Words: Alastair James; pictures: John Nicolson
John Nicolson MP says the government's Charity Commission should "reflect" on its decision to grant charitable status to the LGB Alliance.
Speaking exclusively to Attitude, the Scottish MP for Ochil and South Perthshire says that the group "serves only to divide and denigrate" and must be monitored closely.
The LGB Alliance was founded in 2019 purportedly to "advance the interests of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals". It has since publicly campaigned against reforming the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to gain legal recognition and describes the affirmation of transgender children by charities and medical professionals as "a form of conversion therapy."
On its website, the group state they oppose trans women being admitted "into lesbian spaces" as well as trans men being admitted "into gay men's spaces", but insist they are not "anti-trans".
LGB Alliance has previously been denounced as a transphobic hate group by a range of LGBTQ organisations including Pride in London and by political figures including Labour MPs Angela Raynor, Dawn Butler and Rebecca Long-Bailey.
The organisation was granted charitable status in April despite a petition against it gaining more than 36,000 signatures and after the Commission says it received a “number of objections”.
“This is entirely unacceptable”
I asked the Charity Commission why they’d registered the sinister LGB Alliance as a charity despite its record of abusive behaviour. I’ve now had a (disappointing) reply.— JOHN NICOLSON MP (@MrJohnNicolson) June 2, 2021
What do you think? #Pride pic.twitter.com/d8bHi96p9X
Mr. Nicolson, who is gay, has been speaking to Attitude after posting his correspondence with the Commission on Twitter last Wednesday (2 June). After contacting the organisation a day after it was announced the LGB Alliance would be made a ‘charity’ in April, he received a response the following month, which he has now made public.
“The response from the Charity Commission was very disappointing. Not least because, in their reply, they raise their own concerns about the LGB Alliance's record of abusive behaviour," NIcolson tells Attitude.
“In their response to my letter, the Charity Commission even acknowledged that the LGB Alliance's social media appeared to involve demeaning or denigrating the rights of others. This is entirely unacceptable from an organisation which aspires to be a charity.”
John Nicolson MP (Photo: John Nicolson)
The Charity Commission, which is the government department dedicated to registering and regulating charities in England and Wales, said in April that it had seen evidence of “inflammatory and offensive" social media activity from the LGB Alliance, which it said, "appeared to involve, at times, demeaning or denigrating the rights (recognised by law) of others."
The Commission repeated in its response to Mr. Nicolson that it had contacted the Alliance about this, which it said had resulted in changes so their social media approach would be “less defensive and confrontational”.
Mr. Nicolson isn’t convinced.
"If the Alliance and its directors continue in their old ways, they must have their charitable status removed," he tells Attitude.
“It’s up to all of us to monitor them and keep sending evidence to the Commission. I will also be interested to monitor their [financial] accounts which must now be provided.”
“I suspect the law does need to change.”
In its response to Mr. Nicolson’s questioning of their decision, the Charity Commission said it was operating around “the legal definition of a charity” as set by Parliament. We ask if that definition is something that needs to be changed by Westminster.
“I certainly don't think that organisations with track records of abusing others and denigrating the rights of vulnerable minorities should be given charity status. So yes, I suspect the law does need to change."
Referring to the appeal launched against the Charity Commission's decision by the transgender youth charity Mermaids, supported by The Good Law Project, Stonewall and other LGBT organisations, he says: "But let’s see how the Mermaids legal action goes.”
The groups leading the appeal have already raised over £60,000 towards their costs on a crowdfunding website, and Mr Nicholson backs the action.
“Charitable status is intended for those who serve a public good. The LGB Alliance serves only to divide and denigrate. I can't think of any other 'charity' apart from the LGB Alliance which has to promise that it will stop posting abuse.”
“We should all monitor and report”
Asked about what should happen next, Mr. Nicolson replies that “the Charity Commission should reflect on their decision”.
“The Alliance has given the Charity Commission assurances that it and its trustees will no longer be abusive and won't post hate. I doubt they're capable of keeping that promise. We should all monitor and report” he added.
The MP had this advice for people, especially LGBTQ youth: “The Alliance and their supporters are a threatening and abusive presence online and target the vulnerable. It must be hideous for trans kids to read some of their appalling posts.
“Don't hesitate to mute or block the myriad anonymous accounts posting venom. And if you are a young LGBT reader, in particular, remember that many of those posting are angry obsessives hiding behind their keyboards.
“My team are incredibly supportive”
The LGB Alliance has tweeted John Nicolson messages of people who've donated to their cause under his name (Photo: John Nicolson)
Surround yourselves with people who are driven by love, not hate. Remember that Pride is a protest. Take care of your mental health and take care of each other.”
Mr. Nicolson says he's experienced abuse from LGB Alliance on social media in the past, with the group previously sending him messages of donations falsely made to them in Nicolson’s name.
But the MP tells me that there’s been an outpouring of support as well. “I have also received some lovely letters from friends and strangers alike. I’ve made new friends on social media both by sending messages of support and getting messages of support.
“I’ve had some great chats with the author Damian Barr, the actor David Paisley, and the comedian Janey Godley, amongst others. I’m looking forward to meeting all of them when things get back to normal!
“And, as always, my office staff have been brilliant. My team are incredibly supportive and get much more upset about the abuse I receive than I do.”
The LGB Alliance says it’s “working hard to protect the rights of LGB people."