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The Bermondsey by-election and leftist attitudes to homosexuality

posted on 2023-06-07, 23:01 authored by Lucy RobinsonLucy Robinson
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the politics of homosexuality acknowledged as never before. Of course the gay liberation movement impacted the lives and experiences of gay men at the time and since, but it also was a key player in transforming the definition of politics much more widely. Alongside the womens liberation movement, by declaring the personal as political the gay liberation movement helped to reconceptualize the relationship between the public and private. However gay activists were to learn politicising the personal frequently meant personalising the political. The Bermondsey by-election of February 1983 and the treatment of the unsuccessful Labour candidate Peter Tatchell demonstrates the shifts and continuities in gay left politics from the Gay Liberation Front of the early 1970s to the outbreak of AIDS activism in the early 1980s. In it, despite Tatchell's focus on local and national public politics his political opponents merged his personal life with his Politics. Tatchell's lifestyle became a euphemism for a major politics rifts, between the right and the left, but more significantly within the left itself. Tatchell's experiences ultimately suggest how problematic redefining politics could be. Particularly it shows how rigid the understanding of `real men's' politics was across the political spectrum.


Publication status

  • Published


Palgrave Macmillan



Book title

Public men: Masculinity and politics in modern Britain



Department affiliated with

  • History Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Matthew McCormack

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