How many gay Tories does it take to change a party?

If you’ve read this blog before you might already know the one about the Tories being given discounted lapdances while at their conference in Birmingham.

The Sun, spotting an unmissable evidence-gathering opportunity for their mission to demonstrate that women are incapable of coherent thought, hurried to the scene to ask pole-dancers questions about public policy. In fact the dancers came off quite well (I had it on audio-only, if you’re wondering), so if you’re hoping for hilarious footage of people with no political understanding struggling to sound like rational thinkers, you might be better off watching the Tory conference itself.

Apparently, for example, ‘Gay people should not just vote Conservative, they have a duty to vote Conservative‘.

“What’s their angle?”, I wondered when I spotted the headline. “Is there perhaps a hole in our current benefits system which penalises people in same-sex relationships? As I’m currently neither on benefits nor in a same-sex relationship, I wouldn’t know. How interesting.”

But no. The reason gay people should vote Tory, according to Margot James, the Tory’s only lesbian PPC (for Stourbridge), is that, under Labour, people have to pay tax.

“I think gay people have got more angst on this issue than anybody else,” she said, “because gay people are paying in, through their taxes and actually using far less of the NHS because they tend not to have families, less of the education system for the same reason and all the more reason to be angry with this government for the waste of their taxes.”

OK. So LGBT people are more angry at having to pay tax than straight people because, apparently, they don’t have any relatives, they don’t get sick, and – presumably, although Ms James sadly doesn’t elaborate – they don’t like parks, they don’t use public transport, they are unbothered by pot-holes in the roads, their houses are flame-proof, they are constantly in employment, they don’t use public libraries, they prefer to empty their own bins and pay on entry to museums, they can all afford to pay for lawyers if they ever need them, and they are never, ever victims of crime.

This is so transparently stupid that it’s easy to dismiss it as Reason #946 why PPCs don’t get to write party policy. But I think this hints at something much more telling about the Tories.

Read that again – ‘[gay people] tend not to have families’. Skipping over the issue that ‘not having children’ is not the same as ‘not having a family’ (I don’t have children, but I have a mother and sisters and grandparents and cousins, and at least one of them will benefit from the NHS in any given month); even ignoring the obvious point that what she says applies to a lot of people, gay or not (I may well be putting more into the health service than I’m currently getting out, but it sure as hell doesn’t make me want to vote Tory); the real question is this – how many fewer gay people would have families if the Tories had got their way in 2002 when they tried to keep the ban on adoption for gay couples?

Sure, David Cameron is desperate to look mainstream by insisting that to vote blue is now also to vote pink as well as green (whatever happened to that Dave the Chameleon cartoon? I liked that). After all, in May he and most of his front bench voted in favour of fertility treatment for same-sex couples – even if the majority of his party were so confused about what the Tories now stood for that they stayed away altogether.

Cameron now knows how to face the right way on the totemic issues, but the details tell a different story. Ahead of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill vote in May his front-bench attempted to tack on an amendment insisting that IVF should only be given where there was a guarantee of a male role model in the family.

How, you might ask, does one guarantee a male role model in ‘traditional’, mixed-sex families, where children are conceived via the old-fashioned method that might, in the cases of many fathers, unkindly be described as fucking and fucking off? Aha, well, the Tories are onto that one as well, you see.

Not, it has to be said, by supporting the work many Sure Start centres do in running sessions to encourage fathers to spend time with their children – the Tories want to divert the Sure Start budget into funding health visitors instead.

So do they have big plans to revolutionise the Child Support Agency – something Labour has admittedly failed to do – and make sure that when parents split up, both of them are at least helping to keep their children alive? Mmm…no. When the Tories mention the CSA, it’s in a list of Labour’s administrative cock-ups, or it’s to nod their heads and admit that it’s ‘difficult’. Maria Miller is the Shadow Minister in charge of this area and the CSA got not one mention in her speech today yesterday. Instead, it seems, the brilliant vision these modern Tories have for the 21st century family is…? Counselling.

Yes, they’ve finally embraced bleeding-heart liberalism, all right. Before every couple gets married, their registrars (yup, the same ones who are now allowed to refuse to perform civil partnerships) will be encouraged to signpost the happy pairs to relationship counselling. I’m not knocking counselling – Relate do a brilliant and astoundingly difficult job, and pre-emptive marital counselling is very obviously a damn good idea. But just one or two questions remain, Maria…

Is this going to be extended to couples entering civil partnerships? I only ask because, despite the fact that gay adoption and gay fertility treatment is now legal, your speech yesterday went ON AND ON about the need for both a mother and a father, and didn’t mention same-sex couples once.

What if it’s a couple who’ve been together for twelve years and have four kids already? Do you not think the registrar, the relationship counsellor and all concerned might feel a bit silly?

Do you have ANYTHING in mind for couples – straight or gay – who have kids before or without getting married?

What about when marriages DO split up? It happens, I believe. Sometimes you can be four years into your marriage before you find out your partner’s been nicking other people’s credit cards. Sometimes you can be married ten years before the first time your partner gives you a black eye. Sometimes you just fall out of love. What exactly do the modern compassionate Conservatives have in mind to make sure the children of those couples don’t fall into poverty? Do they have any policy at all except to shrug their shoulders and say ‘you should have worked harder in counselling’?

I know there are many other areas where the prospect of a return to life under the Tories should scare me more; but for some reason it’s their equality stuff that I find the most sinister. They still believe, whatever they pretend, that a family = 1 man + 1 woman + a reasonable number of children. They still think that people like me (brought up by one woman) or like my friend D (brought up in a dysfunctional nuclear family, and then further up by a functional lesbian couple) are the products of broken homes. They’re still allowed to get away with saying that the benefits system rewards couples for splitting up, and no-one – no-one! – is pointing out that they’ve got it completely and utterly backward: that single parents need more benefits because being a single parent is fucking expensive, especially if the other parent isn’t contributing. When pea-brained PPCs say ‘gay people tend not to have families’, they’re unwittingly parroting the unspoken Tory belief that ‘gay people should not be allowed to have families, and we will not support them if they do’.

This has been an unforgivably long post rant, so I’ll apologise and sum up. There is so much wrong with this party’s policy. The Candidate’s Reception at this year’s Tory conference may have been overrun with gay men: it makes no difference. Gay people, if they agree that they should have the same rights as straight people, should not vote Tory.

In fact, gay people; and the children of gay people; and single parents; and the children of single parents; and people who aren’t that bothered about getting married; and everyone, everyone, everyone who belongs to a real, loving or unloving, unphotogenic, people-not-props family of whatever shape or size, has a duty to stop the Tories getting back in. Just for once: won’t someone think of the children?

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