fought Thatcher’s Section 28, and we expose and oppose the lie that there is a conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, fighting to build a movement that fights for rights, resources and public services needed by all LGBTQ+ people and society, including the rights and resources needed to realise the rights of trans and non-binary people to self-identify in a meaningful way. 

I personally was very involved in the “Unity Against Prejudice” campaign in Leicester which in July 2000 ensured a pride event took place when threats from the far right got a planned event cancelled. We ensured it was safely stewarded and went ahead on the day despite 70 members of organisations like the National Front attempting to stop it. Our argument was that not only should an event celebrating LGBT lifestyles not be cancelled by threats, but that it was in the interests of all working class people, gay or straight, black or white, women or men to unite against their intimidation. 

In fighting for a socialist alternative to the rotten capitalist system, we are fighting to build a new socialist order free from all forms of discrimination, inequality, exploitation and poverty - the obstacles to all our ability to live as our true authentic selves and to thrive. 

The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), an electoral coalition offering an alternative to the main parties who all support the cuts and privatisation that leads to such suffering, and the capitalist system. TUSC is an inclusive umbrella, not an exclusive one, with its banner available to be used on the ballot paper by every working-class fighter prepared to stand up to the capitalist establishment politicians at election time. As a minimum commitment voters should know that the TUSC local election platform, on which I stand, is a ten-point programme that includes: “Fight for united working-class struggle against racism, sexism and all forms of oppression” as well as fighting cuts and privatisation of public services, and supporting all workers’ struggles against government policies making us pay for the crises. 

In Leicester we have seen cuts to local services provided by the council. Over £150 million a year in the last decade or so. It is true that the Tory government has cut council funding, but Leicester’s labour Mayor and council have meekly passed those cuts on. This has hit services provided to all parts of the community, including to LGBT+ people. We argue for the council to use the more than £200 million a year in reserves to prevent further cuts and allow time to build a mass campaign to force more from the government. I would also call a conference to discuss a “people’s budget” to invite all communities and trade unions to discuss what services we need in Leicester.

I would strive to use the position of Mayor to bring together campaigners, trade unionists, student activists and working-class fighters in a movement to fight back. I would see part of my role as helping such a movement to develop a programme that can bring all sections of the working class together regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and so on to fight for all our rights. Fundamentally, this means taking the wealth and power off the billionaires and big business and instead looking at how we can collectively plan society to meet all our needs and those of the environment. For example, nationalising the pharmaceutical industry, as part of the struggle for decent health care for all.

The challenges impacting on the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people in Leicester are many. A starting point for me is the cost-of-living crisis. Inflation – or more correctly ‘greedflation’ – is seeing profits soar and poverty, stress, homelessness, and hunger grow. 

Young people are often at the sharp end of this, including impacting their ability to explore their sexuality, with working-class youth at the sharpest end of the sharp end! The Socialist Party fights for a £15/hour minimum wage, a mass programme of council-house building and rent control, no cuts to public services including specialised services like domestic violence refuges, and free education. Leicester also needs youth clubs, proper youth clubs including the services needed by LGBTQ+ young people. 

LGBTQ+ workers are also hit hard. A report from the Trades Union Congress found that 68% of LGBTQ+ people have faced sexual harassment at work. Of these, two in three did not report it to their employer. A quarter of those who didn’t report chose not to for fear of being ‘outed’. 

As Mayor I would use my platform to fight the cost-of-living crisis. That starts with supporting the strikes by nurses, teachers, doctors, rail and postal workers and others against below inflation pay rises. I would strive to use my position to support all and every step towards coordinating the action between unions, drawing in wider sections and fighting for a 24-hour general strike. Such action could force the Tories out - something I fight for every day, which I would continue as Mayor. They are already weak, divided and crisis-ridden.  

The Tories are attempting to whip up transphobia as part of their attempts to stir division at a time when workers are uniting in a fightback against the cost-of-living crisis. This is not a coincidence! LGBTphobia – discrimination, oppression, harassment and bullying of LGBTQ+ people – impacts the lives of every LGBTQ+ person. A fightback is needed and I would also use my position as Mayor to continue our approach in the Socialist Party, of fighting to bring together the widest possible challenge and link the struggles of LGBTQ+ people with those fighting on other fronts - against sexism, racism, cuts, and the trade union movement.  

It is also necessary to build a new workers’ party with a programme of fighting for jobs, homes, services and rights for all in which different struggles can come together in solidarity and to develop that programme. I support the TUSC call for trade unions to back Jeremy Corbyn to stand as an MP and to build a new workers’ party, including coordinating with local campaigns and organisations to stand workers’ candidates in the general election as a step towards this. I believe this would an important way to raise a voice of opposition to the homophobic and divisive Tory lies, to which Starmer’s Labour offers no serious opposition. 

The strike wave over the last year has given a taste of the power of the working class when it is united and taking action. Workers have forced the government to negotiate on pay and have the potential to win inflation-busting pay rises. The working class organised within trade unions could lead a fight and win rights and resources LGBTQ+ people need. Because of this it is essential to link the fight against all forms of oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, to the fight against class exploitation and capitalism. 

