A gay Labour minister has been accused of hypocrisy for attacking David Cameron after the Tory leader appeared to stumble over how his party voted on gay rights issues.
Mr Cameron was interviewed for Gay Times magazine, where he admitted he did not know how his MEPs had voted on Lithuanian anti-gay legislation and said he allowed them free votes.
The interview was filmed, although Conservative Party sources said that Mr Cameron was not warned in advance cameras would be present.
Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw told Channel 4 News last night he thought it was “extraordinary” that equality matters were a free vote and called the interview “a major gaffe”.
He added: “[Mr Cameron’s] talked a good talk on some of these issues but his voting record hasn’t been very good. He’s learned a script but when he’s actually scrutinised and forgets the script, he doesn’t have the fundamental core belief to support him in his argument.”
Mr Bradshaw has been accused of hypocrisy for the comments, as critics have pointed out that Labour MPs have also been allowed free votes on gay equality issues.
Gay PPC and chair of LGBTory Matthew Sephton said: “On other bills, free votes have been common practice for Labour members as well, for example on the vote preventing fertility clinics from refusing IVF treatment to single women and lesbians, so the culture secretary is simply wrong in what he says.”
Mr Cameron was also criticised in the interview for allowing Tory peers a free vote on an amendment to allow religious civil partnerships.
Mr Sephton said: “Mr Bradshaw appears to either not know what he’s talking about or else is a hypocrite or liar. The Alli amendment was co-sponsored by Conservative Baroness Noakes for a start. And Baroness Royall, speaking for the government in the House of Lords, made it quite clear that those members on the Labour side of the House would be given a free vote.
“Ben Bradshaw got his facts wrong and should apologise for that.”
Conservative activist Iain Dale, who is gay, wrote on his blog that Mr Bradshaw’s remarks were “complete and utter toss”.
He added: “Bradshaw’s own government allowed a free vote in the Lords on the civil partnerships/church vote and asked Lord Alli to withdraw his amendment.”
Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said that interview had not been his “clearest”.
The spokesman said: “David Cameron would probably accept it was not his clearest interview on the subject, as he did not know all the details of a law being passed in Lithuania.
“But there can be no doubt that under his leadership, the Conservative Party has changed, and that includes our stance on gay rights. David himself has taken a very strong position in favour of gay rights – by supporting civil partnerships, and the Equality Bill – and apologising for Section 28 during the 1980s.
“We have three openly gay members of the Conservative front bench, and many more in the wider party.”