(Hello everyone. Bryan here. today we have something special for you. A guest post from a long time...and very thoughtfull commentor to this blog Craig Rigby(orangegoblin82). This blog was never intended to be my voice alone so I am very excited to have new blood on GFV and hope this will continue to be a weekly installment. Craig will bring will bring a U.K. perspective and his own unique voice. Please also check out his Youtube channel to watch our U.K. counterparts, Craig and his partner Jake. But without further ado todays post it brought to you....)
Hello world. I had a few ideas of what to write today, for my inaugural blog, but have settled on a UK topic. I decided it would make me seem more exotic, not something I can often pull off.
As you may or may not be aware just six weeks ago there was a general election in the UK. For the first time in thirteen years and for only the second time in my life, the government changed. We now have a Conservative Prime Minister.
Whatever else can be said about the outgoing Labour government they were good for gay people. They introduced equal employment law, anti discrimination law, strong civil partnership laws, legalised gay adoption, equalised the age of consent and a whole list of other things. I was very thankful for all of this so I rewarded them with my vote. I live in a safe seat anyway.
However, the new government is a strange new hybrid we don't often see here. It is a coalition between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party. Traditionally the conservative party has been bad for gay people and the Liberal Democrats have been good... but out of power. I want to examine what this period of regime change could mean for we gays of these little old islands.
In the election build up, the Conservative party made great overtures to the gay community. In previous elections they had lost badly and the new leadership believed that this was because they were still associated with the socially intolerant positions of the past. Indeed their own party chair had labelled them “the nasty party” in 2002 and the label had stuck.
David Cameron (the new party leader) took a pro gay approach. He apologised for section 28, a horrible piece of 1980’s Tory legislation that condemned homosexual relationships as “pretended family relationships”, and various Conservative leading lights made pro-gay statements.
David Cameron, Prime Minister:
“From my first speech as Party leader, I have made it clear that the Conservative Party supports the gay community and wholeheartedly supports gay equality.”Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education:
“I believe heart and soul in equality: the whole idea of prejudice towards people on the basis of their sexuality is quite wrong.”
“Homophobia is a funny word. Defined as prejudice against gay men and women, it is, strictly speaking, a misuse of language. The prefix “homo” comes from the Greek meaning similar, so homogeneity means sameness, homonyms are words with identical forms and homosexuality means physical attraction to those of the same sex. Logically, therefore, homophobia should mean “fear of the same”. And, in a curious way, it does.”
That all sounds lovely, especially when you consider that these are conservative politicians, but those were prepared speeches. When left to talk freely cracks begin to show in the polished position.
While attempting to gather gay votes in an interview with “Gay Times” he repeatedly fluffed his answers, panicked, and asked for some time to gather his thoughts. Not the signs of someone who finds thinking about gay equality effortless. Take a look:
In addition to this terrible performance, Christopher Grayling, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, was caught on microphone saying he thinks bed and breakfast owners should be able to refuse rooms to gay couples. If you replace the word gay here with any minority, try black, and you will see why this kicked up an unwanted media storm. In fairness to David Cameron he was reportedly so angry at these comments that he stopped taking Graylings calls. When the election was won he was exiled to a minor job in the Department of Work and Pensions. So there is a little justice after all.
Gaffes aside, the Conservatives main image problem remains their choice of allies in the European Parliament. They joined a right wing block that makes the mad right of the US Republican party look liberal. It is lead by one Michał Kamiński, a Pole. Kamiński once used the word "pedał" (a derogatory Polish word, usually translated into English as "fag" or "queer") in a TV interview. When asked by the reporter if such a term was offensive, his reply translated as: "That's how people speak, what should I say? They are fags." His PiS party has been responsible for the banning of pride marches in Poland and their inclusion in the block cause the Conservative leader in the European parliament to resign calling them “extremist”. Not exactly the ideal political allies of the new gay friendly Torys.
Of course the new government isn’t just comprised of the conservatives. They have Liberal Democrats in the mix, even if the Conservatives are the bigger of the two partners. The Lib Dems have historically been pretty good on gay issues, they supported all the pro-gay legislation of the last government. They have had their issues with closeted married MPs getting up to unspeakable things with rent boys but no one is perfect.
Indeed there have been all sorts of jokes about Cameron and Clegg (the Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister) being a married couple with their new political love in, some of the jokes made by Cameron himself. I suppose it can only be a good sign that Cameron is imagining himself married to a man.
Perhaps, in an odd way, the most hopeful remark to come out of the conservative party came from the newly anointed Home Secretary, Theresa May. When asked about her apparently less than gay-friendly voting record on the BBC's “Question Time” she replied: “I've changed my mind”.
On Radio Four even the Bishop of Southwark remarked:
“I don't think that she's alone in that. It's remarkable to observe how, in spite of traditional religious teaching, public opinion in Britain over a period of a decade or so, in a remarkable shift of thinking has mostly changed its mind on the worth and place of gay people in society. The reason is simple: it's difficult to hold dogmatic views about what is good and desirable behaviour, when some of the often obviously good, loving and responsible people you actually encounter are behaving in an alternative way.”
If a Church of England bishop can change his mind on homosexuality then perhaps...genuinely, so can the Conservative party. Maybe it isn't all just a cynical grab for votes after all....