'Hostility for LGBT+ people': Mike Freer resigns from Boris Johnson's government
- Credit: PA
Finchley and Golders Green's MP has resigned his role as minister for both exports and equalities in Boris Johnson's government.
Mike Freer MP accused the government of creating an “atmosphere of hostility for LGBT+ people” in his letter to the prime minister.
The resignation is one of 35 and counting following the announcements by health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.
In the letter he wrote he “can no longer defend policies I fundamentally disagree with”.
Just a month earlier, on June 6, backing Mr Johnson in the confidence vote, Mr Freer Tweeted: "I have worked with the PM since his City Hall days. He has delivered on local issues such as funding Henly’s Corner to saving the 13 bus. He’s been steadfast in supporting my Jewish Community in fighting anti-Semitism. He’s got it right on vaccines, on getting us out of lockdowns and on supporting the Ukraine. No one is infallible but I will support the PM as he has supported me and my constituency when needed."
Wednesday's resignation came shortly after Mr Freer told MPs that “elements” of Parliament have issues with transgender people.
But he told the Women and Equalities Committee he believes Parliament is “on the whole” not transphobic.
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He told the committee on Wednesday afternoon: “My fundamental belief is that Parliament is an accepting place, rightly is a questioning place.
“And I have no problems with those colleagues who don’t understand, or have genuine concerns, and many of the concerns I’ve discussed with colleagues are very genuine concerns, often from a position of lack of knowledge.
“So can I hand on heart say that everybody in Parliament is not transphobic? No, clearly I can’t.
“Clearly we have a very heated debate going on within Parliament. Some people may have their own agenda, but I think on the whole Parliament is not transphobic, but we have a lot more work to do, to educate and also to ensure that colleagues have their concerns respectfully listened to and hopefully addressed.”
Mr Freer said it is sad that toxic debate drowns out much of the good work MPs are getting on with behind the scenes and previous achievements on LGBT rights.
He said: “And yet we allow own goals that blow us off course and poison the well and hurt the community for, sometimes for an easy headline.
“And … weaponising any element of the LGBT+ community for a quick headline which then allows the whole government programme to be blown off course, I think is just something I find very difficult to deal with.”
Asked if he has optimism there is appetite in government to repair the relationship with the LGBT community, he replied: “If I didn’t have any optimism, I wouldn’t come into work every day.”
Mr Freer resigned from his position just over an hour later.
Earlier on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer put to Boris Johnson the claim that a man making a complaint about former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher was asked whether he was gay
“When that young man reported his attack to a government whip, she asked him if he was gay, when he said that he was, she replied ‘that doesn’t make it straightforward’.”
Sir Keir went on: “Will he apologise for those disgraceful comments on behalf of this Government?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I have already said that I regret very much that the member for Tamworth continued to hold office after the complaint was made against him in the Foreign Office, and it was resolved in the Foreign Office, his apology was accepted, but clearly that was not enough. And, in hindsight, I should have realised that he would not change.”
However, Mr Johnson insisted that when he was given the information that Sir Keir read out about the complaint that was made he “acted immediately”.