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A small victory for campaigners: Tesco says it won’t sponsor London’s gay pride march next year

The company has apologised for creating ‘misunderstanding and mistrust’ and will change its policy in 2013. That is good enough for me

By on Monday, 2 January 2012

Tesco seems to have listened to its customers (Photo: PA)

Tesco seems to have listened to its customers (Photo: PA)

Yesterday at Mass, the first day of the New Year and celebrating the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, our parish priest told us that Western civilisation was crumbling before our eyes. We all knew what he meant and we all knew that he was referring to the Christian civilisation that had built and shaped the West after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Yet I don’t want to write about doom and gloom. The bigger picture may be as our pp thinks, but we can still celebrate small victories. One of these, news of which broke just before Christmas, was that Tesco will not be sponsoring the London gay pride march in 2013. Readers of this and William Oddie’s blog will remember that we drew attention to Tesco’s decision to give £30,000 in sponsorship for a “family area” for this year’s march. Many people wrote to Tesco in response to this news, pointing out that the sponsorship did not reflect the views, beliefs and outlook of the overwhelming number of families that choose to shop at Tesco.

I wrote to the company myself, saying that it had moved from its policy of giving generous donations to charities to sponsoring a clearly political and highly controversial event. I asked them if they would do the same for a March for Life. Others wrote in to point out the debauched features of the Pride London march or the way some elements in these parades dress up in ways designed to mock Christian belief. All of us told them that by this decision the company had ceased to be “family friendly” in the way most people interpret the phrase and that we would shop elsewhere.

Judging from those people who sent me Tesco’s answers to their letters of protest, we all received stereotypical replies along the lines of “We believe everyone should be welcome at Tesco. This is reflected in the people we employ and the customers we serve. It is also reflected in the broad range of organisations and causes we serve…” followed by a list of some of the very considerable sums that Tesco donates to charities, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, and adding: “We are proud to have been invited to support World Pride in 2012 among a variety of community and charitable events.”

Without picking up here on Tesco’s sense of the words “community” or “charitable” in relation to the Pride marches, I thought this would be the end of the affair; why should a huge business like Tesco bother about – in their eyes – a bunch of hardline Christians when they had won the pink pound? Then on December 21 a friend who helps organise the Christian Party in Wales sent me an email she had received from Danielle Thomas, Tesco’s Customer Service Executive, which proved us wrong.

It began by saying, “I accept that you do not agree with our decision to sponsor Pride London. Tesco is the largest private-sector employer in the UK and our workforce comes from very diverse backgrounds… We encourage those colleagues who wish to set up their own social groupings within the company, one of the most recent of which is Out at Tesco, for gay and lesbian staff. This group asked for some support for Pride London, and we agreed to do that as part of our policy to treat all who work for us fairly.”

The email continued by stating that “Our support implies no moral, philosophical or political stance. It is not an expression of Tesco’s views; it simply reflects the diversity of the people who work for us.” But it is the concluding paragraphs that are the most significant: “We know that being the UK’s leading retailer carries unique responsibilities… We have a responsibility to listen carefully to our many and diverse customers and stakeholders, respect their views and seek to balance their opinions in the decisions we make… Whatever the issue, it is never our intention deliberately to inflame or polarise public opinion or to make an already contentious debate more contentious.

“We are very aware that a well-intended action designed simply to support some of our colleagues in Tesco has unintentionally created some misunderstanding and mistrust. We would never set out to do this and we are sorry for it. We will continue to support our colleagues in the Out at Tesco network… Most of our charitable and community awareness support is, however, focused on delivering practical benefits rather than funding awareness-raising events.

“We will, therefore, discuss with Out at Tesco how we can support them in future years in ways that will not include sponsoring events… I hope that [this] begins to restore your confidence that Tesco does try to do the right thing and does indeed listen to your feedback.”

I take this at face value and read it as a turnaround; a positive response to the very large number of letters that Tesco will have received from loyal customers, appalled at its earlier decision. I am not being triumphal about this; there will be many more battles in future on behalf of the Christian civilisation that my parish priest thinks is doomed. But it is an indication that Tesco is sensitive about, and listens to, customer feedback; that it has realised there is a big difference between charitable giving with practical benefits and funding “awareness-raising events”. The company has apologised and will change its policy in 2013. That is good enough for me for now. I have written to thank them.

  • Kirsty

    Don’t go to a gay pride march and shop somewhere else. If I don’t like the views or agenda of a place/people/organisation, then I do not place myself within those. I do not force my views and opinions into those situations and expect them to change. What a sad existence you must lead and will continue to lead if you do not realise that the world is changing.

  • I-love-gays-and-lesbians

    I don’t know why Christians have so many problems with others. If they care just about problems in their religion (money machinations, children abuses), they would also understand the difference among sexual orientation. 

    And I also have a question for all Christians: how would you feel if everybody around you is looking in your bed – what kind of sex position do you use with your wife/husband? Ohhh, yes, you don’t have sex … I totally forgot …

  • Ferret_buzz

    You’ve been fobbed off because the person at tesco was bored with corresponding with such a self-righteous biggott.

