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Feature: Vote Blue, go Pink? After equal marriage, a gay Tory asks ‘What’s Next?’

  • Magnus Hirschfeld

    An outstanding piece: particularly where it focuses on the appalling and worsening oppression of LGBTs abroad in answer to the question, “What’s next?”

    • Paula Thomas

      I see Conservative central office are out in force. ‘Outstanding piece’ that ignores or belittles Labour’s contribution and also ignores inconvenient facts like that over half of Conservative MPs who voted in the same sex marriage debate voted against it. Labour bashing really isn’t insight.

      • J.

        Good … no, Great … reply Paula!

      • Magnus Hirschfeld

        I think you may have been reading Nigel’s piece through red-tinted glasses, Paula. The first paragraph of the article reads:

        “In an extract from a new book, Conservative Nigel Fletcher reflects on changes within his own party after equal marriage, and society as a whole, as well as asking “what’s next?” ”

        The piece is primarily about the Conservative Party. No-one is denying that the Labour Party (inter alia) has made an outstanding contribution to LGBT equality in the UK. But that was not the topic of this article, which was an extract from a book about the Conservative Party.

        If you decide to use support for equal marriage as a barometer of progressiveness, then there are perhaps a couple of “inconvenient facts” that you yourself seem to have overlooked. One is that the Labour Party had the opportunity to introduce equal marriage in 2004, but did not do so, deciding on civil partnerships instead. Presumably Labour did that with an eye to not upsetting an electorate that they felt was not ready to accept equal marriage. But they gave us civil partnerships, and not equal marriage, nonetheless. It was an important step in the right direction, but it fell short of equality. I don’t blame the Labour Party. Perhaps too many Labour MPs were opposed to equal marriage at the time. Perhaps the Labour Party felt it would lead to the loss of too many votes. But it was a very important progression.

        And there is another “inconvenient fact” to consider. In my teens and 20s, when I used to support the Labour Party, I took part in the campaign to try to persuade Labour to support gay and lesbian equality. There was great opposition for a long time in the Labour Party to lowering the gay male age of consent from 21 to 16. You can see how far the Labour Party has come today: but it took a lot of hard work to bring that about, and it took time.

        Just as the Labour Party has been on a journey, the Conservative Party has also been on a journey with regard to LGBT rights, and this journey continues. Given its starting point, which even in the 80s was dire, the Conservative Party has made at least as much progress towards accepting and arguing for equality as has the Labour Party. This progress should not be belittled by counting the number of Conservative MPs who voted against equal marriage. Some of them were being as pragmatic as was Labour when it resisted equal LGBT rights in the 80s, and when it rejected equal marriage in 2004, looking to what might happen to their majorities. Some others are victims of the prejudices they learned from their parents, schools, and churches: and some in the latter category are no doubt ossified in their ignorance, and will be replaced in the future by a new generation of pro-LGBT Conservative politicians.

        The Conservative Party has been on a journey regarding LGBT rights, and continues on that journey. Damning progressive Conservatives – MPs as well as activists – because of the actions of disappointing colleagues, either in the present or the past, does nothing to assist that journey, and merely punishes people for trying to bring about positive change.

        The success of the equal marriage campaign did depend on the support of Labour and other parties, to supplement the votes of progressive Conservative MPs. It was wonderful to see all major parties working together in the service of a common cause in order to bring this about: an event that, without David Cameron’s support, which has lost him thousands of Conservative Party members and probably hundreds of thousands of former Conservative voters, there would be no equal marriage in England and Wales today. But the important point to bear in mind is that equal marriage became law because political parties that were normally in battle with one another put down their rifles and worked collegially on a common cause. This stands in stark contrast both to the hostile behaviour by left-wing LGBT activists towards their Conservative counterparts that has been described in Nigel’s article: behaviour that even finds expression in some of the comments on this page.

        • Paula Thomas

          “Nobody is denying..” goes along with “I’m not homophobic but..” in the pantheon. The shear bare-faced cheek of the Conservative Party in blaming Labour for not introducing SSM in 2004. Just staggering!!

          • J.

