Angela Rayner pledged “solidarity” with both Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ community after the BBC announced departure from the diversity scheme

On 10 November, the BBC announced that it had quit the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, citing concerns over remaining “impartial” for its exit.

The scheme gives employers training on LGBTQ+ inclusion to ensure all members of the community are accepted and respected in the workplace.

Major players like the UK government’s Cabinet Office and Ofcom controversially quit Stonewall’s programme earlier in 2021.

“The BBC is fully committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion,” a spokesperson for the BBC said. “We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC.”

The statement explained that the BBC’s involvement in “public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active role” was a key factor in the decision to withdraw from the scheme.

The statement added: “Along with many other UK employers, the BBC has participated in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme to support our objective to create a fully inclusive workplace. However, over time our participation in the Programme has led some to question whether the BBC can be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active role.

“After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions Programme and will also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.”

Stonewall took to Twitter to share a full statement on the move, calling the departure “a shame” but adding that organisations taking part are free to “come and go depending on what’s best for their inclusion journey at the time.”

“Today’s news that the BBC is leaving our Diversity Champions programme comes in the wake of organised attacks on LGBTQ+ inclusion,” a tweet from the charity said. “Ultimately, it is LGBTQ+ people who suffer.

Responding to Stonewall’s tweet, Angela Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said that she stands in “solidarity” with both the charity and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Solidarity with @stonewalluk, our LGBTQ+ community and all organisations and everyone showing their support for Stonewall and the Diversity Champions Programme,” she wrote.

“Solidarity today and always with trans people facing a campaign of hate and discrimination.”

Rayner recently accused the government of using the LGBTQ+ community to create social division in the UK.

At a Labour Conference fringe event for LGBTQ+ activists on 28 September, she said the government is guilty of creating a “campaign of hate” at the expense of transgender people.

“Hate crimes have been soaring, bullying, discrimination, anti-LGBT hate,” Rayner shared.

“There is a mental health crisis that is hitting our LGBT communities especially hard.

“I have to say that there is a campaign of hate coming out of this government.

“Ministers are looking at vulnerable people, they’re looking at our trans community, they are looking at people’s identities and they see it as an opportunity to divide people. That is disgusting, that is disgraceful.”

Rayner, who has been the Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne since 2015, also called for improved media reporting on trans issues and committed to updating the Gender Recognition Act if she were in government.

She said: “I’m afraid to say that there is what appears to be a campaign in some parts of the media too.

“I have never seen so much inaccurate reporting. I’ve heard and seen so many panel discussions where trans people are being talked about and accusations are being made, but there isn’t anyone representing trans.

“I stand with Stonewall and what you said about the treatment of these issues in the media.”

Also sharing their support for Stonewall after the BBC’s announcement was Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, as well as the UK’s youngest MP, who criticised the BBC for “joining in the attacks” on the charity.

She wrote: “In the words of Desmond Tutu, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’

“Shame on the @BBC for joining in the attacks on @stonewalluk.”