I had a wonderful time earlier today at the Liverpool Pride march and activities. As ever it was a heady mixture of fun, noise, extrovertist behaviour, fancy dress, and laughter. But we must never forget that it is not only a carnival but there for a serious purpose. It was started after the brutal treatment of Michael Kausner and commemorates his life and the fact that there is still prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community.
One of the many reasons that I joined the Liberal Party, as we were then, 55 years ago was that it was and remains to this day a Party of toleration. It is not that we do not know if people are gay, or of colour or disabled or women or suffering poor mental health. We do notice but we do not care about that fact. What we do care about is ensuring that all people are treated equally and that all people have equal access to the opportunities that our society can provide them with.
Today, that determination was clearly shared by the vast majority of the people of Liverpool. It was abundantly clear that toleration was not only practiced by the people on the march but also by the many thousands of people who lined the route who cheered, clapped, and applauded the march as it passed them by.
Of course, there were a small group of people who protested but they were not opposed angrily by the marchers. Instead, they were treated with the amusement and contempt that they richly deserved. It has always appeared to me that those who protest most about other people’s sexuality are those who have most concern about their own.
Considering that it is a peak holiday Saturday we had a good Lib Dem team out but many of our Lib Dem team walked with other organisations that they also belong to. I spotted a Penny Lane Womble for the first time without her picker and collection bag!
The marchers came from a wide variety of organisational, commercial, and public agencies. I was pleased to see that the Chief Constable of Merseyside, Sereena Kennedy continued the tradition set by her predecessor, Andy Cooke, to lead a large contingent of police officers. As she told me that that this gave out internally to police officers who were themselves gay that it did not matter. Externally it made clear that the Police were on the side of the LGBTQ+ community and would protect and support them as they would any other citizen or visitor.
The Mayor of the City Region was there at the start, but he had to go to another event (a footy match). The Lord Mayor was there and visited a lot of the groups and even marched with the Lib Dems for a while. We promised no photos. Sadly, neither the Elected Mayor nor her Deputy Mayor appeared to be present on a day when I thought that their presence would have been helpful. Nor were any of our Liverpool MPs were there although Alison McGovern from the Wirral joined the Labour contingent.
The banners that we carried, where we made clear that Lib Dem policy against is firmly against conversion therapy, were particularly popular and hundreds of people signed our petition against the practice.
It was interesting to note the wide area from which people had come to attend the event especially on a day when the train services were reduced and one of our local bus companies was not running due to strikes. Postcodes were predominantly from the Liverpool City Region area but came from as far apart as Preston and Milton Keynes.
That meant that the day performed well with its secondary purpose – to make a few bob for local businesses. I had a veggie burger and a cake from a local business that occasionally comes to our Farmers Market. Incredibly good they were too!
I heard more sex jokes today than for many a year, but all told within the normal spirit of having a good sense of humour that seems to be engrained in a Scousers DNA. Even the traditional rivalry between the Lib Dems and Labour was suspended apart from a few minor spats!!
Good humour, concern for each other, toleration, fun and sparkle were the keynotes of the day. All of which reminded me of why I love Liverpool and why I am proud to be a Councillor here. This is by nature a tolerant City. If you can take a joke and give one back, you are all right by us. If you have problems, we will listen and try and help. If you need food or money we will be as generous to you as we possibly can considering the poverty which persists in large parts of the City.
I came home heartened by what I had seen and the conversations that I had with so many young people in particular. Liverpool was at its best today. If only we could show such collectivity and connectivity every day of the year. If the young people I met are typical of our city and wider city region then out future is strong indeed.