Gay MPs: The photograph that shows Westminster's attitude towards LGBT politicians is changing

This picture of 28 MPs and peers is the largest number of publicly out parliamentarians photographed together at one time

Mark Leftly
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 20 February 2016 22:06 GMT

One of the most remarkable, yet pleasing, statistics that fascinated political number-crunchers at last year’s election was that the House of Commons ended up with 32 lesbian, gay and bisexual MPs.

Then last month, the Scottish Secretary and divorced father of three, David Mundell, became the first openly out Tory cabinet member. His son Oliver said he “admires [him] today as much as yesterday”, and David Cameron said he was “pleased and delighted” for him.

The Independent on Sunday can now add a further two to that number, with the SNP’s business spokeswoman, Hannah Bardell, and Labour’s shadow Welsh Secretary, Nia Griffith, coming out for our special photoshoot celebrating Parliament’s growing diversity.

LGBT History Month is celebrated in February – and this photograph of 28 MPs and peers is a bit of history in itself, as it is the largest number of publicly out parliamentarians pictured together at one time, from a parliament with more gay members than any in the world.

Ms Bardell, who previously worked for the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, said: “I only came out to myself and to my family during the election. I then chose not to say anything publicly because I had just got elected and I didn’t want it to be one of the first things I said about myself as an MP.

“When David Mundell came out, it must have been very difficult for him, but it got me thinking about saying something myself. I felt this was the right moment – I’m very proud to be out and I’m very happy.”

Ms Griffith, who has been an MP since 2005, said her sexuality had been known among friends, family and colleagues since the mid-1990s, but she “hasn’t made any great fuss about it in Parliament”.

Lord Chris Smith is in the picture – he was the first openly gay MP in the 1980s and also the first to be appointed to the cabinet when he became Culture Secretary in 1997. Chris Bryant, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons who got the MPs and peers together, said: “It’s amazing how things have changed in 20 years. For years, Chris was the only one. But for some of the MPs now, their sexuality is just a mundane part of their lives rather than [as it is to outsiders] the only interesting parts of their lives.”

It is understood that parliamentary clerks have also been asked to look into commissioning a painting of LGBT MPs, to recognise this as the most diverse parliament in British history.

In a joint opinion piece for The IoS, Mr Mundell and Mr Bryant note the improvements in Parliament, but warn: “LGBT young people in Britain still face stigma and bullying. Rates of suicide and depression are significantly higher among members of the LGBT community.”

Sadly, some MPs turned up after the shoot was over. This means they missed the questionable treat of Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour shadow culture secretary, stripping down to his white underpants on a chilly February day in front of Parliament, as he swapped cycling gear for a suit to pose for his own portrait to commemorate the great strides that British politics have made.

Who is in the photograph?

1 Hannah Bardell The SNP’s business, innovation and skills spokeswoman came out to “herself” during the general election last year.

2 Angela Crawley The 28-year-old was the national convener of the SNP’s youth wing before winning Lanark and Hamilton East in 2015.

3 Cat Smith Jeremy Corbyn can count his shadow minister for women as one of his few true supporters among MPs – she used to work for him.

4 Mike Freer Parliamentary aide to Chris Grayling, the Leader of the House of Commons, since June, he previously resigned from the Government over a vote to recognise the Palestinian state.

5 Ben Howlett After winning Bath last year, the 29-year-old said the Conservatives were “more open on equality issues” than when he joined the party in 2004.

6 Ray Collins, Baron Collins of Highbury The Labour peer praised David Cameron for “being prepared to stand up and be counted” for supporting equal marriage.

7 Jonathan Oates, Baron Oates of Denby Grange Chief of staff to Nick Clegg during the coalition years, Lord Oates has been a regular on The Independent on Sunday’s Pink and Rainbow Lists.

8 Gerald Jones The Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP started campaigning during the miners’ strike, aged 14, and joined Labour in 1988.

9 Joanna Cherry The Edinburgh QC is considered one of the true stars of the SNP’s 50 new MPs, having set up the “Lawyers for Yes” pro-independence group.

10 Iain Stewart The Milton Keynes South MP is a former deputy chairman of LGBTory, and won plaudits for a speech during the last parliament on how he was bullied at school for being gay.

11 Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury As plain Chris Smith in the 1980s, he made history by being the first openly gay man in the Commons. He was made Culture Secretary in 1987.

12 Chris Bryant The shadow Leader of the House of Commons is one of the wittiest Labour MPs in the Commons and has written two volumes of the history of the UK Parliament.

13 Stuart Andrew Parliamentary private secretary to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, he told the Commons three years ago of how he was once “beaten unconscious” in a homophobic attack.

14 Margot James The first openly lesbian Conservative MP has said her party took “far too long” to accept greater equality, but insists “those days have passed”.

15 John Nicolson The former BBC and ITV journalist joined the SNP aged 16 and was nominated as a parliamentary candidate by Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister.

16 Brian Paddick, Baron Paddick of Brixton The two-time Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor was previously famous for being the country’s most senior openly gay police officer.

17 Peter Kyle The 45-year-old Labour MP for Hove is a former chief executive at the charity leaders group Acevo and sits on the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee.

18 Crispin Blunt The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair recently stunned Conservative colleagues when he announced during a Commons debate that he uses the party drug poppers.

19 Waheed Alli, Baron Alli of Norbury The 51-year-old is an openly gay Muslim who made his fortune in the media industry before becoming a peer in 1998.

20 Wes Streeting Long destined for political stardom, the former NUS president signalled his political leanings in January by stating he’d happily snog Tony Blair.

21 Martin Docherty Something of an extrovert, the SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire arrived at this photoshoot asking, loudly, “Where are the gays?”

22 Nia Griffith The shadow Welsh Secretary was married once, but is publicly coming out through this article, although her friends and family already knew.

23 David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland became the first ever openly gay Conservative cabinet minister last month, a decision he said was “one of the most important” of his life.

24 Angela Eagle The formidable shadow First Secretary of State brilliantly bested George Osborne at Prime Minister’s Questions, when the two stood in for their leaders in December.

25 Alan Duncan The former international development minister was the first leading Tory to enter a civil partnership in 2008.

26 Stewart McDonald The Glasgow South SNP MP, a member of the Commons Transport Select Committee, declared his party to be the “gayest group in Westminster” last year, with 12 per cent out.

27 Jenny Hilton, Baroness Hilton of Eggardon The 80-year-old former Metropolitan Police commander joined Labour’s red benches in 1991 and sits on the Sexual Violence in Conflict Committee.

28 Liz Barker, Baroness Barker of Anagach The 55-year-old Lib Dem came out during a debate on equal marriage in 2013, citing the fact that she had to “declare an interest”.

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