Unfinished business: time to pardon Alan Turing

This year has been an incredible year for Britain. This summer when we hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games we showed ourselves at our very best: a country with progressive values, an inclusive and diverse society coming together to show what we can do. Milton Keynes produced its own homegrown hero in long jumper Greg Rutherford.

The last time we hosted the Olympic Games was in 1948, shortly after the defeat of fascism, in a Britain facing the challenges of rebuilding a nation after the Second World War. It is right, then, that this year we also remember the code-breakers of Bletchley Park and celebrate the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth. But we also have unfinished business.

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician, who paid a heavy price for being gay in an age where it was still a crime. Following his conviction for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 he faced chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. Two years later he took his own life.

In 2009, Gordon Brown took the important step as Prime Minister of making a public apology to Alan Turing. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different…The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.”

It has been inspiring to see the coalition of academics, mathematicians, historians and LGBT activists that have joined together to call for Alan Turing to receive a posthumous pardon. Alan was one of many thousands of gay men who were convicted under homophobic laws which have now rightly been wiped off the statute book. Millions of other gay men lived in fear of persecution.

The Government says it cannot turn back the clock and pardon Alan Turing. But one hundred years on from his birth, it is time for us to correct the historical wrong. I have listened to the arguments of all sides about whether a pardon would be legal. Thanks to the work of the Milton Keynes Citizen and Bletchley Park this has become an important campaign in the city and nationally. I have listened to the case by Andrew Pakes, your Labour Parliamentary Candidate, about the need for change. It would be a fitting tribute in this centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth for the Government to grant him a pardon.

Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP is Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary - first published in the MIlton Keynes Citizen.