David Cameron last week chose an exclusive central London venue, the Paramount Club, with a ticket price of 50 pounds for a two-hour cocktail party, to blow kisses at the LGBT community.
The lucky few who were present – in the main well-heeled metropolitan professionals – (by the way Dave, there are also gay people among the poor, ethnic minorities, who have families and don’t live in London) – were treated to a short speech by Mr Cameron followed by an even shorter Q&A session.
Apparently he had another very important fundraiser to attend (yes, I understand the vast majority of the money went to the Conservative Party, not to the Pride London charity which the event was advertised as celebrating).
Nowadays the Tories appear to accept that gay people, gay voters and gay politicians have a right to exist, even if there was a financial purpose behind this event. There have always been gay people right at the heart of all parties. But for the Conservatives it was never discussed. It was swept into a Central Office closet that remained firmly shut.
Cameron acknowledged that the Tories had “got it wrong” in the past, saying “sorry” for Section 28, with the slippery ‘explanation’ that “it was an emotional issue.” I suppose persecution is an emotional issue, for persecutor and persecuted.
There is more explanation required from Mr Cameron, though he will have been pleased that as ever the papers reported the event pretty much as he would have wanted them to. I think there are some on the Guardian staff for example, who would report him blowing his nose into a clean hankie as a decisive and dramatic act of modernisation.
When Dave is around, inconvenient facts tend to get airbrushed.
Not only did he use the opportunity to raise a tidy sum from wealthy Tories. Not only does he have an appalling personal record on gay rights. Most importantly a) he did not offer genuine contrition not just for getting it wrong, but over the years supporting every anti-gay measure (such as Section 28) and opposing almost every piece of equality legislation in the past decade, b) he did not offer any commitment on what the Tories would do on LGBT equality and anti-discrimination issues.
Cameron says his party has moved on but you can’t do that without confronting the past and acknowledging the true scale of the stigma inflicted on young people by Section 28 and the true happiness that civil partnerships have given people and their families, including members of his Shadow Cabinet.
In 2000, Mr Cameron said that the Blair government was obsessed with a “fringe agenda… including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section 28 and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools”.
Two years later, he told a Guardian fringe meeting at a Tory conference that he backed the repeal of the legislation – only to vote for the Conservative motion to keep S28 a year later.
A little introspection on the impact of what he said and how he voted would not go amiss.
Cameron was asked in the Q & A about what should be done about homophobic bullying. His response was to reel out Tory policy about giving more powers to schools and teachers. How does that solve the problem?
There needs to be hard work, much of it already being done by Stonewall and supported by the Labour government, not only to educate pupils but to train teachers and punish any homophobic statements by teachers – which gay people still hear and have been deeply affected by as children. Giving more powers to schools “to crack down on this sort of behaviour” demonstrates a real lack of understanding and depth of knowledge about the complexity of the issue.
Finally, Cameron was lily-livered to say the least in his attempted justification for his MEPs’ plan to link up with a new group that includes the Polish Law & Justice Party. The president of Poland, who is a member of this party, is vehemently anti-gay and banned gay pride when he was mayor of Warsaw.
According to Amnesty International the party has been responsible for unacceptable homophobic statements.
Roman Giertych, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, said on Polish TV in 2006 that “LGBT organisations are sending transsexuals to kindergartens and asking children to change their sex.” He also dismissed the director of the National In-Service Teacher Training Centre, an institution subordinate to the Ministry of Education, because “a lot of books there were encouraging teachers to organise meetings with LGBT non-governmental organisations.”
Dave’s defence was that Poland is a very conservative and religious country. Well, Dave, so is Spain and the Spanish voted recently to recognise gay marriages.
So why link up with a party that is homophobic except to cobble together a new rabble of right-wingers in the European Parliament to satisfy his anti-EU MPs. Dave also said the Law and Justice Party has signed a pledge on equality and that it’s homophobia is in the past. Nonsense. It’s leader and president of the country has not changed. Would Dave accept a party with a racist platform in his new group of extremists if they signed a pledge? No. The Polish Law & Justice Party has been and continues to be deeply homophobic in its attitudes and its politics. Its politics should have no association with British politics and a British political party should not be in the business of embracing them.