The UK Conservative Party (aka the Tories) earned themselves the nickname of “The Nasty Party” due to a combination of seemingly small-minded and vindictive policies while in government and petty sniping at progressive politics when out of government. With members like Margaret Thatcher, David Davis, Norman Tebbitt and a host of other right-wing reactionaries, they more than deserved the monicker.
David Cameron’s recent rebranding of the party as one that cares for people, refuting Thatcher’s own statement that there was no such thing as “society”, has been marginally successful. However, I think most people would attribute their recent success in the polls as much to frustration with the present Labour administration than sheer delight at the prospect of a Tory-run Britain.
Cameron has tried to present the party as more caring and respectful of diversity. However, it has been a case of one step forward. two steps back as he’s been let down by party colleagues and allies alike. First there was the disastrous realignment with the far right in the European parliament and his inability to defend the actions of his MEPs voting against equality legislation. He defended this as policy to not interfere in another member state’s internal politics – but his MEPs were only too happy to vote on legislation concerning media ownership in Italy.
Similarly, Cameron’s painful interview with The Gay Times was something to behold. Knowing he was going to be interviewed by a gay magazine, he seemed as unprepared on relevant topics as possible and flim-flammed his way through, eventually asking for the cameras to be stopped. He was unsure whether his MEPs should be given a free vote on equality issues. Unsure. Think about that. This is also the man who voted against the repeal of Section 28 – legislation that prevented the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools – just seven years ago. His record on equality can be found here.
Now another one of his colleagues has come out of the woodwork and stated that people who run B&Bs (Bed & Breakfast accommodation) should be able to turn away gay customers if they wish. Chris Grayling is the man who would become Home Secretary in a Tory government, and this is how he thinks: certain kinds of discrimination are okay.
“I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences,” he said. “I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a 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.”
He goes on to say that hotels should not be able to discriminate. But B&B owners can. Such twisted logic. Labour have been quick to point out that B&Bs are in no way exempt from the equality legislation:
Labour said that Grayling’s comments ran contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which state that no one should be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality.
Why the focus on B&Bs? Well, last month we saw a shocking example of this kind of discrimination in action. A B&B owner in Berkshire turned away a gay couple, despite them having made a reservation:
A gay couple were turned away from a bed and breakfast by its Christian owner who claimed it was against her convictions for two men to share a bed. Michael Black and John Morgan from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, booked a double room at the B&B in Cookham, Berkshire, for Friday night.
When they arrived, Susanne Wilkinson and her husband Francis refused to allow them to stay. The owner said later that she had turned them away because it was against her policy to accommodate same sex couples. Black and Morgan claimed they were treated like lepers as a result of their sexuality. They reported the matter to Thames Valley police and have given a statement to police. Under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Sorry Mrs. Wilkinson, but if you run a business, you can’t simply choose not to provide your services to members of the public because you don’t like them or what they do in the privacy of the bedroom. Nobody forced you to operate a B&B and as soon as you opened it to the public, it stopped being your home – it is a place of business.
And so back to Cameron and his Conservative Party. He has done an admirable job of re-shaping the party and managing to cast them in a more human light. However, any change has been superficial at most and the same old bigotry remains beneath the skin of the party. It’s as if they’re doing their best to keep it all in until they’re in government, when they can be themselves. Mr. Cameron, the cracks are showing the and real Tory party is revealing itself to the world.
So when you go to vote next month, think a little harder about how you place your preference. Consider especially if the Tories have truly changed and if they have the best interests of the whole of the UK in mind, or just the privileged few. Ask yourself if they will roll back all of the progress made under Labour (the stuff they’d call “Political Correctness Gone Mad”) and set back the development of this society. More importantly, don’t vote for them as a protest against the Labour government – you will regret it in the long term.