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London: Lib Dem ‘straight fight’ leaflet ‘insensitive to gay candidate’

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  1. I would have thought “straight fight” was common parlence for a fair fight and any interpretation that it had anything to do with orientation was mistaken (potentially malicious) interpretation by another political party seeking to try and score political points by unnecessarily and irresponsibily ‘playing the gay card’ – the boy who cried wolf comes to mind.

  2. Since the leaflet also makes the point that voting for Labour is a wasted vote in that ward, I took “straight fight” to be referring to the fact it was a two horse race, if you will. Nothing worse than that.

    The tag line perhaps wasn’t thought through all that well, but I seriously doubt it was maliciously intended.

  3. Anthony Maxwell 6 Jul 2012, 11:15am

    No offence, but I think you’re clutching at straws

  4. When are the LibDems just going to go away? I find them awfully annoying

  5. Whingeing Tories!!! Trying to make an issue where none exists!!!

  6. There’s no love lost between the LibDems and Ben Summerskill

  7. This really is bizarre – is there no real news on offer today? The only ‘evidence’ of homophobia presented is the use of the word straight in a sentence on a leaflet. Hello???????

  8. what a load of crap, they lost they need to get over it..

  9. Sounds like sour grapes… Tories lost so get over it!!!! Perhaps the Tories should be turning all this energy to sorting out gay marriage…. just a thought!!!

  10. I was going to play devil’s advocate and, as a lib dem, defend the tories a little. but i can’t bring myself to do so now i’ve seen ben summerskill involved. it’s obviously a politically motivated smear against the lib dems if he’s involved.

  11. Robert in S. Kensington 6 Jul 2012, 12:53pm

    I wonder where the gay Tory candidate stands on equal marriage?

  12. Since these phrases have such a negative history, why not just remove “straight choice” and “straight fight” from the political vocabulary so that these questions don’t come up again?

    It seems like a very simple fix to me.

    1. Perhaps we need to understand that there are multiple uses of words and not assume that our interpretation is the correct one. If in doubt, we should ask questions about what message was intended to be conveyed rather than rush to knee jerk and juvenile allegations that are unfounded (particularly when other information has not been sought).

      Perhaps we should word any criticism in a different manner and suggest that wording could be improved (as the message could be interpreted as saying …); rather than rush into screaming “prejudice”, “homophobe”, lets play the gay card. Its playground childish immature politics that does that – the type we saw the Osborne playing in the Commons yesterday.

      Straight fight – means fair or a simple choice. As many commentators on here have said.

      Homophobic – LGBT people deserve better than the catty, snide, unsubstantiated queeny screaming thatg the gay Tories are doing in this instance.

      1. Again, if your party has a history of using this language in a homophobic way, doesn’t it make sense to avoid such language like the plague in future.

        If Straight fight means “fair or simple choice”, isn’t it just as easy and effective to say “fair fight”, “fair choice”, “simple choice” and avoid all this misunderstanding?

        Campaigns aren’t about appealing to the most people while offending the fewest. It doesn’t matter what YOUR opinion on what the word “straight” does or doesn’t mean. In a smart and effective campaign it only matters that words are chosen that draw the most positive attention to your candidate while avoiding as much controversy as possible. You may not like this reality but it doesn’t change the reality of it.

        1. Correction:

          Campaigns ARE about appealing to the most people while offending the fewest…

        2. Maybe so, Hayden

          Your approach still does not justify the claims it was homophobic – just offers the view that some might construe it as such (wrongly in my view). If they do, then they should clarify it before shouting out and using the gay card maliciously – or they risk for being seen as juvenile (which in my opinion they are being).

  13. This wouldn’t have been an issue if the Lib Dems didn’t have form. That vile 1983 campaign is still throwing its long shadow and has given the Tories a stick to bang a drum with all these later. Personally, I’m glad; anyone who remembers the foulness of the Bermondsey election will be OK to see it’s still hanging round the Lib Dems’ necks. The Tories, however, are disingenuous to claim homophobia here. Or perhaps just hypocritical. they were even worse!

    1. Not moved on since 1983 then Rufusred.

      Given that it is the Tories making these allegations – they seem to have moved on from their period of section 28.

      Claiming that this is anything to do with 1983 is laughable and idiotic.