            Same-sex marriage wasn’t even on the radar in 2004. That proposal wasn’t considered so it is wrong for Labour to be accused of having “rejected” equal marriage then. They could hardly ‘reject’ it when it wasn’t even on the radar!
            Civil Partnership legislation was seen at that time as being very progressive, radical and a huge step forward – it was not that long ago that the Tories were intent on persecuting the LGBT community. I never heard any discussions about equal marriage at the time. CPs or a status-quo appeared to be the only options on the table. It was a triumph for the LGBT community at that time in achieving CPs considering the homophobia coming from many Tories and their Unionist friends from Northern Ireland. Therefore it is quite offensive for Tories to now underplay that achievement and the Labour Government’s role in introducing CPs by accusing it of having “rejected” equal marriage.

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            What does “Same-sex marriage wasn’t even on the radar in 2004″ mean? Peter Tatchell had been campaigning for equal marriage for 21 years. Equal marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005, and in the Netherlands since 2001. It is not an ultra-modern concept. When the Labour Party had the opportunity to introduce equal marriage in 2004, they rejected it. Instead, they introduced civil partnerships. If, as you say, equal marriage was “not on the radar” in 2004, then “not being on the radar” can only mean that either not enough Labour MPs supported equal marriage for the Labour Party to introduce it, or else that the Labour Party considered they would lose too many votes at the time if they did so. Can you honestly – and I mean honestly – think of any other reason why “CPs or a status-quo appeared to be the only options on the table”? If so, I am all ears. There is no conceivable way the idea of equal marriage would never have occurred to the Labour Party, with same-sex marriage already being legal in the Netherlands at the time.

            Civil partnerships were a great step forward. But you must face facts. What those Conservative MPs did in 2013 when they voted against equal marriage was not such a far cry from what the whole Labour Party did in 2004. Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have been on a journey with regard to LGBT rights, and continue on that journey. Your unbelievably simplistic black-and-white political world is a figment of your imagination.

          • J.

            Magnus, do you really believe that equal marriage would have been accepted by the UK public in 2004? Same-sex marriage became a reality in 2013 when a majority of the UK supported it, according to opinion polls. The decision to press ahead with the legislation was a relatively easy one for David Cameron to make. CPs had already been place and publicly accepted. In 2004, it is debatable as to whether or not the public would have accepted a transition in the law directly to SSMs. Any thought given in Government to SSMs would probably have been brief (that is what I meant by SSM not being ‘on the radar’ in 2004) due to (rightly or wrongly) political reasons – it wasn’t long before the 2005 election and all Governments are guilty of backing away from introducing legislation that could lose them public support in the run-up to a general election.

            It was unfortunate that same-sex marriage wasn’t introduced in 2004 rather than what is now considered as being the ‘stepping-stone’ solution of Civil Partnership. As you point out, other countries were legalising SSM but as more countries (yet only a minority of the world’s nations) were introducing civil unions the UK couldn’t have been regarded as having dragged its heels for the time. Therefore, whilst it was far from satisfactory, it was probably the only realistic opportunity at that time for us to achieve more progress towards equality.

            That is why LGBT Tories now shouldn’t be critical of Labour’s decision then, especially considering that a Tory Government during the 2001-05 Parliament wouldn’t have introduced SSM or even CPs and that Labour MPs were pivotal in the 2013 SSM bill’s passage through Parliament as a majority of Tory MPs were opposed. Labour didn’t introduce SSM in 2004 for reasons I’ve mentioned, but in 2013 it was the main party in Parliament (under the lead of a Tory PM and a minority of his MPs) ensuring that SSM are now legal.

            I don’t regard that viewpoint as being “unbelievably simplistic black-and-white”. I’m only trying to be rational and realistic.

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            You say, “do you really believe that equal marriage would have been accepted by the UK public in 2004?” My answer is “no”. But the salient point is that it didn’t need to be. The Labour Party had a majority in government in 2004, and could have voted it in regardless. Why didn’t they? It was surely either because not enough Labour MPs supported equal marriage ten years ago, or else because the Labour Party feared being punished at the ballot box as a result, or both of these reasons. I suppose the objection would be raised by some that it would not have been democratic for the Labour Party to vote in a measure that was opposed by the majority of the electorate at the time. However, I am not someone who thinks civil rights for a minority should be dependent on the good will of the majority. Perhaps you acknowledge some of the above when you say, “all Governments are guilty of backing away from introducing legislation that could lose them public support in the run-up to a general election.”

