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article imagePTT Patron, former MEP Michael Cashman elevated to House of Lords

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 8, 2014 in Politics
Michael Cashman — a patron of the UK's Pink Triangle Trust, former Labour MEP and one-time British soap actor — is to be made a Lord, it has emerged.
Cashman was one of a number of working peers appointed earlier today, and will add to the current membership of the upper chamber of 770.
Having served as a Labour MEP for 15 years, the 63-year-old officially stepped down at this year's European Parliament election, having served his Midlands European constituency from 1999 till 2014.
Speaking to Pink News today, Cashman said his appointment to the Lords was an "honour" and that he realised it was an "enormous responsibility," too.
"It's a huge and humbling honour," he said. "I just wish my old Mum and Dad were alive to witness it. I will take this enormous responsibility with me in everything that I do."
In the interview, he went on to elaborate his thoughts: "It's a huge opportunity to speak out about the things that I'm passionate about: about equality, human rights, inhumanity, international development,"
Referring to next year's general election in the UK, Cashman added that he intended to use his new position to help "work towards a Labour government that I believe will start to address these major issues."
Michael Cashman has, for many years campaigned on the issue of gay rights and, in 1989, together with Sir Ian McKellen and a number of others, helped set up Stonewall, a national UK gay-rights organisation.
Today, he is a patron of the UK's only gay humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), which was set up in 1992.
An actor's life
Up till his retirement from the European Parliament in May, Cashman was a Labour spokesperson on human rights and the head of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
Prior to becoming a politician, Cashman was an actor. Making his television debut in Gideon C.I.D., in 1964, Cashman spent the next two decades appearing in a many number of films and television dramas, including The Befrienders (1972), Crown Court (1973), Enemy at the Door (1980) and The Winning Streak (1985). In 1986, he guest-starred in the four-part Doctor Who serial, Time-Flight, which starred Peter Davison as the time-travelling Doctor.
His films included I've Got a Horse (1966), X, Y and Zee (1972) and Monk Dawson (1998). He also memorably played one of the schoolboys in the 1971 film Unman, Wittering and Zigo, which was based on Giles Cooper's 1958 play of the same name.
EastEnders: Colin Russel (Michael Cashman)
EastEnders: Colin Russel (Michael Cashman)
In 1986, Cashman joined the regular cast of the BBC's brand-new soap opera, EastEnders, his role in the soap seeing him play an openly gay character, Colin Russell — a part he is still probably best remembered for.
Today, gay characters in soap operas and dramas in general are much more plentiful but, back in the mid-eighties, they were rare to almost nonexistent.
As Colin, Cashman holds the distinction of performing the first same-sex kiss in a soap opera, an event that — at a time characterised by a climate of homophobic intolerance and right-wing bigotry, encouraged in no small part to the late Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party government's anti-gay nastiness, typified by its vile Section 28 — led to tabloid headlines such as the Sun's "EastBenders!" and the daily Star's Filth! Get This Off Our Screens. Even at the BBC, where EastEnders is produced, as Cashman wrote in 2003, a senior corporation executive "asked for the entire episode to be axed or edited — without even having seen it."
Now, of the next stage in his political career, Cashman is quick to thank others for the opportunity he has been given, not least his long-term partner.
"None of this is achieved by one individual," he said. "I’ve got this because of the support of the most important man in my life, Paul Cottingham, my man of 30 years. Also, all of the colleagues that have helped me and supported me."
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