Under Starmer the Labour Party has no programme for defending the NHS, which is a key factor in the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people in Leicester. The successful campaign to save Glenfield Children’s heart unit was left to the community, socialists and the trade unions to fight. Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting supports privatisation and opposes health worker strikes. I would do the opposite and use my position, as I did as secretary of the Glenfield campaign to do so. 

Q2: Trans and non-binary people are facing unprecedented levels of hostility at present which impact on their health and wellbeing. As Mayor, what actions would you take to protect the health, wellbeing, and safety of trans people in Leicester?

Mags Lewis (Green Party)

Trans and non-binary people are who they say they are, and the Green Party proudly supports self-identification. However, transgender and non-binary people are facing growing levels of hostility in society, and it is beholden on all of us to stamp this unacceptable behaviour out. I’d want to spearhead a three-pronged approach with: first, working with the police and enforcing action on hate crimes with a zero tolerance attitude. Secondly, reduce isolation and stigma through celebrating Trans and non binary people, supporting current services and volunteer services. Thirdly I’d want to work with experts and listen to trans and non-binary people, who will know better than me what is needed to support them. 

Rita Patel (Independent)

As I have been travelling around the city, different community groups have told me about the difficulties residents are having in accessing appropriate health care services and I am sure that trans and non-binary people are also having similar very serious issues.  

There are two factors here for the local authority to tackle. The first is the unprecedented levels of hostility that trans and non-binary people are facing at the moment and I know how difficult it is. For me, this all starts with education across communities. We have to create an open and safe environment for every single one of our residents and dialogue is the most effective way of doing so.  

The second factor is the mental health impact of all of this. At the moment, I think that many communities, including the LGBT+ community, are struggling to access mental health support in a timely manner. Accessing services is difficult, assessments are taking too long and NHS referrals can take up to a year! This just isn't good enough. Improving adult social care, with a focus on mental health, is a core priority of mine.  

If I'm elected City Mayor, I would want to make sure that LGBT+ voices are being heard as mental health services are being commissioned so trans and non-binary people are able to receive the help they need and help that is timely and appropriate.  

Steve Score (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)

One of the key ways homophobia has been challenged is through the heroic struggle of LGBTQ+ people, including the original Stonewall riots. As Mayor I would strive for the establishment of democratic committees of Pride organisers in Leicester to kick out the corporations and organise by drawing together community campaigners, trade unions and all others interested in reclaiming Pride as a protest. 

But an annual protest is only the start of what we need. I would strive for this to be a step towards building a fighting movement with a democratic and accountable leadership to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, participate in movements against austerity, oppression and discrimination and organise international solidarity. 

That includes in the workplaces. Many LGBTQ+ workers face discrimination, bullying and harassment at work. The main bodies of organised workers – the trade unions – need to launch fighting campaigns to stand up against all the bosses’ attacks and for LGBTQ+ workers at work and in wider society. These are organisations which can put the rights and needs of workers first, before the profit or interests of the bosses. This is something I would strive to have discussed in the trade union movement in the city. 

Q3: The Government is currently piloting opt-out testing for HIV in the A&E departments of hospitals in areas of ‘very high prevalence’ for HIV (NHS England » Emergency department opt out testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C: The first 100 days). Do you support the extension of opt-out HIV testing to A&E departments in areas of ‘high prevalence’ for HIV, such as Leicester? 

Mags Lewis (Green Party)

Any measures which reduces the stigma and prevalence of HIV, should be seriously considered. This must be in collaboration with professionals, evidence and the LGBT+ community. The more people who feel they can come forward or that testing is the norm, the better it is for everyone impacted by HIV, STDs and all of us. 

I understand that evidence has suggested opt out testing is effective in identifying issues and supports public health efforts to reduce prevalence . I think normalising testing reduces stigma around HIV. There will be people also who are unaware that they have HIV or other communicable diseases, and it is cost-effective to support intervention and reduced transmissions. The Green party support widening the availability of PEP, too. As Dissbility Spokesperson, we’re aware of the issues with blood products and haemophiliacs However, if the LGBT+ community in Leicester felt opt out was not the right thing, we’d need to listen here, too, and be as sensitive as possible so as not to increase stress, isolation and stigma. 

Rita Patel (Independent)

In short, I absolutely do support this. I know the campaign has had a lot of support and I think that any policy that is going to help reduce stigma and reduce the transmission of HIV is a great thing. In the long-term, I hope the pilot is successful and it can be rolled out across the whole country. I also want to thank Trade for the HIV testing work they have been doing in the city for a number of years.  

Steve Score (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)

I cannot claim to be an expert on this issue but I would use my position as mayor to fight for such questions not to be left to politicians, especially not those who defend the profits of the pharmaceuticals and are willing to make cuts to much-needed public services and our NHS. As socialists we fight for democratic control of society, and that includes in the health service. This requires democratic discussions, bringing together workers and service users, to develop a plan of what treatment, support and resources we actually need, not what capitalists can make a profit from or what the capitalist system can ‘afford’. We wouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail for safety measures like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be available, or against the years-long waiting lists for trans healthcare, because resources could be allocated on the basis of need not greed. That would have to be combined with building a mass campaign for massive investment into our NHS – for a fully funded, fully staffed National Health Service and care system, including huge investment into mental health, free at the point of use. 

Here is a link to the LGBTQ+ workers’ charter produced by the Socialist Party’s LGBTQ+ members’ group in 2021 (currently being updated):




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