Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss rebuffed after seeking LGBT endorsement
LONDON — Liz Truss, currently the frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson as British prime minister, bungled an attempt to gain an endorsement for her record on gay rights.
A representative of her campaign contacted the official LGBT+ Conservatives membership organization about cooperating on an endorsement for Truss and her record on LGBT rights during her time as an MP, a party member familiar with the matter said.
Truss’s campaign staff said they wanted to publish a piece by Dehenna Davison, a rising star of the Conservative Party who is openly bisexual, with the support of LGBT+ Conservatives.
However, Davison had not been consulted in advance, according to the person, and the approach by Truss’s team was rejected, partly because as an affiliated membership group LGBT+ Conservatives cannot back one candidate over another.
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A spokesperson for LGBT+ Conservatives confirmed this account and said they had followed Conservative Party guidelines by reporting the incident in writing to the party chairman.
They added: “As an affiliated group, LGBT+ Conservatives is neutral and does not endorse any candidates. We hope the elections produce some positive dialogue and policies for the LGBT+ community.”
A Truss campaign official disputed this, saying: “LGBT+ Conservatives were offered a call with Dehenna Davison to hear why she is backing Liz — they declined. This offer to them remains open.”
Truss is seeking to speak to as many Conservative Party members as possible over the next five weeks, including setting up calls between members’ organizations and supportive MPs.
Three party activists said the attempted overture was particularly misguided in view of many LGBT members’ unhappiness over her stance on transgender rights, which she has raised repeatedly in order to put forward the view that trans women are not women.
At a hustings event Monday, she told the audience: “I know a woman is a woman — that’s become a controversial statement in some parts of Britain today.”
Trans rights has become a fierce battleground in Britain’s so-called culture wars.
Truss’s phrasing aligns her with the “gender critical” movement in the U.K., which argues that sex is biological and should not be conflated with gender identity. Gender critical campaigners tend to the view that trans women should be excluded or restricted in women-only spaces.
Younger party members who fear the issue is being weaponized have privately shared concerns over Truss’s views.
“I just don’t trust her with my rights, and I’m not sure many of the sensible LGBT members would either,” said one member. “She’s been equalities minister for nearly three years and I cannot point to one thing that she’s done for minorities.”
Another member said the move appeared to be driven by a bad day for the campaign, with widespread negative coverage of a pledge by Truss to reduce civil servants’ pay outside London. “They are flapping,” the member said.
However, an ally of Truss said she was a “friend” to minorities and pointed to her voting record, which included supporting legislation for equal marriage.
Davison’s office declined to comment.