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Tuesday 09 November 2010

The British Tories: Sanitised Spin?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 2nd March 2010

In the latest Attitude magazine, UK gay journalist Johann Hari has an in-depth interview with British Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Have Britain's Tories really changed after thirteen years out of power?

British Tory leader David Cameron
Cameron acknowledged that until 2005, he was the 'usual' antigay Conservative Party MP, attacking Blair for the repeal of Clause 28 of the Local Government Act, which finally allowed sexual identity to be addressed amongst adolescents, but not before the long-term effects of a discriminatory age of consent had led to a surge in heartbreakingly young HIV/AIDS conversions. Since he became Leader of the Opposition, though, he's cleaned up his act. He apologised for Clause 28 and apparently even supports civil partnerships now. And there are Tory gay MPs and even an in-party LGBTory group.

Hari is sceptical. He asks whether Cameron is a reconstructed Tory centrist, and whether een if that is the case, there aren't some troglodyte Little Britain characters lurking in the undergrowth. Most of his Shadow Cabinet supported the retention of Clause 28 and opposed age of consent equality under Blair.

In response, Cameron said he wanted LGBT libertarians onboard his party. He apologised for the Thatcher era and even stated that he supported monogamous same-sex relationships at a recent Tory conference, as much as straight marriages. But what about his past support of Clause 28? Cameron replied that he never believed that it was possible to 'promote' homosexuality to children and acknowledged that it prevented teachers from tackling schoolyard homophobic bullying and violence and properly inclusive sex education at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He also now supports eligible LGBT parents adopting... even if he did vote against allowing lesbian IVF treatment recipients to name their partners as coparents. John Key, please take note!

However, he does sound attractive on affirmative and inclusive reform of laws related to LGBT refugees and asylum seekers and even backs those who want Britain to modify its rules excluding suitable gay men from undertaking blood donation. He promises to crack down against schoolyard homophobic bullying by empowering principals to act against it. However, his party also condones more flexibility when it comes to establishment of (homophobic religious?) private schools...although he also seems supportive of campaigns against hate music.

And then there's the question of his party's current European Parliament affiliations. Hari pursued the question of why the ostensibly centre-right and staunchly market oriented Tories would want to affiliate themselves with the ilk of Poland's far right and anti-market Law and Justice Party, with its outspoken homophobia. Cameron made some remarks about the backwardness of Eastern European societies when it came to human rights and civil liberties generally.

So is this spin, given that Cameron is an ex-PR consultant? There seems to be substance on some fronts, but far to go on others. Or is the Tory party cloaking its darker side under cover of stealth politics?
Hari appears to believe that there are unreconstructed climate change opponents, troglodyte racists and anti-Semites lurking in the innards of the party, although he does give Cameron the benefit of the doubt. He also promised more revelations about fundamentalist money directed at the Tories.

He didn't disappoint. Matthew Bloch offered a salutary perspective on the subject of David Cameron's electoral danger, initially focused on City of London finance industry backers for Cameron. However, what will probably concern LGBT and feminist readers most is his alarming disclosure that UK Christian Right activists are busy infiltrating and packing otherwise moribund Tory branches, resulting in mass anti-abortion candidate selections, as well as those that oppose eligible LGBT couples that seek to adopt children in the British context. This sounds exactly like the US Republicans, Australian Liberals and New Zealand's National Party in the eighties after homosexual law reform. However, no specific organisations were named in this piece.

Moreover, sectarian fundamentalist private schools would grow in number, polarising British society. Given that private school favouritism is a Maxim Institute obsession, we need to pay far more attention to the issue here in New Zealand- to say nothing of the Cameron/Key axis.

Johann Hari: "David Cameron: The Interview": 06.02.10:
-"Don't Believe the Propaganda- the Tories Haven't Changed": 18.02.10:
-Matthew Bloch: "Fat Cats and Evangelicals: What a Tory Win Would Really Mean: 25.02.10:


Craig Young - 2nd March 2010

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