            You say, “That is why LGBT Tories now shouldn’t be critical of Labour’s decision then.” But you are missing the point. Firstly, I do not speak for all LGBT Tories. I speak for myself. My point is that the left-wing “Conservatives should be written off on LGBT rights while Labour is above criticism” mantra that we often see on PN comments pages needs to be challenged. Both parties were guilty, over the years, of appalling ignorance and indifference with regard to LGBT equality. Both parties have been, and still are, on a journey. The Labour Party has come much further, while the Conservative Party has covered a great deal of distance in a much shorter time. As you yourself point out with regard to the introduction of civil partnerships in 2004, even Labour is capable of being deflected from doing what is right with regard to LGBT rights by political pragmatism. I am afraid you have not understood my posts on this issue. I am not being critical of Labour’s decision to introduce CPs instead of SSM in 2004. I believe in the importance of political pragmatism: after all, LGBT rights is hardly the only manifesto commitment, and if a particular policy would probably lead to a party losing the election and not being able to implement any of its manifesto commitments, then it may well need to be shelved. The point I have been trying to make is that both Labour and the Conservatives are on a journey regarding LGBT rights that needs to be affirmed and encouraged, and that the position the Conservatives are at now with regard to LGBT rights is not too dissimilar from the position the Labour Party was at a decade or two ago. That is a very, very short time in politics, and in my view, the Conservative Party does not deserve to be written off because of it.

            You also say, “The decision to press ahead with the legislation (i.e. same-sex marriage) was a relatively easy one for David Cameron to make.” But nothing could be further from the truth. David Cameron was subjected to fierce opposition from both inside and outside the Conservative Party for supporting SSM. Conservative Party members left the Party in droves, and thousands and thousands of former Conservative Party voters switched to opportunistic UKIP as a result, who have made a point of stressing they oppose equal marriage to encourage the defections. Because of the Conservative Party’s appalling homophobia in the past, which only began to change under John Major’s leadership, it will still take some time for the damage to be undone and for the Conservative Party’s poor reputation on the issue of LGBT rights to be undone. Some of the comments on this page are no doubt from people who (like myself) suffered at first hand from Conservative homophobia under Margaret Thatcher, including the appalling Section 28. I do not know of any other Conservative leader in the world who has championed equal marriage apart from David Cameron. He has paid a very dear price as a result of it, in terms of defections by members and voters to Ukip, and the vilification of his party by a large number of LGBT people continues regardless. Nonetheless, I believe he did what he did as a matter of principle, and I believe it is a marker of the transformation the Conservative Party is undergoing: one that was well overdue, and that has now been assisted by the departure of toxic social reactionaries to Ukip.

          • J.

            When I said that the decision for David Cameron to press ahead with same-sex marriage was a relatively easy one for him to make, I went on to say it was in the sense that CPs had already been in place for nearly a decade and recognised – even by opponents of CP legislation when introduced – as having been successful. Many former opponents of CPs admit now that providing rights for inheritance, etc. was the correct thing to do. The path to progress to SSM had therefore been laid. Anti-gay legislation had been blighting our lives only very recently before CP legislation was first discussed in Parliament. In the eyes of the law and in peoples attitudes LGBT people were not very well regarded and indeed the thought of recognising same-sex unions at all was very shocking to many people at the time. As time progresses I think many of us forget just how much of a transition it seemed like at the time. Having said all that, of course it wasn’t ‘easy’ for Cameron, only relatively with the things above considered – and when I say ‘relatively’ it is with the awareness that he still faced a steep challenge with enemies in his own party.

            That is why in an earlier post, responding to Nigel Fletcher, I said the following: “It’s good of you to comment and acknowledge the continuing problem with the Parliamentary party. With work yet to be done in winning over a majority of MPs it suggests that ignorant and homophobic views are still highly prevalent at the party grassroots level. So, despite having major gripes with the coalition Government, I have to acknowledge that Cameron and LGBT Tories were brave in pushing forward with same-sex marriage despite the pressures from within the party.”

            Despite my opposition to Conservative policies I hope anti-bigoted members become the majority in the party. It’s just a shame that it’s ‘enlightenment’ doesn’t extend to others in society unfairly disadvantaged by laws and social attitudes. I feel that the party is still to learn that its past mistakes in the oppressive treatment of LGBT people are currently being applied by them to the genuinely ill and disabled, but I suppose that is another argument.