  • Rick DeLano

    A great victory, not a small victory.

  • Rick DeLano

    Yes, the world is changing. The perversion march will need to find a new sponsor in 2013, and this is precisely because………..the world is changing.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    I don’t really understand what Catholics want from gay people … it might be easier to just start killing gay men. 
    - I know people might say the Church teaches sexuality is amoral but a sexual act is a moral decision and thus falls within the realm of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but if so where is the support for gay people to achieve this in parishes?
    It seems instead that gay people are viewed by Catholics as being inherently ‘bad’ and something to be feared and even hated. This seems to be particularly true for gay acting gay men…. 
    - I don’t have an opinion on the Tesco thing – Pride is a bit ridiculous … 
    but I would like Catholics to provide a pastoral support network for gay people and sound teaching rather than endless hate and humiliating gay people …
    Gay people are NOT a problem …. ?!

  • Prenna

    As a Christian myself who has no tolerance for prejudice and homophobia, I am offended by the headline. This is not “a small victory for Christians”. This is a victory for bigotry and hatred under the pretence of Christianity. Both the Roman Catholic Church and Tesco should be ashamed. 

  • Shoelace_noose

    Oh, like when you eradicated paganism from Europe. Or launched multiple crusades against Muslims. Or slaughtered the Aztecs, the Inca’s and Native Americans, or when you sought to purge the world of female deities, because it made it harder for you to oppress women, or when you sanctioned slavery, or covered for child abusers, or held back science with threaten of stake burnings… Poor dears

    You have been the very force of oppression Christ himself was crucified for challenging. Isn’t it nice to know as more people follow Christ’s example the less Christians there will be in the world :)

  • Bob Hayes

    No. I have already commented about the lack of rigour in the questionnaire.

  • Bob Hayes

    Blake, Christianity is rooted in faith and reason. The NSS claims to be rational and rooted in reason, it is for the NSS to work within its own defined parameters, and in this instance it showed a distinct lack of rigour. As for your claims about ‘gloating’, I specifically stated in my opening post that this was no cause for triumphalism.

  • Leo_kessen

    HERE WE GO AGAIN… ALAH, JESUS, WHO CARES, THIS IS JUST ABOUT USING RELIGION TO CANALIZE OWN FEARS. MAYBE THE QUESTION IS WHY DO YOU FEEL ATTACKED BY A PARADE? ARE YOU BELIEVES SO WEEK THAT THEY CAN´T WITHSTAND SOME PINK T-SHIRTS ONES A YEAR?  MAYBE TESCO SHOULD SPONSOR SOME ANALYTICAL BIBLE READING :-). THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK MATE, NOT TO CHRISTIANITY NOR TO YOUR BELIEVES, WE HAVE ENOUGH WARS, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO START PROMOTING AN OTHER ONE? ANYWAYS… YOU CAN´T REALLY, CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST OBSTACLE. 

  • Bob Hayes

    Given the last phrase of your post, you also seem to be – in your own words, ‘not very respectful, holy, fair or open-minded’. 

  • Leo_kessen

    HERE WE GO AGAIN… ALAH, JESUS, WHO CARES, THIS IS JUST ABOUT USING RELIGION TO CANALIZE OWN FEARS. MAYBE THE QUESTION IS WHY DO YOU FEEL ATTACKED BY A PARADE? ARE YOUR BELIEVES SO WEEK THAT THEY CAN´T WITHSTAND SOME PINK T-SHIRTS ONES A YEAR?  MAYBE TESCO SHOULD SPONSOR SOME ANALYTICAL BIBLE READING :-). THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK MATE, NOT TO CHRISTIANITY NOR TO YOUR BELIEVES, WE HAVE ENOUGH WARS, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO START PROMOTING AN OTHER ONE? ANYWAYS… YOU CAN´T REALLY, CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST OBSTACLE.

  • Stevetupper

    Who are you to say that you speak for the majority of Tesco shoppers? 

    You do not.  I am a happily married man, who sees Tesco’s sponsorship of the Pride as a very little sign that a business as nasty as Tesco can actually do some good.

    Do not talk for everyone, ;cos you don’t know what everyone thinks even though you wish you did.

  • Bob Hayes

    Much is written here about ‘rights’. I should say at this point that I am an ardent supporter of fundamental human rights. However, there seems to be a tendency amongst some to want whatever is on their ‘wish list’ to be a ‘right’. On here people have claimed the ‘right to be loved’, the ‘right to be happy’. While these are of course desirable, it is absurd to think of them as ‘rights’  - think about it.

    As for fundamental rights here is Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 16.
    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
    (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
    (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.So, let’s hear the chorus of abuse for the United Nations and its ‘narrow-minded’ and ‘bigoted’ exposition of the family and marriage.

  • Tiffo

    Ah yes, the lesser spotted, but still rather poisonous, bigot.

  • Bob Hayes

    Something went wrong! This final sentence should – of course – be separated from the quote, which is from:
    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a6 

    ‘So, let’s hear the chorus of abuse for the United Nations and its ‘narrow-minded’ and ‘bigoted’ exposition of the family and marriage’.