Patrick Strudwick

The Conservatives promised to fight homophobia

Patrick Strudwick asks, why don’t they start with their own politicians?

Just before the election last year David Cameron proudly pronounced, “We can look gay people in the eye and say, ‘You can now back us... because we now support gay equality’.” But nine months after taking office, we now know what the Tories support: homophobia.

We know this for a simple but compelling reason: time and time and time again when their own politicians spew anti-gay bile they are not condemned or even lightly disciplined. They are excused and then endorsed. Many are rewarded with jobs or promotions. Far from fighting homophobia the Conservative party sanctions it.

This isn’t a one-off incident, an aberration. This is systematic, their modus operandi. Having hoodwinked thousands of gay people into voting for them on the promise that they have “changed” (with puffed-up, seemingly pro-gay pledges to match), the Conservatives now follow an identifiable procedure when one of their own is accused of being anti-gay. It goes like this: deny that it is homophobia, scoff at the mere suggestion of it and, if possible, refuse to comment. This way, they hope, the whole thing goes away. And it works. The mainstream media forgets about it and fails to spot the spiraling trend. But Cameron: we don’t forget. It’s happened too many times…

There were three instances alone in January. After some press coverage of my case trying to get a psychotherapist struck off for attempting to “cure” me of my sexuality (I was undercover, in case you’re wondering), the Tory MEP Roger Helmer Tweeted: “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?” Thus, he believes, it’s perfectly acceptable to try to “treat” homosexuality. Did Cameron demand a retraction? Did he suspend him from the party? No. Nothing was done. I phoned the Conservative press office six times to ask how Helmer would be disciplined, and they refused to be drawn on the subject. They merely emailed me saying, “We do not condone these comments.” Would this be their response if he’d said that it’s fine for black people to be “treated” with skin bleaching treatments?

The following week, Tory MP Richard Drax described recommendations to refer to gay people in school lessons as “imposing questionable sexual standards on those too young to understand their equality czars.” If the Conservatives do not believe that homosexuality constitutes a “questionable sexual standard” then why was he not publicly admonished?

The day before, another Tory MP – Dominic Raab – wrote an astonishingly hate-soaked article, in which not only did he attack women who believe in equal rights as “obnoxious bigots” but also denied the very existence of homophobia in Britain: “Gay men earn more than straight men, lesbian women more than heterosexual women. Does that sound like a society riddled with discrimination?” Again, imagine if he had denied that anti-semitism existed; he would be expelled from the party. But when Home Secretary Theresa May criticised his diatribe, she referred only to his comments about women. Remember the procedure? Ignore it and it will surely go away.

A few weeks before that, George Osborne called Christ Bryant, the gay Labour MP, a “pantomime dame”. What was Cameron’s response to this transparent swipe at Bryant’s sexuality? “I’m sure people are capable of taking a bit of rough and tumble in the chamber.” That was all he said. Every gay person in Britain has been on the receiving end of this dismissive ploy: tell the victim of homophobic abuse that they should just shut up and take it; to get a sense of humour.

But the Tory party doesn’t just fail to reprimand; they give homophobes top jobs. Chris Grayling, who was caught on tape early last year saying that B&B owners should be allowed to turn away gay people – and was voted Bigot of the Year at the Stonewall awards as a result – was made Minister of State for Employment.
Want to get on in the Tory party? Publicly denigrate gay people!

And Philippa Stroud, the failed Tory candidate who reportedly attempted to drive demons out of LGBT people through prayer, (which she denies), was given a job as special advisor to Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Surely, you might think, there is an exception to all this. And there is. Cameron suspended Tory candidate Philip Lardner last April for writing that homosexuality was “not normal”. But why was he singled out? Could it be because Lardner was trying (with very little chance of success) to win a Scottish seat off a Labour MP with a massive majority? In other words, Lardner was useful to Cameron only as an expendable scapegoat for his party’s homophobic prejudice.
The Tories boast that they have more out gay MPs than any other party. But where are the Alan Duncans and the Nick Herberts when one of their colleagues slurs us?

It seems the American novelist Armistead Maupin was right: “Gay people are the disposable card in the great poker game of politics.” But never more so than when the Tories are winning.

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