      1. Hello Gary. I agree with you, and am glad so many Tories have moved on. My point wasn’t at all that ‘nothing has changed’. No, what I mean was those Tories making a fuss about this now can do so BECAUSE they are able to point a finger. I don’t think, as I said, that this slogan has anything to do with 1983, but it has given the Tories, or some of them, an excuse to seem more ‘progressive’. That was all.

        1. Hi Rufusred

          Sorry that i misinterpreted where you were coming from.

          I am also glad many of the Tories have moved on and I agree that this is a bit of a fuss about nothing.

          Whilst its good to see Tories being affronted at homophobia, it would be better if they were affronted by something that was actually homophobic – rather than finding it where it doesnt exist!

          Sorry for the misunderstanding!

  14. The facts –
    1. The Liberal Democrats fought an honest campaign
    2. The public have once again decided in their favour.
    3 Adrian Amer did not mention his sexuality during the campaign
    4. After he lost the campaign, the Conservatives (I assume with the permission of Amer) see fit to launch a vitriolic attack on the Liberal Democrat party alleging homophobia.

    Hmmmm. — Sour grapes, bad loser are words that spring to mind.

    Amer might have salvaged some glimmer of respect if he had accepted his second defeat with magnanimity.

    During his campaign, Amer was the only candidate who sought to make political capital out of the murder of a local.

    Frankly, I am disgusted. If Amer has any sense he will now accept his defeat with grace and move on.

  15. This is complete bollocks. Here, ‘straight choice’ is clearly nothing to do with the guy’s sexuality, as he isn’t even mentioned on the leaflet.

    If it were more personal, like the Bermondsey ones, that would suggest homophobic undertones. But the rest of the leaflet shows that the message they want to convey is that there’s no question about which candidate to choose. Not that the other guy’s gay.

    I was involved with the Lib Dems during the London election campaign, and do not think that the party would be quite stupid enough to isolate the majority of their members (who believe in equality, and many of whom are gay themselves), just to win over some homophobes.

    This is the only party to vote unanimously to repeal section 28, and is set to vote unanimously for gay marriage. When I voted all Lib Dem in the London/council elections, there was no ballot paper in which I was not voting for a gay candidate.

  16. Lynda Yilmaz 6 Jul 2012, 4:04pm

    Taking offence at a common phrase would be ridiculous and only slightly behind all that 80’s mania when crazy PC boroughs were busy rewriting history books and nursery rhymes to obliterate anything that could remotely be misconstrued as ‘offensive’.

  17. With regard to the current spat between Ben Summerskill and others, I can’t help feeling Ben would do himself (and Stonewall) a favour by leaving Twitter

  18. Unless the Lib Dem campaign team were completely stupid, they must have realised that using the word “straight” in a leaflet headline referring to a “straight fight” when the main opposing candidate was gay, was at the very least going to lead to possible misinterpretation as a ploy to attract the homophobic vote.

    To avoid any doubt, and to avoid giving the impression of courting the homophobic vote, they should not have used the word.

    I cannot believe the word was used without it occurring to anyone that it could be taken to refer to the sexuality of the Tory candidate, especially given the uproar after that the word was used in a scandalous way by the Lib Dems to denigrate Peter Tatchell in the Bermondsey by-election.

    I don’t believe for a moment that the team was stupid enough not to realise this leaflet’s wording could lead to a “misunderstanding”.

    A really low tactic. It just goes to show how principle can go out of the window when in competition with the will to power

    1. I think thats clutching at straws particularly when the candidate you refer to did not disclose their orientation in the election (or certainly not when I spoke to them!).

      1. Are you saying that the Lib Dem team didn’t have any idea he was gay when they printed the leaflet?

        Why should the candidate state openly that he is gay in his campaign, or in his conversation with you?

        Somehow, I don’t think I am the one who is clutching at straws …

        1. Alex Macfie 11 Jul 2012, 1:00pm

          Yes, that is what he was saying, simply because it was true. The Tory candidate’s sexuality was not mentioned at all during the campaign, and hardly anyone in the Lib Dems knew about it.

  19. @Gazza

    Spot on, I was about to post something very similar !

    Normally, I’m not particularly PC; I can’t really get too worked up if someone refers to an ‘accident blackspot’, ‘whitewash’ or whatever. Things should be judged on whether there’s intent to offend, and usually there isn’t. Being too right-on PC can often be counter-productive.

