Saturday 3 April 2010

Why are gays trying to assimilate?, asks Tory ppc

Marriage is, quite blatantly, a heterosexual institution. Why are gay men and women trying to assimilate themselves into straight society?"

That is the question posed by Stephen Parkinson, the Tory candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne North, in Independent political editor Andrew Grice's report on the Tory class of 2010.

Grice reports that Parkinson opposes civil partnerships as well as gay adoption, and defends the "benefits" of the section 28 legislation passed by the Thatcher government in 1988. Parkinson is a former director of research at the Centre for Policy Studies, but does not seem to have made his strong views against gay equality part of his campaign pitch.

Conservative leader David Cameron has made the acceptance of gay rights an important part of his claim that the party has changed. He has apologised for his party's record on the issue, calling his own vote to retain section 28 in 2003 a "mistake": "Yes, we may have sometimes been slow and, yes, we may have made mistakes, including Section 28, but the change has happened".

Parkinson's fears about the dangers of gay "assimilation" into "heterosexual society" suggest he is much less at ease with his party's accomodation to Britain's social liberalism.


Overall, the feature reinforces the consistent message from earlier Tory candidate surveys. Whether the source is ConservativeHome on the right or the New Statesman poll from the left, the consistent message has been that new Tory candidates are more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, but often more right-wing on major policy issues, most wanting to see spending and taxes cut sharply, a fundamental renegotiation in while putting climate change bottom of the list of priorities.

Grice also has quotes from Tory candidates in the class of 2010 expressing strong Euroscepticism ("you only have to ask Dan Hannan about my views" says Diana Coad of Slough), less spending and low tax, and supporting the restriction of the abortion time limit on abortion to as low as possible.

The surveys suggest those are often mainstream rather than marginal views among Tory candidates.

That Cameron's new Conservative candidates are often pretty right-wing is not new, though it does challenge the depth of the Cameron claim to have changed the party.

But one would at least hope that Tory candidates - whether centrist or right-wing - would want to strongly reject Parkinson's comments against gay "assimilation" into "heterosexual society" and to re-emphasise the party's commitment to equality.



Iain Dale says that Parkinson can not be arguing against gay equality because Parkinson is himself gay: I disagree on this first point: a woman entrepreneur who says she tries not to employ other women is no less sexist than Alan Sugar.

On the second, Dale reports that the candidate claims he never held the views set out in his Cambridge Union speech on this issue; Dale reports that "this was a Cambridge debate where you often stand up and defend positions which are not your own".

But I don't find this particularly plausible at all. It is the case in Oxford and Cambridge Union debating contests that the competitors are given one side of the argument to debate blind, and so may have to argue a case they oppose, as I remember from my own first year efforts at Oxford.

But that is not how the formal debates with invited speakers work, which are a quite different proposition. Parkinson wll have chosen to argue that side of the argument. His audience will have expected him to have been arguing his sincere view, not arguing a view which he does not hold for the hell of it. And there is nothing in the reports at the time, such as his publishing the speech on the Conservative Assocation website, to distance himself from the argument he publicly made.

Here is the speech in full. Parkinson tacitly refers to his own sexuality - "the proposition’s case tonight is in no way anti-gay or homophobic: anyone who knows me will understand why that is patently absurd" - before arguing that section 28 is simply "misunderstood" and that civil partnerships and gay marriage are wrong, and increase rather than reduce discrimination.

I do, however, accept that the tone and occasion of the assimiliation remark does slightly soften it:

I must admit that my opposition to the Civil Partnership Bill is also based on a slightly less rational reason. Marriage is, quite blatantly, a heterosexual institution. Why are gay men and women trying to assimilate themselves into straight society? Why are we mimicking the most overtly heterosexual ceremony? What have we been fighting for all these years, if not the right to be different?

Parkinson's broader argument on section 28 and civil partnerships is argued seriously. If he does not hold this view now, that is good. Whatever it is convenient to claim in 2010, it seems much more likely that (like his leader) he has changed his mind rather than that he chose to passionately and publiclly argue, in 2002, a case which he simply never believed.


Iain Dale said...

Sunder, wat a pity you didn't check your facts before you wrote this.

Blaad said...

You're clutching at straws a bit here.

charles said...

You tit

Anonymous said...

I always find it irritating how a certain breed of leftie tries to turn issues of conscience into political caricature - by their very nature certain issues transcend political association (I know you will deny this was your intention, Sunder, but the approach of the 'progressives' on this is too consistently crude for this to be an isolated coincidence). Truth is many on the left, both professionally in the party and socially via the vote, supported section 28, believe homosexual practice to be wrong, thinks the EU erodes their freedom not enhances it, and finds state-funded baby-killing to be a poor indicator of a supposedly 'civilised' society: whatever the middle-class metropolitan 'progressives' might sneeringly say. Usually the metro-left tolerate these people for the sake of their their votes and then spend the rest of the time ignoring, dismissing and undermining them - until election time comes around and then they panic, flirt with them oncemore, and start paying them ludicrously hypocritical compliments (a la Gordon Brown's comments on Catholics and the conscience of the nation). I come from a strong Labour area, and a Labour tradition, as do many Roman Catholics - you ought to be careful about 'friendly-fire' when you get all indignant about the fact that some people might just see the world differently to the self-proclaimed 'progressives'. Not least because it will cost you votes.

I blogged on this just yesterday, as it happens -

Robert said...

Rubbish most of the real left not the new Labour kind, do not mind if two men two women want to get married, have children, live a life together, it makes no difference.

