Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 15 October 2006

Tories sign up to Stonewall's Diversity Awareness Programme

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron (and the Chairmanship of Francis Maude), seems to be making further genuine moves to re-position itself in the eyes of homosexual and lesbian voters. After his recent speech to the Party conference in which Cameron stated his support for same-sex partnerships it does seem that the Conservative Party is, at last, making deeper changes in an effort to 're-educate' some of those within the Party about what will not only be electorally successful, but what is morally right. As Francis Maude puts it:

"It seems to us absolutely the right thing to do. It’s not just about gay, lesbian and bisexual people . . . people should see us as a party that is inclusive and respectful of everyone in society. We haven’t always been seen as that."

Unfortunately that last sentence is all too true but, just as with alcoholics, it is not until a person/group is prepared to 'own' its own former beliefs and the effect they have had that genuine change is possible. The Conservatives do now seem to be taking the practical steps they need to take. Or as Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, puts it:

"They want to demonstrate publicly they are taking this issue seriously. I think with Cameron it is not just an issue of trying to win gay votes. He genuinely believes it’s the right thing to do. You do not get votes or good recruits if you look slightly twitchy whenever the word homosexual is mentioned."

So true - I suspect I am just one of many gays who has distanced himself (scroll down to the latter part of this page) from the Conservative Party over the last few years for just this reason.

Ben Summerskill adds that Labour have declined an invitation to join the diversity programme (extract from Sunday Times article linked above):

"Perhaps there is a small element of complacency there."

UPDATE added at 0934 BST: Perhaps it is just 'complacency', but if this Cabinet split over schools policy is true then it indicates that the Labour Party has more deep-seated problems in the attitudes of some of its key players towards gay rights and faith schools! Why, even The New York Times has a lengthy article about the debate over faith schools in the UK as it affects Moselms.

Of course there are still some within the Conservative Party who take a different view of the changes Cameron wants to make. Ann Widdecombe, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, is quoted as stating:

"We should be promoting traditional marriage — that is what the Conservative party has always been about. I don’t think this plan is remotely progressive. It’s going back to ancient Rome, not going forward."

However she has already announced (or so I recall) that she will not be standing at the next election so I think that one can probably safely discount her views and those of a few of the other 'dinosaurs' within the Party. I wrote in my post about Cameron's conference speech that I was just about ready to re-join the Party; I am edging ever-closer to that decision with this latest announcement.

Even Respect MP George Galloway gives Cameron his grudging approval.

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