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            I am a member of the Conservative Party in one of the leafy shires, which tend to be more socially conservative, as I’m sure you are aware. I regularly go to Association meetings and functions, where I am “out” as gay and as an LGBT activist, and I have never once encountered any homophobic bigotry from anyone. Quite the opposite. People have been enormously welcoming and friendly: including my MP, who voted against SSM There is a myth about homophobia among Conservatives that would have been true some time (decades?) ago, but is no longer the case.

            Your statement that “ignorant and homophobic views are still highly prevalent at the party grassroots level” is simply incorrect. And by the way, not supporting equal marriage does not make someone a bigot by definition. There are plenty of people who (like Labour in 2004) saw it as too much of a gamble in terms of how many votes and members would be lost as a result of it, including those who considered the impact of losing local party workers. In addition, there were people who were supportive of LGBT rights but for religious reasons felt they could not endorse equal marriage. They may have been misguided, but calling them bigots, if that is what you are implying, is a step too far. There are real bigots in Parliament, and using the word too widely will let them off the hook by devaluing the currency.

            One very positive thing about David Cameron supporting equal marriage is that the homophobic bigots have migrated to Ukip. The Conservative Party did need to be detoxified after Thatcher’s legacy, and the extent of support for SSM in the Party seems to have done the trick. My hope is that the Conservative Party will now draw in new members as it becomes clear that it has made a great deal of progress on social issues.

            With regard to the final issue you touch on: the Conservative Party still needs to make a great deal of progress in the social justice domain of welfare. Just as being a Labour supporter doesn’t mean you support every Labour policy, being a Conservative supporter doesn’t mean you support every Conservative policy. I was as appalled by Atos and the way it stitched up the poor and disabled as anyone else. I support a guaranteed, unconditional citizen’s income, and believe that no-one should be deprived of a basic income for shelter, warmth, food and clothing, for any reason. I am very much hoping this will become a mainstream policy of all major parties in years to come when the economy can afford it. I have to say that Labour is by no means blameless when it comes to allowing the poor and vulnerable to be stitched up. Labour appointed Atos, not the Conservative Party. Two of my friends with disabilities were stitched up by Atos under Labour, and had their benefits stopped as a result. One of them was tenacious and had the benefits reinstated as a result of an appeal. The other was made so anxious she was intimidated to go back to work and made herself very ill as a result. I also recall that Labour continued with the system of sanctions on unemployment benefits introduced by Margaret Thatcher, which for most people are far too little to live on anyway. Quite apart from all this, I had a great deal of experience campaigning on behalf of very vulnerable people under the Labour Government, and experienced at first hand how that Government and the vast majority of Labour MPs who were made aware of the terrible injustices we were dealing with, just couldn’t care less. That was one of the factors that made me decide to join the Conservative Party – the final factor being the PM’s support for equal marriage.

            All parties still need to travel a great distance with regard to properly looking after the poor, vulnerable, sick and disabled. That certainly includes the Labour Party, who as I said above, appointed Atos, with all that followed from it.

          • J.

            It’s in my nature, whether or not it appears like that here, to be accommodating and non-aggressive. Obviously there are areas that we disagree on and probably could discuss those issues non-stop but still not resolve those differences. I’d prefer for us not to continuously highlight certain things said or not said, but agree to disagree at this stage on the areas where we differ. Don’t assume I’m backing away from debate as I’m only trying to be rational and realistic.

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            We have had a very interesting and stimulating discussion. Thank you for that. I am sure that we actually have many points of agreement on a number of issues. I agree that we’ve covered a lot of ground and that it is time to draw our discussion to a close. I wish you well, and hope you enjoy the long weekend.

          • J.

            Thank you and hopefully your weekend too will be good. :-)

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            The problem with those rabidly anti-Conservatives on the Left – the see-everything-in-black-and-white-socialists – is that the truth gets sacrificed in the process.

            Firstly, I am not “the Conservative Party”. I am an individual trying to point out to you that things are not as clear-cut as you would have us believe with regard to Labour = always good, Conservative = always bad on LGBT rights.

            Secondly if your reading of my post leads you to believe that I am “blaming Labour for not introducing SSM in 2004,” then you clearly did not read the following section of my post:

            “I don’t blame the Labour Party. Perhaps too many Labour MPs were opposed
            to equal marriage at the time. Perhaps the Labour Party felt it would
            lead to the loss of too many votes. But it was a very important
            progression.”

            You have cherry-picked parts of my post to respond to, and even then, you have distorted them to suit your prejudices.

