Homophobia is not on the rise

There is no evidence that Britain has become more hostile to gay people.

Fraser Myers
Topics Politics UK

The horrific attack on a lesbian couple on a London bus has rightfully caused disgust and outrage. But according to many observers, attacks like this are a normal occurrence in Brexit Britain – a nation apparently rife with violent prejudice.

The Guardian carried a piece by one of the victims of the attack, which warned that the public’s sympathy for her and her partner was itself proof of the nation’s bigotry: it was only because we are racist and transphobic that we took any interest at all, apparently.

The same paper also produced some incredibly alarming statistics on the apparent state of hate in Britain today. Allegedly, England and Wales are in the grip of a ‘surge’ in homophobic and transphobic hate crime. ‘The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18’, it reports. Hate-crime hotspots like South Yorkshire and Hampshire experienced even larger surges, it claims, with police-recorded crimes rising by 376 per cent and 189 per cent in the same period, respectively.

To make matters worse, according to LBGT campaigners, this rise in hate crime doesn’t even capture the true extent of the hatred out there. Taz Edwards-White, alliance manager at equalities and diversity organisation Metro, told the Guardian that the hate-crime figures were likely to be ‘the tip of the iceberg’. She and other campaigners say this rise could be down to the rise of right-wing populism.

The truth is rather different. Every year for the past five years, the release of police-recorded data on hate crime has been accompanied by panicked media reports of a hate-crime surge. But as last year’s Home Office report made abundantly clear, large increases ‘are due to the improvements made by the police in their identification and recording of hate-crime offences and more people coming forward to report these crimes rather than a genuine increase’ (emphasis mine).

What’s more, there is a good reason why the ‘surge’ identified by the Gurdian takes off in 2013-2014. 2014 was the year the College of Policing released its Hate Crime Operational Guidance, which is still used to this day. This guidance actually demands that the numbers increase. ‘Targets that see success as reducing hate crime are not appropriate’, it says. As part of the drive to record more crime, there has been a slew of public-information campaigns and regular exhortations from police for the public to report hateful incidents, particularly in the wake of major political events like the EU referendum and the 2017 terror attacks.

Police-recorded data has other problems, too. Police are obliged to record not only criminal actions but also all non-crime hate incidents. A non-crime hate incident is literally any event that is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility towards a so-called protected characteristic. The key word here is perceived. As the Operational Guidance makes clear: ‘The victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception. Evidence of the hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incidents.’

In other words, for an incident to appear in the police-recorded hate-crime data, there does not have to be any evidence of any ‘hatred’, nor does the incident even have to be a crime. The only real basis for establishing that a hate crime took place is that somebody reported it to the police. Examples of ‘racist’ hate incidents recorded by police over the past few years, for instance, have included failing to clean up dog poo, aggressive beeping of a car horn, and a speech by Amber Rudd – none of which is racist or criminal.

In contrast to police-recorded data, the Crime Survey for England and Wales, another way of measuring crime, suggests there has actually been a 40 per cent decrease in hate crime over the past decade.

In fact, a fall in hate crime makes much more sense, and is easier to account for, than any surge. Claims about rising homophobic hate crime need to be put in the context of increasing tolerance of same-sex relationships. According to NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey, a major long-term study of public opinion, 64 per cent of respondents in 2017 said that same-sex relationships were ‘not wrong at all’, up from 59 per cent in 2015, and 47 per cent in 2012. A remarkable improvement in the space of just five years. The clear trajectory is towards greater acceptance of same-sex relationships, not one of rising homophobia.

Although the Guardian and others insist that the current populist moment has provided fertile ground for homophobic attitudes to rise, they provide no evidence to back this up. In truth, there has not been any major ‘homophobic’ policy initiatives or speeches in Britain from top-tier politicians or right-wing populists that could be said to have turned public opinion against gay people.

And what of that ‘tip of the iceberg’, of people being afraid to come forward to report hate crimes? Even with the obvious caveat that there is an abundance of non-crimes that are reported to police, it is certainly the case that genuine crimes will go unreported. But according to the Crime Survey, which interviews victims of crime, a higher percentage of hate-crime incidents came to the attention of police than the average for all types of crime – 53 per cent compared to 40 per cent. It is no more appropriate to talk of a tip of the iceberg for homophobic hate crime than it is for burglary or fraud.

Hate-crime statistics tell us little about genuine levels of crime and even less about the state of hate in the nation. What we are witnessing is not a surge in hate crime, but a surge in fear of hate crime, and a fear of the supposedly hateful masses who are always on the verge of committing it.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK


harry briggs

27th June 2019 at 12:36 pm

Hate crime is not on the rise, the reporting of incidents which are not crimes is added to the figures so as to justify more oppression and feed the PC brigade’s sense of self worth. the recording of non crime makes the hate crime figures are worthless.

Andrew Leonard

25th June 2019 at 2:46 am

“The horrific attack on a lesbian couple on a London bus has rightfully caused disgust and outrage.”