We on the left do not mind if a man and women decided they want to live together , freedom is what we believe in, you do have of course in the labour party people like Blair and brown brought up in a religious home these people have problems, for the rest of us just get on and live you life, because boy it's to short to worry about

Anonymous said...

@Robert - 'We on the left'... : you speak with remarkable confidence, as if what you happen to believe in constitutes the summation of correct left-wing thinking.

So silly that it rebuts itself.

p a t r i c k said...

"Iain Dale says that Parkinson can not be arguing against gay equality because Parkinson is himself gay"

Unfortunately Conservative party LGBT people do work against the interests of other LGBT people.

The Conservative party has formed an alliance with the Law and Justice party in Poland which is extremely homophobic and responsible for much oppression of LGBT people in Poland. However Conservative LGBT parliamentary candidates like Iain Dale seem to want to whitewash the Law and Justice party or use other methods to diminish the scale of homophobia shown by the Law and Justice party.

As a gay man myself I will say that I find the Conservative party's alliance in Europe with the far right Law and Justice party to be an absolute disgrace and it demonstrates that their newfound "gay friendliness" is only skin deep.

Tom said...

I don't think being gay stops someone from supporting homophobic legislation; often it can be in a 'well the status quo never did me any harm' sort of way, in the same way as Tories from council estates are proud of having pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and don't see why others would need/want help.

That said, I was vaguely familiar with Stephen at Cambridge, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to find he'd deliberately chosen to take a devil's advocate position on something like this.

Bird said...

You dropped a bollock there Sunder.
Any chance of an apology?

Stewart Cowan said...


Very well said.

Of course, we are no longer meant to have a conscience if it interferes with New Labour's 'equality' and 'diversity' agenda.

The fact that the Tories are going down the same road would explain why they are only a few points ahead in the polls of such a hated government.

Martin S said...

You are wrong. You made a mistake, but you seem to think you have to prove yourself right.

Unknown said...

"It is the case in Oxford and Cambridge Union debating contests that the competitors are given one side of the argument to debate blind, and so may have to argue a case they oppose, as I remember from my own first year efforts at Oxford"

What a curious remark to make! Either you're unaware, or you're studiously ignoring for no obvious reason, that this is the practice in every university across the English-speaking world that participates in competitive debates under the globally dominant British Parliamentary format. There is no reason whatsoever to single out the competitions run by the Unions of Oxford and Cambridge when conceding this point; these two universities are in no way exceptional in the matter.

Sunder Katwala said...

I did think, from The Independent's initial report, that the remarks were contemporary. That they were made in 2002 makes a different; moreover, the tone of the assimilation comments means they should be read in that context. I say this in the update.

But I remain unconvinced by the argument that Stephen Parkinson was expressing a view in 2002 which he did not believe. In particular, he published the speech on the CUCA website. There is no indication they weren't his views. However, if he could show that he had publicly taken the opposite position, clearly that would clinch the point.

Otherwise, at a time when there is an argument about whether or not to repeal section 28, allow gay adoption or civil partnerships, he seems to have been involved in public persuasion against gay equality on these issues, in line with the general Tory view of those issues in 2002, which has now changed certainly on civil partnerships and section 28. (I am not sure how opinion divides on gay adoption at present).

I would be happy to carry any statement from him or his campaign. I would also be interested to know whether or not he ever held the view that section 28 was misunderstood, and/or whether he was or is against gay adoption.

Of course, politics changes and people change their minds. In many ways, progressive conservatism on issues like gay rights in the last 25 years has tended to be about accepting changes after the event, which I think is very positive in ratifying such progressive change, but less often in pushing for change before it has been achieved.

It is quite possible to hold such views (eg against gay adoption) without being homophobic. Iain Dale is against gay adoption, for example. But it does mean disagreeing that gay equality should apply to that sphere, because of political views about eg the family or some other reason.

Iain Dale said...

I most certainly am not against gay adoption!

Not a good day for you, is it Sunder?!

Sunder Katwala said...

Sorry, clearly not. Withdrawn. Misremembered entirely, I think probably something you said about civil partnerships/marriage distinction.

Sunder Katwala said...

For the record, here are Iain Dale's views in favour of gay adoption.

"Out of 3,700 adoptions last year (in itself an incredibly low number), only 185 involved gay couples. My argument has always been that in an ideal world all children would be brought up by two loving parents. The norm is that they are brought up by parents of the opposite sex. the fact that the State endorses the adoption of children by gay parents is surely a crcucial factor in this debate. I understand that there are 60,900 children in care in this country. These kids need love and stability, whether it is in the home of a straight couple or a gay couple.


I find it deeply offensive if anyone should suggest that gay couples are not capable of providing that love and stability".

Stewart Cowan said...

"I find it deeply offensive if anyone should suggest that gay couples are not capable of providing that love and stability"." (Iain Dale)

It is a matter of fact that married couples stay together longer than homosexual pairs do.

I suspect there are so few adoptions due to all the mad rules that the 'authorities' are meant to follow.

Roger the Shrubber said...

Maybe at the 'other' Union, the first years were 'invited' to speak on certain sides of a debate, but As I recall, at the light blue end, I doubt there was much 'inviting' going on to the student members which would allow sides to be chosen in line with their own beliefs.

If so, a certain Education Spokesman would prefer to have his degree from the University of Life, rather than Oxford (a sentiment light blues feel entirely plausible), and a certain PPC for a South London constituency lead a debate suggesting No confidence in a Government represented at the debate by a certain Kenneth Clarke.

Of course it could have been an 'Emergency' debate, which occurs just before the Main Event, where I don't think the proponents/opponents have much influence on which side they are posted.