In The South

OPINION: True Blue and those ‘gay cure’ skeletons in the closets of the Tory leadership candidates

Craig Hanlon-Smith July 10, 2016

The devils are in the detail as Craig Hanlon-Smith questions if the next Prime Minister should be decided by the Tory blue rinse brigade rather than the country at large.

Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom MP

The end of June 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of Madonna’s True Blue album. And as radio stations commemorated this pop music anniversary by broadcasting such selections from the watershed collection as Open Your Heart, Live to Tell and Papa Don’t Preach, casting an eye across the news reports of The Conservative Party leadership race, one could be forgiven for momentarily believing we had all been transported back in time the full thirty years, and La Isla Bonita is nowhere to be seen.

Any relief at the early withdrawal of Stephen Crabb, a front bench Government minister with links to a Christian organisation that offers cure therapies to LGBT teenagers, soon dissipated with a cursory glance at the final three.

Michael Gove MP
Michael Gove MP

Michael Gove held the most impressive voting record on LGBT rights having supported our community at every available turn for many years. However, speak to anyone from the world of education and they will explain to you that as former education minister, simply because Mr. Gove learnt his times-tables backwards in Latin whilst dressed up as King Henry VIII, his assertion that everyone else must follow suit has sent children’s learning into an unmanageable tailspin. But worry not of him. After shafting his closest colleague and Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, who as a result failed to make it off the starting blocks, in the most public and humiliating of political back-stabbing U-turns, he was eliminated in the second round and has scuttled off back to run the justice department. I know. You couldn’t make it up.

And to the final two, a political leap of faith into progressive gender politics with an all female short-list. Never has the UK faced the prospect of such a juxtaposition of emotions, faced with the dichotomy of a strong female lead married to a socially dysfunctional political agenda. Well, not for thirty years or more, since Margaret Thatcher drove across our green and pleasant lands in a tank, her headscarf billowing in the wind like the stained robes of a twisted Boadicea.

Theresa May’s LGBT voting record is somewhat mixed. Under the captainship of Iain Duncan Smith her early political career followed the party whip in voting against the equal age of consent, against same-sex adoptions and against the repeal of section 28. She has since voted in favour of civil partnerships and followed exactly the pro-quality stance of David Cameron (as Prime Minister). She appears to be one who toes the party line playing a relatively cool role during the referendum but quietly agreeing with the leadership’s pro-remain position.

Theresa May MP
Theresa May MP

When pressed on her LGBT record Theresa May recently, said: “I supported Civil Partnerships in 2004, and was proud to sponsor the legislation that introduced full marriage equality in 2013 because I believe marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.  I didn’t believe the state should perpetuate discrimination and prejudice against LGBT people. That’s why equal marriage was a hugely significant social reform.  And it also made a powerful and important statement that as a country we value and respect everyone”.

May has garnered support from almost two-thirds of the parliamentary party and remains the bookies favourite but as the election of Jeremy Corbyn teaches us, once the ballot papers are sent out nationwide to the party faithful, the voting patterns of the sitting MPs are an irrelevance.

And so to Andrea Leadsom; the surprise dark horse galloping up the rear that left such Tory stalwarts as Michael Gove and Liam Fox choking in the smoke of her political backdraft.

Leadsom has proclaimed herself to be the natural heir to Margaret Thatcher and if that isn’t enough to cast you back thirty years, cop a feel at this lot. Leadsom positively abstained from the parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage saying that she agreed with both points of view. Fence-sitting that would not be possible as a Prime Minister. She has stated clearly as part of her campaign that she “does not like” the same-sex marriage legislation, and whilst supporting equal love, would have preferred the extensions of Civil Partnerships to all relationships. She claims that the same-sex marriage bill has created a great deal of hurt amongst Christian communities and that marriage should have been preserved as an opportunity for men and women in the sight of God. She clearly hasn’t heard of LGBT Christians, gay priests or lesbian vicars or if she has, took a Victorian approach to the idea. If we ignore it, then it cannot be happening.

What cannot be ignored, is that Leadsom has for a decade supported young people exchanges between the UK and “a fantastic youth centre” (her words) in Uganda known as The Discovery Centre funded by an organisation called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). YWAM is an evangelical mission founded in California that runs a centre in Amsterdam “helping broken people who struggle with their unwanted homosexuality” (their words).

No one is suggesting that Andrea Leadsom herself is kidnapping LGBT youth and anointing them with reparative therapy, but she is an active supporter of an organisation that does, and she could be your next Prime Minister.

But fear not my LGBT brothers and sisters, friends and allies, we are not alone. Leadsom has also laid into the childless credentials of her nearest opponent Theresa May. “Being a mother gives me the edge on May” ran the headline of the Saturday edition of The Times, and although Leadsom vehemently took to social media immediately the story was published on the Friday evening to state that she had been misrepresented, The Times responded by broadcasting the audio from the journalists interview.

Leadsom is clearly heard stating that “although I don’t know Theresa very well I am sure that she’d be really really sad that she hasn’t had children….. being a mum means that you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people but I have [emphasises] children, who are going to have children, who will directly be a part of what happens next”.

She has since made a recovery statement in respect of the comments stating that during the course of a lengthy interview, she was repeatedly asked about her children and that she made it clear that she did not want this in any way to be a feature of the campaign. “I am disgusted in the way that this has been presented. I want to be crystal clear that everyone has an equal stake in our society and in the future of our country. That is what I believe and it is what I have always believed. I have repeated my instructions to my campaign team that this campaign must at all times be principled and honourable”.

You will notice this is far from a retraction. Being disgusted in the way that the words you have actually said have been presented, does not absolve you of any responsibility for saying them in the first place. Covering your exposed unpleasantness in the mists of a politically savvy sound-bite may fool the party faithful, but I for one am crystal clear that you Mrs Leadsom, have clarified your position well.

One might recall Anne Widdecombe’s comments regarding former party leader Michael Howard when she said “there’s something of the night about him”. It would appear that whilst walking the halls at midnight dressed as The Grim Reaper, Mr Howard may not have been alone, he had a pupil; Andrea Leadsom.

What is abundantly clear, is that as a sitting party in Government with a majority of twelve, this election for our new Prime Minister will not be decided by the population of Great Britain, but by the paid up members of The Conservative Party. From a national population of almost 75 million, a mere 150,000 will have chosen the next Prime Minister, that is 0.2%, roughly the population of the Isle of Wight. It is undemocratic, deeply troubling and we could find ourselves faced with a Prime Minister, who believes you only contribute to society if you have spawned children from the fruit of thy womb Lord Jesus, and could well propose an amendment to the same-sex marriage bill the consequences of which would at the very least marginalise our LGBT communities.

Whilst we may wistfully skip around our kitchens to the nostalgic echoes of an 80’s pop tune, there are some true blue memories that are best left dead and buried. Too bad that 99.8% of us will not have a say.