David Cameron writing for PinkNews.co.uk today has gone some way to restore the damage done to his party’s perception among the gay community within recent months.
Less than a year ago, 39 per cent of our readers said they’d vote Conservative at the next general election, a week ago, that number had dropped to 20 per cent. While the Conservatives remain the most popular party among LGBT people under the age of 23, it’s a marked decline.
In part it was due to an unsuccessful interview with the Gay Times, broadcast on Channel 4 News where Mr Cameron wasn’t able to immediately answer why his MEPs didn’t vote to condemn a proposal for section-28 laws in Lithuania. Although, in Mr Cameron’s defence, it was a relatively obscure vote.
In part it was also due to a secret recording of the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling where he suggested that he could understand why bed and breakfast owners might seek to ban gay couples. Although Mr Grayling has given an apology of sorts.
Unfortunately, it’s also in part due to Mr Cameron’s alliance within the European Parliament with parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice who advocate homophobic policies. He wrote on PinkNews.co.uk that he’s working with them to try and change their views. He also does accurately point out that both the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have partners in the European Parliament who have no less savoury views, although that doesn’t make his alliances any more justified.
But probably more likely it’s because while Mr Cameron has consistently talked about his support for the gay community, he hasn’t until now come forward with any concrete policies to appeal to the gay community.
Today’s commitment to quash the convictions of those found guilty of sexual offences that are now perfectly legal now, is welcome. It is wrong for anyone to have to admit to being a criminal for something that they’re now able to do with impunity. It’s likely that the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats would support these measures should the Conservatives win the general election.
Back in 2005, shortly after PinkNews.co.uk was founded, we were criticised for a comment article that effectively endorsed his candidature for leadership of the Conservative party. We said that David Cameron was the best candidate to modernise the Conservative party and help them appeal to the gay community. We said this despite his support of the Conservatives previous homophobic policies, because of the two candidates (the other being David Davis), he was the one most likely to advance gay rights.
PinkNews.co.uk will not back any political party at the coming general election. The results of opinion polls of our readers shows that you are split between the Conservatives, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, much like the rest of the country. 57% of PinkNews.co.uk readers have said they will decide which party to vote for based on the economy, as opposed to just 16% who said they’ll vote based on LGBT rights.
But if our readers and the wider LGBT community are going to choose a party based on the economy, they need to be sure that the party is also not going to discriminate against them because of their sexuality. David Cameron, has if you believe what he wrote for PinkNews.co.uk, committed that he will not dismantle the progress and legislative protections for LGBT people that the Labour Government have introduced.
Mr Cameron has in many parts been extremely brave. Just mentioning (as he has on a number of occasions) that a civil partnership between two men is as important as a marriage between a man and a woman, puts him at odds with many on the right of his party.
He says that he is changing his party and we’d like to believe him. Perhaps the Conservatives are a little bit like many of the parents and grandparents of LGBT people, it takes them a bit longer than it should do to come around and accept life in a diverse, modern society. But when they do, as David Cameron claims he has, we perhaps can rely on their support.
If the Conservatives win the election, Mr Cameron needs to ensure that those he appoints to his Cabinet and to ministerial team are unequivocally in favour of LGBT rights.
This would be welcome given that the Labour Government hasn’t always been filled with the LGBT community’s strongest allies. Tony Blair for example appointed Ruth Kelly as Minister for Equality despite her never having voted for gay rights in the past. Gordon Brown appointed Andy Burnham as health secretary despite him voting (alongside it must be admitted with David Cameron) for an amendment to fertility laws favouring families with a male role model (and not therefore lesbian couples).
We need a firm commitment from Mr Cameron, as well as the leaders of the other parties that just as it is unacceptable for any Government minister to consider that black people, or Muslims, or disabled people should have less rights than the majority, so too must no Government minister believe LGBT rights are even up for debate.
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