British Prime Minister David Cameron joined writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry and businessman Evgeny Lebedev for private drinks in an East-End restaurant on Monday evening, just days after an exchange between Mr Cameron and Mr Fry over the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Several sources close to the parties confirmed to PinkNews on Tuesday that the Prime Minister attended the Grapes in East London on Monday for a private meeting with Mr Fry, along with Evening Standard and The Independent owner Mr Lebedev.
Although this was confirmed to PinkNews, we acceded to multiple requests for it not to be publicised, as it was a private meeting. However, given that the story is now in the public domain, it seems appropriate to report on the meeting.
The Mail on Sunday reported on the meeting today, joined by The Sunday Times and ITV. The Mail writes that a source told them Mr Fry, an opponent of the Conservatives, had come to an understanding of Mr Cameron’s opposition to boycotting the Winter Olympics in Russia.
“They had a very pleasant discussion,” the source is quoted as saying. “Mr Cameron explained in detail why he thought we should attend the Games.
“Mr Fry asked him how Britain would use its attendance to make the case for gay rights and seemed pleased at the replies he received.”
A Downing Street source is also quoted as saying: “The PM meets all sorts of people all the time. There is nothing unusual in him meeting Stephen Fry.
“He was having dinner at the pub with Mr Lebedev who suggested Mr Fry join them for drinks. The PM was happy to agree. It wasn’t a negotiation, it was a friendly discussion.”
Several observers confirmed seeing the three at drinks, and, although unconfirmed, signs point towards discussions over the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, as the meeting came just days after Mr Fry approached Mr Cameron on the issue.
Calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene, Mr Fry last week compared the Sochi situation to the decision to hold the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany and said President Vladimir Putin “is making scapegoats of gay people”.
Mr Cameron later tweeted a response to say that he shares his “deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia.” Mr Cameron added that this abuse can be challenged by attending, not boycotting the Winter Olympics.
After the meeting, Mr Fry appeared to have boarded a flight to Italy, as late on Monday he tweeted to say he had landed in the country.
In Italy and it’s jolly late …
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) August 13, 2013
One Twitter user confirmed seeing the three, and raised the question of what subject they may have met to discuss.
Walk out of local east end pub toilet last night and there was David Cameron. At his table Stephen Fry and Evgency Lebedev. #RussiaOlympics?
— Tom Mitchelson (@TomMitchelson) August 13, 2013
The Grapes, in Narrow Street, Limehouse, is part owned by openly gay actor and human rights activist Ian McKellen, and Mr Lebedev.
Earlier this week, Mr Fry mulled over potential ways of making a statement against the anti-gay laws, noting that the International Olympics Committee bans rainbow armbands, as they carry a political message, but attempted to establish a way to make a non-aggressive sign of solidarity.
I am more and more convinced that if EVERY athlete crossed their arms and bowed before their event & on the podium it would madden Putin.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) August 13, 2013
The argument over the issue of recently introduced anti-gay laws in Russia, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics today escalated, with Stephen Fry criticising the Daily Mail for what he called a “hate-piece” attacking him for standing up for LGBT rights, in which he compared the paper’s Editor Paul Dacre to Mussolini.
Last week, Telegraph journalist Brendan O’Neill also criticised Stephen Fry’s decision to write an open letter to the International Olympic Committee urging for the Winter Olympics not to be held in Russia because of the country’s stance on LGBT rights.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.
The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.