Sunday, 4 October 2009

Party Conference Season and a Tory Future

As the Political Party Conference season goes into its final week, it’s interesting to note how the two main parties have addressed the sexuality agenda. I have to confess, I didn’t pick anything up from the Lib Dems but anyone wants to add a comment on that stuff, feel free.

Michael Cashman MEP did briefly address the LGBT agenda at the Labour Party Conference, criticising the Tory apology over Section 28 as simply not good enough. His anger is understandable but will not translate to a generation who has never heard of Section 28. Generations of youth can not remember a time before the tolerance that defines the law in relation to aspects of sexuality today. Harriet Harman’s charge was similarly focussed on the Tories – stating they oppose LGBT rights. Of course, it’s an untrue statement but she is right to question the Tory commitment to gay rights and the shape of those rights in coming years if they win the next election. Harman noted Labour’s annual Diversity evening and suggested the Tories couldn’t do anything similar. She also commented on sex work and I’ve addressed that in the previous post.

The Tories will be having a big bash on Canal Street during their conference this week. The event claims to be the first ‘official conference gay night’ but TORCHE (the old Tory campaign group active in the 90s) used to hold fringe gatherings at conferences (maybe that wasn’t official?). This event is further supported by LGBTory – launched at Manchester Pride earlier in the year with the slogan ‘Conservative and Proud’. You would have been shot 13 years ago with T-shirts like that. Pictures of the group reveal two things – one they are young, and secondly, they don’t look the Tory stereo-types of old. This is important in gradually changing the look and feel of a party that is criticised by others for making only small changes at the top of the leadership.

If the Tories do win next year (as now seems likely), there remain big questions about the future shape of a sexuality agenda, potentially over the next decade.. BDSM and fetish continues to be punished by laws and does not appear to have a lobbying group that has made it to the conference circuit. It may well be, that only when that lobby trades in their leather and rubber suits, they will be taken seriously. I don’t see a Tory government moving on that issue but will they be any worse than Labour? The wider issue will be one of attitudes led by legal reform. Contrast the law and attitudes of 1997 with 2009. In 2023, will attitudes have shifted by a similar degree?

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