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30 October 2012

Sponsors threaten to pull out of Stonewall's 'bigot of the year' award

Sponsors threaten to pull out of Stonewall's 'bigot of the year' award

The Evangelical Alliance has welcomed news that two top banks are threatening to pull out of a Stonewall event this week unless their controversial 'bigot of the year' award is dropped.

Stonewall, a gay rights charity, is hosting its annual awards ceremony on Thursday. Among the categories are politician of the year, entertainer of the year and writer of the year.

But top banks Coutts and Barclays say they will pull out of sponsoring the event if the campaign goes ahead with its 'bigot' award.

Former 'winners' of the category include journalist Melanie Phillips and Tory MP Chris Grayling.

This year's nominees for the category include Alan Craig, former leader of the Christian People's Alliance, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Catholic.

Following action by Christian Concern, the banks' statements came in email responses to members of the public who had expressed concern at the companies' association with an award that seeks to ridicule.

In a statement emailed to concerned members of the public, Coutts & Co said: "Coutts are sponsors only of Stonewall's writer of the year award and have in no way been involved in the judging or support of the bigot of the year category. We have advised Stonewall that we will be withdrawing our support of the awards unless they remove this category."
Meanwhile, Mark McLane, managing director and head of global diversity and inclusion at Barclays, said: "I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a 'bigot of the year' category in the awards. Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.

"To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event."

Other well-known companies advertised by Stonewall as sponsors of the evening include the professional services group PwC and the internet search giant Google.
Those nominated for the award have not been offered any right of reply.

Speaking last month after hearing he had been shortlisted for the title, Alan Craig described it as "vicious name-calling" and said it reflected "more on the donor than the recipient".

Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: "It's encouraging that sponsoring organisations are now considering disassociating themselves from groups that make offensive and inflammatory remarks.

"This ethical approach is very welcome, and will hopefully prevent such groups from labelling everyone who disagrees with their rather extremist views as bigots."

Responding to the news, Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: "I am relieved that Barclays and Coutts have responded so quickly and decisively to distance themselves from this derisory award.
"It is deeply ironic that an organisation that claims to be opposed to bullying and even runs an initiative in primary schools, entitled 'Celebrating Difference', responds to difference of opinion by resorting to name-calling that, were it not more sinister, would be reminiscent of playground antics."