    That said, I just don’t believe that every LibDem failed to spot such an obvious double entendre, especially after the Simon Hughes episode. With direct comparisons with a gay candidate being made, the fact that (at best) they chose to let this ‘Straight vs. Gay’ innuendo remain was most unwise.

    It shows that in some respects little has changed since Bermondsey.

    1. Alex Macfie 11 Jul 2012, 1:02pm

      The reason they failed to spot this “obvious double entendre” is that they were utterly unaware of Amer’s sexuality. So it wasn’t obvious at all.

  20. Strange isn’t it how the Chairman of LGBTory is happy to speak out against an ambiguous use of a word (a word that all three parties have used in campaign leaflets in recent years) based on one incident that happened nearly 30 years ago, and yet happily turns a blind eye to all the actual homophobic things that Tory MPs have said in recent months about equal marriage? Also strange how Ben Summerskill seems have to do the same… Personally, Ben, I’d consider not supporting marriage equality to be far more offensive than someone ambiguously using one word that has multiple meanings.

    1. That should have read “how Ben Summerskill seems happy to do the same…”

    2. This has nothing to do with an accidental “ambiguity”, unless the Lib Dem campaign team were all so stupid that not a single one of them noticed that using a term like “straight fight” in a leaflet headline where their candidate was straight and the main opposing candidate was gay could be taken to refer to the candidates’ sexualities. The Bermondsey by-election may have been “one incident that happened nearly 30 years ago,” but it is one from which the Lib Dems should have learnt something.

      I can’t help getting the impression of a blinkered belief among some posting on this board that Lib Dem/ Labour = Always Good, and Conservative = Always Bad, to the extent that, regardless of the evidence, there is a compulsion to side with the anti-Tory side in any dispute. I can just imagine how different these posts would have looked if the position had been reversed, and a hetero Tory candidate had used the term “straight fight” in a contest with a gay Lib Dem.

      1. I actually (and honestly) wouldn’t have thought anything of it had the situation been reversed. As it’s been said, all three parties have used the term “straight fight” or some variation of it in campaign leaflets. So what, is that the other two parties are allowed to use that term, but not the Lib Dems because of the Simon Hughes incident? Or is it that it’s fine to use it against straight opponents but not LGBT ones? I have no blinkered vision at all, and I would be the first to criticise a Lib Dem if they used outright homophobic language, because I expect better from them. I just think that this is an ambiguous phrase, that is only getting heat because of the Bermondsey incident.

    3. Who says that the Chair of LGBTory “happily turns a blind eye to all the actual homophobic things that Tory MPs have said in recent months about equal marriage”?

      Here is his interview with Gaydar Radio:

      The boundary between right-wing and left-wing does not define the boundary between anti-gay and pro-gay.

      When you look at the very poor past history of the Conservative Party on the issue of LGBT rights, you will find that the problem has almost entirely been caused by the influence of dogmatic religion, and you will also find individual Conservatives who have been very progressive.

      These days, a very large number of Conservative MPs and voters strongly support LGBT rights. Including the Prime Minister.

      As the influence of dogmatic religion diminishes, humanity and progress flourish: right across the mainstream political spectrum.

      1. “These days, a very large number of Conservative MPs and voters strongly support LGBT rights”

        Do they though? Yeah, a lot of the frontbench team support LGBT equality, which I genuinely applaud. However, this equal marriage vote has shown just how much of the backbenchers (who will likely be the frontbenchers of the future) do not. Just look here:

        Currently, of the 306 Tory MPs only 70 (mostly frontbenchers) have indicated that they will vote in favour of same-sex marriage, 53 have indicated that they’ll vote against, and 182 have kept quiet on the matter (I suppose you could be optimistic and pretend that they’ll all vote in favour, but somehow I doubt it).

        Let’s also not forget that even after apologising for the whole voting on Section 28 thing, David Cameron still went on to make some rather dodgy votes (voting against allowing lesbians to have IVF treatment without there being a “male role model” present for the child).

        1. 107 Labour MPs have also, to use your term, “kept quiet on the matter.” If constituents write to these Labour and Conservative MPs and ask them their intentions, the C4EM is interested in knowing so they can update their table.

          Good to see that, of those Conservative MPs who have declared their intentions, a majority is going to vote in favour of equal marriage.

