Tories ‘still homophobic’

By Ian Dunt

The Tories still have a “deep strain of homophobia” in them, despite claims to the contrary, according to culture secretary Ben Bradshaw.

The comments come just a day before London’s Gay Pride march.

Gordon Brown said he could not attend the march, due to security concerns, but his wife Sarah will be involved in the celebrations.

Conservative leader David Cameron recently assured the gay community that the Tories had learned their lesson since passing anti-gay legislation such as Section 28.

Mr Cameron also said he regretted having voted to uphold the law as recently as 2003.

“I am sorry for Section 28,” he said. “We got it wrong. It was an emotional issue. I hope you can forgive us.”

But today Mr Bradshaw, one of three gay men in the Cabinet, said the party itself had failed to move on from its past.

“I hope that people in the lesbian, gay and transgender community will closely examine the Conservatives’ record on this and David Cameron’s record in particular, which is not good,” he said.

“A deep strain of homophobia still exists on the Conservative benches”.

The comments were backed by Chris Bryant, another gay minister, who said: “If gays vote Tory they will rue the day very soon.”

But Labour performance among the gay community is worrying party strategists, who feel the party is not reaping the rewards of ten years of equality legislation.

New research for Jake, a company which specialises in professional networking for gay people, found the Tories outperforming Labour by 38 per cent to 20 per cent, with the Lib Dems in second place. The Tory vote was one per cent higher than the national average.

Baroness Warsi, shadow minister for community cohesion and still remembered among many equality advocates as the Tory who urged the party to listen to the concerns of the average BNP voter spoke out for the opposition.

“On the day that the prime minister said that he did not approve of personal attacks in politics it would appear that members of the Labour party failed to heed his message,” she said.

“It is a shame that Labour politicians cannot engage on the policy issues around equality and instead revert to name calling.

“David Cameron and the Conservatives party have made clear they do not believe that anybody should be disadvantaged on the grounds of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights campaign Stonewall, said Labour may not be rewarded for their actions in office.

“There is no doubt a huge number of steps forward have been taken in the last ten years but voters look to the future rather than the past,” he said.

There are just two openly gay Conservative frontbenchers: Nick Herbert, shadow justice secretary and Alan Duncan, shadow leader of the Commons.