GayimageSince David Cameron became Tory leader there have been a number of attempts to reassure gay voters that the Conservative Party is friendly towards them.  These initiatives have included…

  • David Cameron’s much remarked upon visit to see the gay movie, Brokeback Mountain.
  • Nicholas Boles, the gay director of the Policy Exchange think tank and candidate for Brighton & Hove at the last election, is a member of the party leader’s inner circle of informal advisors.
  • The party has encouraged a number of openly gay people to apply for the party’s A-list of parliamentary candidates.
  • Margot James, a lesbian, is likely to be on that A-list and she has also been appointed to one of CCHQ’s Vice Chairman posts.  Ms James addressed diversity issues in her recent speech
    to the Manchester Spring Forum.  At that Spring Forum Alan Duncan, the openly gay Shadow Trade & Industry spokesman, distributed Tory literature on Canal Street, Manchester’s gay village.
  • At the heart of the outreach has been party chairman Francis Maude.  Mr Maude has been interviewed by a number of gay journals and has talked about the death of his openly homosexual brother, Charles, from AIDS in the mid-1990s.
  • Mr Maude has used his interviews to stress various gay-friendly policy changes.  These include regret over support for Section 28.  In addition Mr Maude has highlighted recent frontbench Tory support for civil partnerships and his own support for gay couples’ right to adopt children.  The Tory chairman has also highlighted Tory-run Barnet council’s anti-homophobic-bullying policies.

PinknewspollA poll of 600 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) readers of the website suggests that the Conservative Party’s efforts are beginning to pay off.  In the poll – the results of which are summarised in the graphic on the right – Tory support has increased from under 20% to almost 30%.  46% of respondents still thought that the Tory party was "homophobic", however.  Only 32% blamed Tory backbenchers for this homophobia.  61% blamed the Tory grassroots.

CohenbenConservativeHome asked Benjamin Cohen (right), editor of Pink News, what needed to be done to further increase Tory support within gay Britain:

"I think the ground work has already been laid. The open and frank way that Francis Maude has engaged with gay publications like mine has been a huge help in changing the way that our community sees the party.  I think the next major challenge will be converting the grass roots to the socially liberal agenda that the leadership is promoting.  I do believe that members should be asked to sign up to a statement of beliefs (one of which condemns homophobia) and those who refuse should be denied membership of the party.  I sincerely believe that the party should no longer be a refuge for bigoted right wingers who are the prime stumbling block to a future Conservative government.  Perhaps if this happens, gay people will be able to chose a political party on the basis of their economic policies, foreign affairs and policies to improve public services rather than being forced to concentrate on their attitudes towards gay rights."

Earlier in the year Tory support also rose amongst students.