Gay rights debacle puts Tory conference in a spin

By Ian Dunt

The Tory conference continues to be bedevilled over gay issues, after a leading gay rights campaigner pulled out of its ‘Conference Pride’ event.

Ben Summerskill, head of leading gay rights group Stonewall, decided not to attend the event last night over the conference presence of Michal Kaminski, chair of the Conservatives newly-formed European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European parliament.

His decision to boycott the event, despite being lined up as a star speaker, marked a third day of trouble for the party over its gay rights record.

On Monday, prominent gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of Outrage! Accused David Cameron of not showing any commitment to current LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) issues, despite seeing the light about the error of the party’s past mistakes.

Cameron’s gay rights credentials questioned

The yesterday, David Cameron received a letter from a variety of celebrities objecting to his new alliance with the Polish Law and Justice party.

Stephen Fry demands Cameron reconsiders Europe stance
Among other signatories, Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard said that although Conference Pride was a good start, the party’s European allies made it seem “a two faced gesture”.

Gay rights letter to Cameron in full

Last night, Mr Summerskill adopted the same rhetoric, after discovering Mr Kaminski attended a lunch hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel.

“There is no doubt the progress that has been made in the last couple of years has genuinely been historic,” Summerskill told Channel 4 News.

Comment: Gay rights and the Tories

“But the event tonight has been overshadowed by the presence, not just at conference but on the same platform as some senior members of the party, of people of such extreme and offensive views.”

The controversy is just the latest ramification of Mr Cameron’s decision to pull out of the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) grouping in the European parliament. Last week foreign secretary David Miliband told the Labour conference it “makes me sick”.