        • Nigel Fletcher

          Thanks for that Magnus – I fear some people just won’t take yes for an answer from people who fundamentally agree with them on equality, but happen to be of a different political persuasion.

          • Paula Thomas

            You really don’t get it do Nigel? It is not a question of taking ‘yes for an answer’ you are asking people to support a party a majority of whose MP’s voted against SSM on the grounds of support for equality. Sorry but that’s snake oil your selling my friend.

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            And the Labour Party rejected equal marriage in 2004, which had already been legal in the Netherlands since 2001. Instead of giving us equal marriage in 2004, the Labour Party gave us civil partnerships. Fair enough. Perhaps they thought that not enough Labour MPs supported it to carry it through. Perhaps they thought they would lose too many votes because of it. And civil partnerships were a great improvement on what had been there before. But it was not equality.

            Do you think people should have spurned the Labour Party after 2004 for only supporting civil partnerships instead of equal marriage? Or should Labour supporters have denied the Labour Party their vote before Labour at long last agreed to lower the age of consent for gay men to 16? The political picture you are peddling is far too simplistic. Just as the Labour Party was on a journey for decades before they came to support LGBT equality, the Conservative Party has been and continues to be on a similar journey. And it has come a long way, and thanks to activists such as Nigel, will not doubt continue on that journey. There should be more to the decision whether or not to support a political party than the question of whether the majority of its MPs support equal marriage in preference to civil partnerships. That was the case in 2004, and it is still the case in 2014. There is a vast number of different policies on a range of important issues – health, education, welfare, defence, immigration, law and order, Europe, to name but a few – and people need to find a best fit. None of the political parties is ideal and flawless, by any stretch of the imagination. But the challenge is to get involved in the party of best fit, and to work for LGBT rights as well as other important issues within it, whilst showing the maturity and sophistication to co-operate with people from other parties when common values intersect, instead of demonising and propagandising. Without that kind of co-operation, equal marriage would never have become law last year.

          • saintlaw

            Is anybody still reading this knob’s bilge?

          • Magnus Hirschfeld

            If you have nothing intelligent to say, saintlaw, it is best to say nothing at all.

  • Sparkyu1

    “prevailing attitude of the Conservative Party to such changes– from pained discomfort, to tolerance, to acceptance and now to celebration”

    WHOA! Hang on a second – over half of your party voted AGAINST marriage equality. Don’t pull this “celebration” as the prevailing attitude of the Tories. That’s grossly dishonest. The casual homophobia of society is incredibly apparent in your party

    This is a gross whitewash of Tory bigotry – of the Tories who campaigned viciously against us. There was every damn reason for LGBT activists across the political spectrum to be hostile to Tories – and to continue to be hostile to Tories.

    As for “what’s next”, there’s LGBT rights abroad. But also bastions of homophobia in the UK – religion, schools and academies bringing in “section 28″ styles policies, a need for a comprehensive sex education, a meaningful anti-bullying initiative,

    This piece is disgusting propaganda from someone desperately trying to ignore ongoing homophobia and play apologetics for his party’s long – and present – habit of bigotry

    • Brooks Austin

      As a gay American who regularly follows PinK News, it always annoys me when I see my fellow Americans romanticisize British Conservatives as though they are significantly better than their American counter-parts.

      • Sparkyu1

        Being better than American conservatives is like expecting praise because they merely kick puppies rather than feed them into woodchippers

        When the bar is set so low, it’s easy to do better than them. But it doesn’t make that “better” a praiseworthy or even acceptable standard

        • Steven Gregory

          Excellent comments from both of you.

  • saintlaw

    “Compassionate conservatism” – Such blah.

    The shitbag is a member of a party responsible for the death of sick and disabled people in their THOUSANDS.

    • Steven Gregory

      In the U.S. it was “compassionate conservatives” who waged baseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending 1000s of solders from around the world to their physical/mental destruction or death, and 100s of 1000s of foreign nationals to their death.

    • Paula Thomas

      “Compassionate conservatism” the ultimate oxymoron

  • Steven Gregory

    So he’s offended by gays and lesbians wearing “I never kissed a Tory” t-shirts? Too stinking bad.

    • Jones

      I wouldn’t be offended when it was HIS party which instigated Section 28.

      • CHBrighton

        Which is why so many of my generation cannot stomach the Tory party and are cynical about David Cameron’s late conversion to gay rights. He voted against repeal of clause 28 and against other measures that have improved our lives since 2000.

