Joe Lycett ruthlessly mocked the Tory government at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham.
The Brummie comedian didn’t hold back as he introduced a group of Commonwealth athletes during Thursday’s ceremony (28 July).
“I’m going to do something now that the British government doesn’t always do, and welcome some foreigners, this time from the region of Asia,” Lycett said, resplendent in a pink tracksuit with frilly sleeves.
Following his jibe he later tweeted at home secretary Priti Patel, saying it was “just a bit of banter”.
— Joe Lycett (@joelycett) July 28, 2022
Patel and the Tory government have fielded intense criticism over their anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Act, which seeks to clamp down on refugees who arrive by means deemed illegal.
There has also been heavy pushback against a deal to send refugees who arrive via the English Channel to Rwanda. Legal challenges stopped the first scheduled flight from departing for the African nation, but the party – including both leadership candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – have vowed to press on.
While Lycett brought humour to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, Olympic diver Tom Daley also used his appearance to make a powerful point.
Daley ran in to an audience of thousands of people holding the Queen’s baton while the inclusive Progress Pride flag flew behind him.
He was joined by members of Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is criminalised, such as Jamaica and Pakistan.
The Olympic athlete’s appearance highlighted a troubling fact: that 35 of the 56 member Commonwealth member states criminalise same-sex relations.
Tom Daley carried the Queens baton to support LGBTQ+ rights. (Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
Daley has been an outspoken advocate and champion for LGBTQ+ rights. Ahead of the ceremony, he announced a BBC One documentary titled Illegal to Be Me, which will show him travelling to Commonwealth countries to see what the sporting world can do for LGBTQ+ rights.
“Seven Commonwealth nations have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment under laws imposed by Britain in the 19th century when it was the colonial power,” said Daley.
Hours before the opening ceremony, a protest was held at Aston Hall in Birmingham to highlight the issue.
It was attended by LGBTQ+ people from Commonwealth countries and their allies. Protestors sang a song crying for justice singing “we love equality and homosexuality” as they held banners and signs calling for change.
Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights organisation the Peter Tatchell Foundation, led the protest.
He said that the Commonwealth Games stating that it’s “open to everyone” is “impossible”, as many Commonwealth athletes who identify as LGBTQ+ “would be jailed, not selected – no matter how good they were.”
LGBTQ+ people from the Commonwealth gathered to protest the games. (Credit: Peter Tatchell)
Tatchell added: “The Commonwealth Secretariat colludes with homophobia. It has sold out LGBT+ communities across the Commonwealth. The secretary general, Baroness Scotland, has shown no leadership; failing to speak out publicly against the current intensified persecution of LGBTs in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda.”
These words hold true, as recently three gay men were sentenced to death by stoning in northern Nigeria.
In Ghana the LGBTQ+ community has endured so much disdain and torture that organisations have teamed up to sue the government for human rights violations.
Tatchell noted that LGBTQ+ people in Commonwealth countries have “no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and the provision of good and services.”
He added that this blatant disregard for LGBTQ+ people “makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter”.
As day one of games kick off on Friday (29 July) Daley and Tatchell urged people to remember the violent homophobia that plagues more than 62 per cent of the member states of the Commonwealth.
Daley said: “Every single person should be free to live their true authentic self, no matter where they are born or who they are. We must all keep working until everyone is free and equal.”