I don’t accept this attack necessarily happened, and neither do many others.


philip witriol

22nd June 2019 at 11:40 pm

To be fair, it’s possible anti-homosexual acts have increased in areas with large Muslim populations. And perhaps PC homosexuals do not report those quite as assiduously.

David Bethell Bethell

19th June 2019 at 5:34 pm

Well, this is a nasty little homophobic piece. Well done.

James Hillier

19th June 2019 at 8:13 pm

What was homophobic about it? And which bits were nasty?

Tim Hare

19th June 2019 at 2:38 pm

Why do these crimes have to be described as ‘hate’ crimes? Are they not just crimes like any other crime which does damage to another’s person or property?

If I steal something from someone is it because I like them? If I injure another person is it out of affection and care? The term crime already implies a disrespect for the other. What is hate if not a disrespect for the other person’s rights to life and liberty?

It seems that calling these crimes hate crimes is an attempt to suggest that they are doubly hateful and doubly disrespectful. It is a way of trying to make out that they are somehow ‘worse’. Crime is crime and it should be punished accordingly. There is no need to exaggerate any particular type of crime since the punishment is in itself a mark of the severity of the crime. Everyone knows that stealing or assault will land them in serious trouble. There is no need to inflate the description of the crime beyond what it says on the statute books.

This seems not sufficient for these people who want to try and engender exaggerated sympathy by exaggerating the level of the crime beyond what the law says it is. We should not allow them to dictate and manipulate language in this way. They are not victims of ‘hate’ crime but victims of crime and that is all they need to say.

gershwin gentile

19th June 2019 at 2:41 pm

“Hate Crime” is now “You said something I don’t like, I don’t have the intellectual nuts to counter what you said, therefore I don’t want you to say anything”.

Danny Rees

19th June 2019 at 10:33 pm

Ok then I shall report what you said as a hate crime as I don’t like it.

It’s more than likely I will be laughed out of the police station.

Or arrested for wasting police time.

I have a lot of time on my hands but I ain’t that sad.

David Bethell Bethell

19th June 2019 at 5:22 pm

You’re complettely missing the point. You are not robbed because you are a certain type of person, or have a certain way of looking or talking or belieiving or thinking. The robbery is invariably opportunistic. But if someone robs you and writes on your wall the “f” or the “n” word you can bet your bottom dollar you were specifiaclly robbed because of your sexuality and/or colour.
Punching someone in a drunken pub brawl, or mugging soemone in the street is one thing, but punching or mugging them for the specific reason of their gender, sexuality, colour, creed, religion is a hate-crime. It’s amazing people still need this explained to them.

Tim Hare

19th June 2019 at 11:53 pm

That is a very simplistic understanding of robbery. A great deal of robbery is cold and calculated and designed to hurt specific targets. The robber wants to hurt, that is they hate enough to want to hurt their victims.

The motivation for such a crime can be any of the things you list as reasons for ‘hate’ crime but a robbery is not described as a hate crime. It is sufficient to call it crime and to deal with it according to the crimes act.

You don’t punch someone in a pub brawl without some kind of perceived provocation. Someone says something or does something you disagree with so you punch them. If you see lesbians kissing on a bus and you disagree with such behaviour you might punch them. It is a crime to assault people for whatever reason.

It is all hate in some form or other but other victims do not insist on their crimes being labelled as ‘hate’ crimes. A hate crime is no worse than any other form of crime and does not need any other social restraints other than the appropriate sentence. Any exaggerated description is an attempt to emotionally manipulate the society.

Danny Rees

19th June 2019 at 2:13 pm

Without talking to LGBT people this claim means nothing.

gershwin gentile

19th June 2019 at 1:53 pm

“In other words, for an incident to appear in the police-recorded hate-crime data, there does not have to be any evidence of any ‘hatred’, nor does the incident even have to be a crime. ”

Well, there you go. Hate crime is on the up because anything you want to be a hate crime is a hate crime. Someone point out something you didn’t like? Hate crime, that’ll shut them up quick smart.

christopher barnard

19th June 2019 at 9:58 am

Spotting ‘hate crime’ is now lucrative work for a large number of state employed people, or people in state subsidised jobs in the charity sector and pressure groups.

It is in their financial interest to tell us that things are always getting worse.

James Hillier

19th June 2019 at 10:21 am

It’s also an important marketing tactic for many NGOs and pressure groups. It’s actually very well done, if highly unscrupulous. Think of the Wolf of Wall Street, “sell me this pen” scene.

David Bethell Bethell

19th June 2019 at 5:27 pm

Says the person who has absolutely no reason to undertand hate-crime or to ever have experienced it. Your ignorance doesn’t stop it being a daily reality for millions of people around the world, and that includes the UK.