    • de Villiers

      You seem like not a nice person.

      • Steven Gregory

        You may be right.

      • saintlaw

        You seem like quite a moron.

        • de Villiers

          Clever. You sound like a bag of sh-t.

          Have I grasped your level?

  • J.

    Is Pink News now a Tory party mouthpiece? The author made allegations against
    Labour LGBT activists. Perhaps Pink News should ask an LGBT spokesperson in the Labour Party to give their opinion in a Pink News featured article – and an
    opportunity to defend Labour LGBT activists that Nigel Fletcher takes pride in
    condemning.

    LGBT infighting is self-defeating but I’m sure that the alleged ‘abuse’ Labour
    LGBT activists apparently hurled at Tories attending their ‘Conference Pride’
    party was relatively non-life threatening compared to the abuse the Con-Dem
    Government takes pride in hurling at those less fortunate than them, in particular the genuinely ill and disabled of this country. The harassment of the ill and disabled, even those about to die, by this Government has caused significant enough stress on some that they have taken their own lives.

    Mr. Fletcher writes in respect of the pace of progress on LGBT issues:
    “… extraordinary has been the transformation in the prevailing attitude of the
    Conservative Party to such changes – from pained discomfort, to tolerance, to
    acceptance and now to celebration”. Obviously that tolerant, accepting prevailing attitude in the Conservative Party wasn’t extraordinary enough for a majority of its MPs as they voted AGAINST same-sex marriage legislation.

    Mr. Fletcher can paint a tolerant picture of the Conservative Party as much as he likes, but the fact remains that a majority of Conservative Members of Parliament oppose same-sex marriage. The legislation would not have succeeded with Conservative Party support alone and required the votes of Lib Dem and Labour MPs.

    “What’s next?” – hopefully a Pink News feature by a Labour Party LGBT activist
    to provide a balanced perspective.

    • James!

      Too right Ben Cohen is a gay tory this site is as bad as RT. One this theis LGBTosser left out was the treatment of Deaf and Disabled LGBT people by the tories but I guess they don’t exist in his world

      • J.

        James – Cameron, Osborne and IDS have made it clear that they think ill and disabled people are idle scroungers. They have hounded some to their deaths whilst at the same time handing very wealthy scroungers (e.g. themselves and their friends) hundreds of thousands in tax breaks. We are now aware that corrupt Tory MPs that defraud the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands get off with a light slap on the wrist. It’s repugnant, but that’s Tories for you!

    • J.

      Nigel Fletcher might be a member of the (still Nasty) Tory Party, but he’s got at least one thing going for him in that he can write a great scathing e-mail to the Daily Mail, as can be seen in this previous Pink News article:

      http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/10/01/tory-councillor-defends-gay-rights-in-advertising-rejection-to-daily-mail/

      I have only read that article in the past few minutes and have since been asking myself if he’s being treated too harshly now in this latest article, but the criticism of his opinion-piece is valid. He over-estimates changing attitudes in the Conservative Party and he unfairly laid into Labour, because without the support of Labour MPs same-sex marriage legislation would not have succeeded through Parliament.

      • Nigel Fletcher

        Your last point on Labour MPs is fair – and it is deeply frustrating that a majority of the Conservative parliamentary party voted against, as I acknowledge in the full book chapter. But there has been a genuine shift, and the battle is being won. Labour activists have done a huge amount for equality, but I just think they demean themselves by focussing on demonising all Tories, instead of acknowledging that those of us marching beside them at Pride are, by definition, not the bad guys.

        • J.

          Hi Nigel. It’s good of you to comment and acknowledge the continuing problem with the Parliamentary party. With work yet to be done in winning over a majority of MPs it suggests that ignorant and homophobic views are still highly prevalent at the party grassroots level. So, despite having major gripes with the coalition Government, I have to acknowledge that Cameron and LGBT Tories were brave in pushing forward with same-sex marriage despite the pressures from within the party.

          There is still work to be done though, as the legislation does not as yet provide full marriage equality in respect of pension rights. Hopefully the Government doesn’t feel that its mission has been accomplished when there are still some ‘tidying-up’ issues to deal with.

