The recent homophobic comments of shadow home secretary Chris Grayling show the continued existence of anti-gay prejudice in the Conservative Party. Grayling defended people who run bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation in their homes having the right to bar homosexual guests on religious grounds. Speaking to the Thatcherite Centre for Policy Studies, he stated: "Should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from their hotel? I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home." This appears to breach the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which states that no-one should be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality. The regulations include "accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment". Grayling later explained that his pro-gay voting record showed his commitment to gay rights. However, Grayling's comments reek of Tory hypocrisy. Cameron and his cronies talk of change publicly, but privately the Conservative Party remains deeply backward, reactionary, and homophobic.
If the Tories ever win a general election, Grayling will be home secretary - a man with dubious commitment to civil rights due to his own petty prejudices will be in charge of implementing equality legislation. Grayling's remarks come just one week after Tory leader David Cameron became flustered and awkward when questioned about the anti-gay voting record of his own party's MEPs in an interview with the Gay Times. David Cameron looked flustered and awkward in a televised interview with Gay Times' Martin Popplewell last week. The Tory leader asked for the camera to be switched off in the middle of a question about gay rights and homophobia in politics. He apparently could not think of a way to answer a direct question about the anti-gay views of his own party and those parties with which it is aligned in the European Parliament, including some far right racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic groups.
The Conservative Party's abstention from a vote in the European Parliament to ban an anti-gay law introduced by the government of Lithuania has highlighted the sad fact that many Conservative MPs and MEPs are still deeply prejudiced, despite Cameron's claims that the Tories have substantially changed and modernised their views. Cameron became visibly distressed when asked why he had not used the party whip to enforce a vote against the anti-gay law, and asked that the interview be terminated. Martin Popplewell says he was then "begged" by Cameron's press agent not to show the interview in which the politically correct Tory leader apparently could not decide whether or not it is acceptable that his party supports homophobia. This comes after Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott defected to the Liberal Democrats a week earlier, saying he could no longer align himself with a party that has links with far-right and Nazi-sympathising groups in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.
It appears that what the rest of us have suspected was true all along: the Tory party is still the same old prejudiced, backward-looking party that it has always been. None of this cynical PR talk of 'change we can all believe in' (lifted from Obama's campaign) is going to fool the gay and lesbian community in this country, who remember all too well the homophobic legislation introduced by the Conservatives in the 1980s.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.