James Knight

19th June 2019 at 6:10 pm

Some people will never experience hate crime. You could be beaten black and blue in the course of a robbery but it is not a hate crime because you do not belong to a group with a “protected characteristic”. You could be abused on a train for being fat, but it would never be a hate crime because being fat is not a “protected characteristic”.

We don’t need hate crimes to express opprobrium against attacks like the 2 women attacked on a bus. Who can forget the appalling murder of Sophie Lancaster, after which it was suggested that being a Goth should be a protected characteristic. In that case the judge and society were quite capable of expressing opprobrium at the seriousness of the offence and sentencing accordingly without recourse to the legal concept of hate crime.

We need to get back to the idea of equality before the law and that justice is blind. And get away from the pernicious and divisive concept of hate crimes.

James Hillier

19th June 2019 at 7:40 pm

In London, 25% of the victims of racially motivated hate crime were white. That’s the same proportion as were Asian. Most victims, from all ethnic groups, were males aged 24 to 44. There is no group which is immune to being targeted.


19th June 2019 at 9:40 am

Living as one half of a gay couple in socially conservative part of Shropshire you would expect people like me to be the subject of a continual stream of homophobic abuse. The truth is my husband and I have not experienced a single homophobic remark or been treated with hostility by anyone in our community for over ten years. Even a dear old neighbour with deeply held Christian beliefs will still say hello and even greet us with a smile every now and then despite that we know she disagrees with our lifestyle. Homophobia surely exists in our society but you have to scratch around quite a bit before you find it. There has never been a better time to live as a gay guy. I have equality. That’s all I ever wanted, nothing more, nothing less. People will be people.

Steve Roberts

19th June 2019 at 10:08 am

Far too sensible and truthful Wilston Thompson, well said ,you obviously live in the real world.

David Bethell Bethell

19th June 2019 at 5:23 pm

Well, let me take you on a journey…
Or is it a case of “I’m alright, Jack”?

Marvin Jones

25th June 2019 at 3:16 pm

There are many people who tolerate gay couples, IF they respect and realise that inappropriate behaviour is not thrown in their faces. Were those two lesbians on the bus a bit too lovey dovey in public? It is crucial to keep certain behaviour private.

James Chater

19th June 2019 at 8:59 am

Trusim? With greater official tolerance and wider acceptance of same-sex relationships comes the angry reactionary, intolerant mentality, which accounts for the viciousness of the attacks.
Brexit certainly did not ‘sanction’ hate crime but in the anomic atmosphere, because of the meltdown within the political establishment, directly caused by Brexit and affecting wider society, don’t some people feel emboldened?

Tom Burkard

19th June 2019 at 4:33 pm

Dear me–Brexit has become an all-purpose scapegoat for almost anything. Methinks you’re stretching this a bit.

Jerry Owen

20th June 2019 at 11:40 am

J Chater
Utter garbage yet again from you.
The so called ‘meltdown’ is the refusal of the establishment to accept a referendum result. The people that voted Brexit are to blame for absolutely nothing, they were given a referendum and they voted, they are democrats.

James Chater

20th June 2019 at 6:51 pm

J Owen.
Don’t use the second person pronoun. This isn’t Twitter.
‘Garbage’ indeed…

James Hillier

19th June 2019 at 7:49 am

A good article that says something important. Too much of our justice system, and our politics, has been carved up among special interest groups. The hate-crime statistics are an example of the harm this causes. Campaigners do everything they can to boost the figures as much as possible, as a way of gaining influence and funding that their cause often doesn’t merit. At the same time, because the misleading statistics put so much noise in the pipeline, it’s hard to spot real information. Even as hate crimes decline, there are probably edge cases in which violent prejudice stubbornly persists. If we had reliable statistics, we could spot those edge cases and do something to help the lives of the isolated and vulnerable people who fall victim to them. But as things are, the mass of misinformation swamps any useful information.

Steve Roberts

19th June 2019 at 9:08 am

Agree with much of that James Hillier, clearly we have a strata in society, supported by the political class, that are now an entire industry in their particular fields, racism,sexism environmentalism etc. These have to be continually fed to justify their existence in career terms and political outlooks.The “statistics” used vary from downright lies to manipulation used in bad faith and anything inbetween. Unfortunately it requires constant rebuff as in this article which is time consuming,divisive distracting and the setting of an agenda based on irrationality.Worse, it all perpetuates the idea that society is a seething mass of nastiness waiting to be unleashed , nothing could be further from the truth, there will always be remnants of bad behaviour and backward attitudes, it is for the rest of us to deal publically with this, but more importantly call out those regressive virtue signalled who despise most of us and continue to disrespect our common humanity towards each other in the vast majority of cases.

Tom Burkard

19th June 2019 at 4:38 pm

There is indeed some nastiness out there–you only need look at the comments on Guido or the Graun. Yet in reality, England is one of the most tolerant places on Earth. As a Pakistani friend admits, there’s a certain irony that this is one of the few countries where Muslims can worship as they please in safety. And don’t get me started on the USA, where I grew up…

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