          Also, the situation in Northern Ireland with regard to the DUP misusing the ‘Petition of Concern’ mechanism to veto same-sex marriage proposals is despicable. The UK Government should not find it acceptable for NI LGBT people to be treated as second-rate citizens compared to the LGBT community in the rest of the UK. Human rights should be applied equally across the UK and not devolved, especially when there is misuse of that devolved power. The Conservative Party is organised UK-wide unlike the Labour and Lib Dem parties so it should be attempting to ensure that all LGBT citizens of the UK are treated equally.

          I’m against LGBT infighting as it isn’t constructive, however the Tory/Labour animosity has always been there and always will. The Labour activists are perhaps a little jealous that it wasn’t a Labour Government who achieved the victory of achieving same-sex marriage, but also they probably find it very difficult to relate to LGBT Tories when a Tory minister (i.e. IDS) is pursuing very dogmatic and ideological policies against a less fortunate section of society, the type of policies resembling the discrimination against LGBTs by a previous Tory Government.

          So…(lol) ask Mr Cameron (tonight!!) to complete marriage equality by remedying the current pensions inequalities (and any others that I haven’t thought of) and to please, please take back minority-rights powers back from Stormont and finally, to sack that horrible, nasty little man (IDS)!!

          • GeneralSenseOfEnnui

            A bit rich for a tory to preach about unity isn’t it? The tory party is BASED on individualistic and divisive policies – that’s why it exists. If you admit that being divisive is a barrier to social progress, maybe you should switch party?

        • Sparkyu1

          I think Labour does a great job of criticising Tory homophobia because it needs to be done – because too many Tory LGBT “activists” are willing to excuse and ignore homophobia (present as well as past) rather than actually fight it

          You don’t fight homophobia by pretending it doesn’t exist

  • Jason

    The hate-filled outrage expressed by hard-left commentators to this insightful article is so predictable. The far left hate any idea of free speech, hate anyone who disagrees with their philosophy and are just as narrow minded and bigoted as those on the far right. Your socialist worker bubble of the 1980s is dead. Hundreds of thousands of gay men and women vote Conservative, thousands of gay citizens are parish, district and county councillors, a good proportion of Conservative MPs are gay – Get over it!

    • James!

      So while the lefties were marching and protesting the tories were safe in their closets. We did the hard work now you’re all crawling out from under your rocks. I honestly don’t get how someone could admit to supporting IDS and his policies of punishing the poorest.

      • Nigel Fletcher

        Many Conservatives were marching and protesting too. Not enough, and for too long without the support of their leaders, but they were there, facing huge hostility from other Conservatives, as well as from their political opponents. Michael McManus’s book tells the story of those dark and lonely years, and I deeply respect those of my colleagues with the courage to do and say what they knew was right, even when it must have seemed like a hopeless task. There is much more to do, but we’re winning the battle now, and I hope even political opponents could welcome that change, despite (of course) disagreeing passionately with Conservatives on other issues.

        • Sparkyu1

          Don’t pretend homophobia in the Tory party was limited to a few leaders. Nor are you winning the battle now when over half your party STILL voted against marriage equality and so many of your cabinet has such terrible voting records

          See, this is where the hostility comes from! You keep making excuses for homophobia. It doesn’t look like you are campaigning for equality, it looks like a PR job for the Tory party

        • James!

          I’ve been posting here for years but the Tory bias means I’m done. Rewrite history all you want the facts remain it was the people who now embarrass the most vocal gay people who did the hard work risking their lives for you to vote for your own wants.

    • J.

      “Hard-left” / “far-left” ? Really Jason, you certainly know how to over-react!
      Requesting Pink News to seek a balanced perspective by also inviting opinion pieces from LGBT Labour (or Lib Dem for that matter) activists is not being “hard-left” or “far-left”. The Labour Party is most certainly NOT hard-/far-left! It appears you need a more balanced perspective yourself. I suspect you are a Tory supporter that thinks the BBC has a left-wing bias.

    • saintlaw

      Yes and they’re all worthless scum. But then you already know that – hence your squeaking.

  • Michael2912

    To borrow from Mr Cameron: Equal marriage has been achieved DESPITE the Tories, not BECAUSE of them. Mr Fletcher, take a reality check. Begin by canvassing the views of my MP, the equality opposing newly appointed Minister for [heterosexual] Women, Nicky Morgan. I grant that great progress has been made and that some of it is certainly due to David Cameron but please be informed by history. Labour-bashing demeans you and does nothing to progress meaningful dialogue

  • Halou

    The best way to get Conservative support for LGBT rights is, as it was with civil partnerships, to let Labour do all the heavy lifting and then wait about 10 years for the Conservatives to decide that despite voting against it, they were somehow always in favor of the changes.

