I was at a funeral in Manchester this week. Over a buffet and drinks later I found myself talking to a nice couple who coincidentally were from Sunderland. They’d both retired and I was chatting to the husband for around an hour – this and that, the North East Region, his local church etc. All lovely and nice when suddenly he mentioned ‘homosexuals’ and how much he hated them. He suddenly became a boggle eyed loon and the nice chap I’d been talking to vanished to be replaced by a ranting homophobe.
I can’t help thinking that the British public are having a similar experience with David Cameron’s Conservative Party. They seem nice. They’ve changed. Some sensible policies. You have a good long conversation with them. Social Justice. Excellent. Tax benefits that would apply to Civil Partnerships as well as married couples. Jolly good. Then from nowhere someone mentioned homosexuality adn they turn boggle eyed. The Observer and Telegraph today report on Phillipa Stroud. She is the Tory PPC for Sutton and Cheam and as the Director of he Centre for Social Justice (Iain Duncan-Smith’s baby) she is prima facie a good sort. Only problem is it turns out she has allegedly founded a church to ‘cure’ homosexuality in the past. Oh dear. Even Stonewall comes off the fence and criticises the remarks. Must be serious.
This would be bad enough if it didn’t follow Chris Grayling saying it was OK to turn away gay people from B&B’s if you just didn’t fancy poofters staying in your home and Julian Lewis suggesting a different age of consent do to the dangers of homosexuality. In both these earlier cases David Cameron did exactly bugger all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Then along came Philip Lardner – who you say? Indeed, an unknown Tory twit standing in North Ayrshire and Arran who said that ‘most Britons considered homosexuality to be “somewhere between unfortunate and simply wrong” and that it should not be supported by the state’. Interestingly, Cameron rode into action and suspended him. So now we know exactly how far you can go. It seems, as far as you like unless you’re senior in the party.
The Tories appear to be likely to be the governing party come Friday, but it remains to be seen if they will have a majority. You might agree with many Conservative values. You might, like me at that funeral be thinking “what a nice chap”. Think long and hard – do you want someone in power who continues to think you are less than them, that you are not entitled to the same rights and freedoms as your straight counterparts? Do you want a Home Secretary – the man responsible for policing, for law and order, who thinks you should be discriminated against when you choose to access good and services?
This Thursday, you have a choice. You decide. Think very carefully.