          It is a pity that when a Conservative Prime Minister braves the anger and acrimony of the right-wing dogmatic Christian MPs in his party, (a breed I hope and expect eventually to become extinct, and not a moment too soon,) and declares support for equal marriage, he is accused of insincerity and political opportunism. So he gets bashed by his own religious right-wing, and bashed by the people he is trying to support. In my opinion, this is a time for us to unite in attacking the fundamentalist religious bigots, not supportive politicians.

          1. I’m not trying to be contentious here, but I’m really not seeing where your “David Cameron is getting bashed by the people he’s trying to support” idea comes from? Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places? Most of the articles (that I’ve seen on here at least) about David Cameron’s support of equal marriage have been positive, as have most of the comments.

            I wasn’t talking about David Cameron, and you’ll notice that in my previous comment I said that I genuinely applaud those Tory MPs (David Cameron included) who do support equal marriage. I was talking about mostly backbench Tory MPs who are likely to vote against. So I wasn’t at all talking about attacking *supportive* politicians.

  21. The Free Dictionary

    straight fight
    a contest between two candidates only

    Strange even the dictionary doesnt consider a straight fight to mean anything to do with orientation.

    Finding homophobia where it doesnt exist is infantile behvaiour of a political party seeking to politicize something that should not be.

  22. Interesting reading more about these claims to smear the Lib Dem winner of the election.

    The smears alleging homophobia only came after a recount, when the candidate had won by a slim 23 votes.

    Why (if this was such a serious issue of homophobia – which I consider to be fatuous) was it not raised during the campaign?

    Childish by the Tories in the extreme

  23. As read in the local newspaper:

    “Things just go from bad to worse. My neighbour has just popped in and told me that Mr. Amer stood as a Liberal for the Westminster parliamentary elections in the 1990s. Apparently this was discovered recently and is now the subject of a blog posted on the internet. The five main planks of Mr. Amer’s campaign then are in direct conflict with fundamental Tory principles and beliefs. As a Grove resident, I thought that the fundamentals of politics were openness and transparency. Apart from his sexuality (which only came to light due to the Conservatives false claims about homophobia) and Mr. Amer’s apparent complete reversal in political beliefs, is there anything else that we, as Grove residents, haven’t been told. Perhaps if Mr. Amer decides to stand again for public office, he may wish (instead of calling for a public hearing to make political capital out of the untimely death of a local resident) to call a public hearing for us all to question him

    1. about these matters, so that we can properly judge whether he is a fit and proper person to represent the Grove Ward. I understand Mr. Amer has made himself unavailable today for public comment. Perhaps he should now make himself available to us, the local residents, to answer questions. Perhaps the Conservative Party may wish to answer on his behalf.”

    2. So you don’t think it is possible for a person to change some political views, and/or the allegiance to a political party, over the course of more than ten years?

      And you don’t think that the left wing of the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Lib Dems might possibly have some overlap?

      1. Dont you think the Conservative party should have raised these concerns before a recount ie during the campaign and that the actual candidate should have said something about it, rather than smearing after an election (perhaps being used as a smokescreen to cover the failures of the Tories – again!)

        1. Yes, I do think the concerns about the leaflet should have been raised during the campaign. I was not involved in the campaign and have no idea when the concerns were raised. However, the issue of the leaflet’s wording does not go away just because of when it was or wasn’t raised. The Lib Dem team were at the very least insensitive and supremely dense to allow the title to stand as it was. And that is giving them the benefit of the doubt.

          1. The concerns were not raised till after the recount.

            Seems to stink of sour grapes to me.

  24. Adrian Amer – was described on the Tories election website as a: “Local Candidate, Crime Fighting Barrister, Kingstonian… Adrian has lived in Kingston for most of his adult life. He has been actively involved in the Community in Kingston for over 20 years and stood as a candidate for Grove ward in the last election.