    • Nigel Fletcher

      That, sadly, has been the Conservative way on many issues, not just LGBT rights. The challenge of Conservatism is knowing how to manage change and adapt to modern times – and too often, this leads Tories to resist change until forced to accept it. The point of my essay, and the others in the book, is to argue for a more progressive, courageous approach than that, and to see continued modernisation as (ironically) a traditional Conservative strategy, and one that is essential to gaining greater trust from voters.

  • Halou

    What’s next?
    Perhaps the appropriate ministers can act now to halt the deportation of numerous African LGBT asylum seekers. Or would that go against their immigration policy?

  • Nigel Fletcher

    Thanks for all the comments – I have to say I expected some level of criticism/abuse. I am certainly not seeking to deny the Conservative Party’s previous poor record on LGBT issues, and in the longer chapter in the book I acknowledge how disappointing it was, for example, that a majority of the Parliamentary party voted against equal marriage. My main point however, is to argue (not least to less enlightened Tory colleagues) that there is nothing inherently un-Conservative about supporting LGBT equality, and the party needs to go much further in embedding that in its core appeal to voters. The direction of travel is clear, but instead of lagging behind public opinion we should be seeking to give a clear lead. I have genuinely seen a major shift in the party’s attitude over the years I’ve been a member, but there is some way to go. My point about LGBT Labour and others who do such a good job fighting for equality is simply that attacking those of us who are trying to do the same in our party is not very helpful, and it would be more constructive if we could work together where we clearly agree, to put pressure on all party leaders to do more. And then I look forward to perhaps making some of those stickers factually incorrect. ;-)

    • Sparkyu1

      Perhaps if you actually did do the same rather than avoid your party’s ongoing homophobia and include lines like how the Tories are “celebrating” marriage equality which is beyond dubious.

      Because that doesn’t look like you’re actually doing the same as Labour LGBT groups and fighting for equality – it looks like you’re excusing and apologising and covering up for bigotry

      • Nigel Fletcher

        I’m certainly not excusing, apologising or covering up bigotry. My party has unquestionably had a poor record in the past, but has moved a long way, and many Tories are now indeed celebrating marriage equality – though I never suggested all are. Those that aren’t should be, for the reasons I set out – and that is the whole point of my essay. As a gay man in the Tory party, I now get more bigotry from political opponents such as yourself for being a Tory than I ever have had from other Conservatives for being gay.

        • Sparkyu1

          Seriously?

          Look at this, right here! My criticising you on a website is apparently bigger oppression than the MAJORITY of your MPS voting against your basic human rights

          But this is worse bigotry?

          And you wonder why we criticise

        • Paula Thomas

          Bigotry for being a Conservative? HMMMMMM that’d be that you can’t stand people expressing views that you oppose. For the record when your party behaves like a psychopathic bully towards the poor and the disabled and someone mentions it that is not bigotry!!

          • J.

            The Nasty Party (sorry Nigel, but poisonous IDS policies earn the Government that tag) has replaced its persecution of gays in the 1980s/90s with persecution of the poorest, ill and disabled in the 2010s. The Government’s generalisation of the ill and disabled genuinely unable to work as being idle scroungers burdening society is the real bigotry. Enacting that bigotry by causing genuine hardship, desperation and sheer anguish amongst the most vulnerable in society is persecution. Since Thatcher, the Conservatives have felt a need to vent – what appears to be instinctive – persecutory policies onto at least one vulnerable group in society whilst in Government. LGBTs bore the brunt of it in the late 80s particularly and now its the long-term ill and the disabled unable to work that’s having to bare it. Unfortunately, from what I’ve read and heard, the stress has been too much to bare for some. That’s the result of real bigotry and it’s caused by the Tories. It’s difficult therefore to join in any Tory “celebrations”.

        • saintlaw

          It isn’t bigotry to loathe murderous, exploiting, thieving, lying fanatics, it is simple self-respect.

          Self respect – remember that?

  • Rob

    What’s next for LGBT people? Well… having written several really angry versions of this comment, I’ll just say this: go do some research on the spousal veto, the Gender Recognition Act, and the waiting list to get into Charing Cross GIC. Or go and search for #transdocfail.

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