John Cope is Vice-Chairman of LGBTory, leading on policy and communications. He previously worked for the Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP.
Tories drown puppies. The NHS has gone. Universal education has ended. Welfare is a distance memory. Pick up the Mirror or scan across the Huffington Post, and that is what they tell their readers. And, I almost forgot: the Prime Minister is the most hated person since the last person who didn’t spend every waking moment dreaming of new taxes and ways to spend our money. Only recently, we heard from the Labour Party conference: “If Cameron does his Bill of Rights, we might as well walk into the gas chambers today.” How intellectually bereft. What an insult to those who have actually experienced true horror and oppression.
We, as a party, have a lot to be proud of. There has been “24 hours to save our NHS” since roughly 1948, yet today it stands with more money than ever before, more clinical staff than ever before, performing more procedures than ever before. They use examples of three decades ago to say we are homophobes, yet we introduced gay marriage, one of the greatest advances of gay rights in our country’s history.
Especially with regards to social issues and minority rights every Conservative is portrayed as backward, prejudiced, and close-minded. You only have to look at the personal abuse aimed at Nicky Morgan, the Equalities Minister. Despite admitting regret at not supporting equal marriage during the passage of the Bill, there is no welcome, no open-minded congratulations – just the childish heckling from the likes of Ben Bradshaw. Are individuals really not allowed to change their views when they realise they were wrong? LGBTory, the Conservative party’s official LGBT group, and its predecessors are often completely stupefied by what they throw at us. The image of the Conservative Party as homophobic is as out-of-date as the Corbynista support of a United Ireland, nationalised industries, unilateral disarmament, class warfare, and unaccountable union barons in charge of economic policy. The hysterical rants only serve to highlight just how little substance there is left in that old party.
We can therefore grab a few pinches of salt when considering what the Opposition – what remains of it – throws at us. Thankfully, as the result in May demonstrated, the public take the same pinch of salt as we do when listening to each “end of the world” claim shouted since 2010. However, some of the mud they throw at us sticks.
When faced with this, we must repeat our actions loudly and often. Equal opportunity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is at the heart of the Conservative Party. Our commitment to protecting the rights of LGBT people is absolute. We have a record number of elected LGBT MPs; strong leadership internationally on LGBT rights; all people regardless of sexuality can now express their love and commitment through equal marriage; the wrongs of the past being righted with historic criminal records for consensual gay sex being deleted; harsher penalties for hate crimes now in place; and a focus on tackling homophobia in schools. Most importantly of all, we also recognise that there is more to be done.
You don’t have to just take these achievements from me. This commitment from the Conservatives has been recognised internationally – we are the number one nation in Europe for LGBT rights. The “Rainbow Europe” survey conducted by ILGA Europe ranked the UK number one this year for LGBT rights for the fourth year in a row.
Most importantly: it is not just the LGBT community which has benefited. The security delivered by the Government’s economic plan brings security for everyone. Like everyone else, LGBT people value the security of work, a good home, and strong public services paid for by our strong economy.
Our actions must continue to speak louder than Labour’s abuse. Confident in our record and resolved in our manifesto commitments, we accept that the job is not done and we still face problems as a nation. We must use our achievements and resolve to put to bed, once and for all, the many smears aimed at us. We are the party of freedom and individualism – your sexuality, skin colour, religion, and gender are about as important at your eye colour. LGBTory is doing what it can to do exactly this – we have a busy program of debates, discussions, and social events about the battles still to be fought to support LGBT people. From our Members’ Curry on the Saturday before Conference, to fringe events on HIV and the prospects for LGBT rights, culminating, as always, in Conference Pride, there is something for everyone.
Stonewall and LGBTory are hosting a joint event to discuss some of the challenges ahead for LGBT equality, including the continuing ban on blood donations by gay men; high levels of poor mental health of LGBT people; tackling bullying in our schools; and ways we can make sure that all trans people are treated with dignity and respect. You can find out more information here.
I hope you will be able to join us, regardless of your own sexuality, to put to bed finally the ridiculous smears thrown at us from Labour. Our action and commitment to freedom will always mean more than Labour’s words.