    But it wasn’t always that way. Mr Amer has more political experience that the Tories are prepared to admit. He has stood for Parliament – in the 1992 general election. But he wasn’t a Conservative then. He stood as a ‘continuing Liberal’ in the Kingston constituency – won by then Chancellor Norman Lamont

    Apart from describing the Conservatives as ‘greedy and selfish’, his policy platform included:
    Unilateral nuclear disarmament
    Full cooperation with European partners – including defence
    An end to NHS trust hospitals
    The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law
    Complete hunting ban
    Phasing out all nuclear power stations

    1. One wonders if perhaps he confused voters and was either unable to attract Tories because of his apparent difference in approach (historically and maybe currently) or whether they just didnt know which liberal candidate to vote for. Perhaps the homophobia never reared its head in the minds of voters, because it doesnt exist, until the Conservatives realised they had lost to a different liberal after putting forward a liberal candidate tried to play dirty tricks not previously mentioned in the campaign.

  25. Trying to recall the 1983 campaign which some of the Tories are trying to claim some connection to the “homophobia” in this campaign (even though it does not exist in todays campaign).

    From recollection – I do not recall the Tories raising concerns about homophobia in 1983 – perhaps they are just trying to make up for lost time, and in their over enthusiasm to try and appear LGBT friendly (because of some of the heinous attitudes of their peers eg Nadine Dorries, Karl McCartney, Peter Bone, Julian Brazier, Fiona Bruce, David Burrowes, Therese Coffey, Roger Gale, Gerald Howarth, Eleanor Lane, Philip Lee, Edward Leigh, Peter Lilley, Tim Loughton, Paul Maynard, Matthew Offord, Owen Paterson, Bob Stewart, Craig Whittaker et al)? Perhaps they are over compensating and finding offensiveness and homophobia where it does not exist? Perhaps they want to pretend they are no longer the nasty party that introduced section 28 etc?


    However, I think the lack of comment during the

    1. election campaign about their candidates orientation and then other people (not the candidate themselves) raising homophobia as a false spectre (and effectively outing him) particularly after a recount and losing by only 23 votes. Particularly when their candidate used to be a Liberal. Particularly when their candidate has made no public statement about this leaflet. All stinks of sour grapes, Tories trying to make politics out of something that doesnt exist – and trying to appear distinctive to their national coalition partners (curiously after using a Liberal supporter as a candidate).

      The homophobic claims are nonsense and make the Tories look even more out of touch. If this is what they call being all in it together …

  26. Very sensible comment on the Conservative Home blog:

    “Can we have some context as to why Ben Summerskill tweeted it?

    After ridiculously trying to declare he was pleased that the lib dems had accepted stonewalls position on gay marriage – he was angrily corrected on the details by lots of furious lib dems who

    A) reminded him that gay marriage was our policy two years before stonewalls
    B) he had berated the lib dems in 2011 for supporting gay marriage at our conference

    So you are welcome to claim that he did it in some sort of righteous anger, he didn’t. He did it because he didn’t like being reminded that he’s a homophobe.

    As for the leaflet…pish”

  27. or this one:

    “Who’d have thought ‘eh Tories complaining about Libdems being homophobic. as we all know the Tories are totally blameless when it comes to homophobia.

    Adrian Rogers, the rightwing homophobic campaigner, announced yesterday that he is to run against Michael Portillo in the Kensington and Chelsea byelection as an independent “pro-integrity candidate”.

    The GP, who ran an abusive campaign against the openly gay Labour MP Ben Bradshaw in Exeter at the general election, said he had decided to stand because he was appalled by Mr Portillo’s disclosure of his homosexual past.

    Adrian Rodgers GP now thats what I call a Tory! you knew where you are with them, not these ersatz Tories you get these days. David Evans there was another one, I do miss ’em. “

  28. But my favourite (and the most sensible) comment, is this one:

    “I realise that gay now means homosexual, but I hadn’t realised that straight now only ever means hetero. Presumably if Amer wasn’t gay it would have been OK to run that campaign, especially as in Kingston it usually is a two party contest. “

  29. Seems the Conservatives regularly use the phrase straight choice in their campaigning, which makes it even more unbelieveable that they would resort to such blatant sour grapes tactics on unfounded criticism they did not make during the election campaign itself:

    Re the Scottish independence issue: “David Cameron wants a straight choice: the status quo or full independence”

    In relation to aircraft carrier procurement, Philip Hammond referred to a “straight choice”.

  30. given the leaflet had no ” ” to emphasise the wording straight fight, then the Lib Dems were not making any anti gay comments, the tories are far more homophobic, it was them who introduced clause 28, and many of their current number of MP’s do not support gay rights or trans rights for that matter

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