Voices: Mel C has taken a stand that doesn’t go far enough

Praise be to Mel C. The former Spice Girl has pulled out of her New Year’s Eve gig in Poland, citing “issues that do not align with communities’’ she supports. Fans have speculated that the decision is due to Poland’s treatment of its LGBT+ community, and she has been praised as a “hero” on social media by the writer Owen Jones.

According to the 2022 report by ILGA-Europe, Poland has the worst record on LGBT+ rights among EU countries. Currently, same-sex marriage and civil unions are not legally recognised in Poland, and same-sex couples have no legal right to adopt. Some towns in Poland have designated themselves “LGBT ideology-free zones” since 2019.

But – and it’s a big one – Sporty Spice has not gone into further detail or confirmed that her choice is due to support for the LGBT+ community in Poland and around the world. She’s taken a stand, but it’s been left ambiguous as to which “communities” she’s standing with. If you’re going to support the rights of LGBT+ folks, do it with your whole chest, says I.

After the David Beckham fiasco – remember, our “national labrador” and the most significant Spice Girl other half signed a reported £150m deal with Qatar to be an ambassador for their World Cup – the bar feels low. Beckham was seen as a gay icon after posing on the cover of Attitude magazine back in 2002, and the disappointment about his stance on Qatar was palpable.

So Mel C had an opportunity here. Yes, she’s pulled out of her Poland show, but she needs to tell us why, without ambiguity, for this to really be a win for humanity, tolerance, LGBT+ rights and, well, love.

Now, I have more affection for Mel C than I do fellow Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, of the seminal Union Jack minidress. Mel C wasn’t the one pictured hugging Nadine Dorries – who has a long anti-LGBT+ rights voting record – like they’re on the first night of a rosé-addled girls’ holiday at the Euros final at Wembley. That was Geri.

And Mel C didn’t give a 1996 interview to The Spectator where she trilled: “We Spice Girls are true Thatcherites. Thatcher was the first Spice Girl, the pioneer of our ideology – Girl Power.” Again, that was Geri – and in an interview with The Independent, Mel C confirmed that she does not agree.

Aside from, you know, taking away free milk for school children, introducing the Poll Tax, breaking the unions and decimating social housing stock, Thatcher is famous for bringing in Section 28, a deeply harmful series of laws that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality”. One of the most devastating impacts was in schools, where teachers couldn’t educate kids about LGBT+ relationships or what different families can look like. They were reticent – and this lasted into the early 2000s – about tackling homophobic bullying.

So it seems to me that Ginger Spice – and David Beckham – haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to the LGBT+ community. After the comedian (and to my mind, absolute national treasure) Joe Lycett shredded a fake £10k in protest of Beckham’s decision to take Qatar’s money and promote the World Cup, Beckham released the most milquetoast of belated statements, which did not mention LGBT+ rights at all.

The Polish state broadcaster TVP reportedly claimed that Mel C had withdrawn from the Zakopane gig “under the pressure of online comments”. By keeping her reasons vague, Sporty Spice is perhaps allowing the narrative to be shaped for her. She was the winner of Attitude’s Honorary Gay Award this year – and if she’s really keen on being an ally, we need to hear it loud, clear and proud.

In a world where the humanity of LGBT+ folks is still under threat and our choices of who to love criminalised in 70 nations, I want to see straight allies really raising their voices when and where it counts.