01 October 2008

Gays have a duty to vote for whomever we damn well want

"Gay people are net contributors to public services through their taxes, because very few of them have children.

"I think gay people have got more angst on this issue than anybody else 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.

"There is so much wrong with this government's policy, gay people should not just vote Conservative, they have a duty to vote Conservative."

Thus spake Margot James, Tory Prospective Candidate for Stourbridge, open Lesbian, and 100% bullshitter.

Gays do not have a duty to vote for any party.

This whole quote smacks of opportunism, with sweeping statements treating the LGBT Community as one great big fuckoff blob with exactly the same priorities and concerns. It smacks of complacency, that if the Tories trot out a Lesbian to say X, Y or Z, we'll all turn out on Election Day like good little gay boys and girls and vote Conservative. And it is far from unexpected.

As I've said before, the choice between Gordon Brown, whom I dislike, and David Cameron, whom I distrust, is like the choice between getting shot or getting stabbed. Neither appeals. I've rabbitted on enough about Labour (particularly on this issue, thanks to the pigeon-holing attitudes of a certain Renfrewshire Councillor); let me explain my beef with the pompous, self-centred arsehole that is Cameron.

I met the man once. On Platform 6 of Preston Railway Station, at the end of last year's Tory Party Conference in Blackpool. The station was crawling with Tory Party grandees (to get a train out of Blackpool to most places outside the North West of England, you have to change at Preston) and I was heading for the train to Chorley. I'm not sure where Cameron was heading (Manchester Airport, I'd imagine) but it was in the same direction. So I spoke to him. He asked one question, and one question only: "Where do you live?"

When I told him the answer (the aforementioned Chorley), his face lit up: "Fantastic! That's a key seat!" (some key seat, the Tories selected a Scouser as their PPC, who has since stood down) All he wanted to know was what constituency I lived in: nothing else seemed relevant. The man wants your vote. Bollocks to the rest of you.

As it is with residents of Lancashire's Market Town, so it is for the LGBT community: dragging out the Lesbian to yell, "ATTENTION HOMOS! VOTE CONSERVATIVE!" is basically par for the course. And she's a strange choice for the interview (why not any of the other openly gay Tory PPCs?). Why? I spotted this in a feature about her in the Observer, from January 2006:

The influences that shaped her political thinking were never based around her sexual identity. Last year, she told lesbian magazine Diva: 'If you live like that, you live in a ghetto - and probably vote Labour - and I don't.' She says she's had nothing but support from the party but there's no pressure on her to make being gay any more of an issue than she wants to. In fact, she acknowledges a little wearily, it would be nice to be asked about policy for a change.

So she doesn't want to talk about sexual identity, and she says that there's no pressure on her to make her sexuality an issue. But 30 months later, she's telling the BBC that the Tories should be the default choice for gay people. Is something wrong there?

There fucking well is.

I'm in the SNP because I agree with the SNP's policies. Not because I'm gay. (Having said that, I do see a parallel between the equality struggle and the cause of independence, but that's another post for another time, and it's certainly not a justification for all gays to just vote SNP automatically).

I'm not anti-Labour because I'm gay. Rather, I accept that the equality cause has taken massive strides since 1997 - though I'd prefer to consider Labour's next move rather than their last. No, it's Labour's policies I dislike.

I care about things like health (we still need an NHS, despite what Margot says), education (we might want to go to college or uni at some point, you know), the economy (we use the same currency as you), the environment (we breathe the same air as other people and we're just as screwed by rising sea levels as everyone else) and transport (we do occasionally need to get from A to B... we don't all just spend our entire lives on Broughton Street). To say nothing of foreign policy and defence matters (Oh wow, thanks to the Blair Government, I have the right to jump into the quagmires that are known as Iraq and Afghanistan... whoop-de-fucking-doo!).

No, being gay isn't the be-all-and-end-all of me. It's one part of the very finely-woven tapestry that is my life and my outlook on life, politics and the universe.

Two years ago, Margot got that.

What happened?


Ted Harvey said...

I surprised that someone who is presumably politically informed and describes herself as a lesbian, can have come up with such an outmoded and virtually homophobic piece of crass opportunistic posturing.

To corral all 'gays' into some single, stereotypical group-type that identifies them and their individuality and their interests purely by their sexual preference is just so olde prejudiced Shires stuff.

I can readily think of at least a couple of prominant gay people in each of the main political parties in England. They are where they are on the political axis regardless, or at least not only because of, of their sexuality.

That in itself is a mark of the progress we have made in our British society. But that progress would never have been made if people like Margot had continued to dominate thinking in the way that it used to categorise all gay people as a single entity without individuality, interests and values other than their sexuality.

Extraordinary... or then again maybe just plain, prejudiced, naff and crude vote-getting?

Malc said...


For the record, I'm not of the opinion that any group of people - whatever race, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual preference or favourite colour (the last one for those new 18 year old voters!) would, could or should vote en masse for one party.

I just liked the story - and I knew how much yourself and ASwaS would be irked by it!

Will said...

Ted, everything you said is bang on the money (ever thought of starting a blog yourself? it'd be a good read for sure).

Malc... irked? Irked?! I've been in a belligerent mood all day because of this. Just ask the poor housing officers at the wrong end of a VERY e-mail about VAT invoices.

Bill said...

Although I'm basically of a Conservative frame of mind (I've not been a member since IDS became leader and I'm still a little wary of re-joining) I share your view about the unacceptability of stereo-typing gays that this seems to imply. It is possible that her little contributiuon was addressed more to the delegates present, than to the wider public - although there were a decent number of younger people there, or so it seemed from the camera shots I saw, the reality is that the bulk of Conserevative members, and delegates to conferences such as this, will be at the very least middle-aged or elderly with all the out-dated social attitudes that this often implies.

As for your unsatisfactory meeting with David Cameron on a railway platform. Well, it's par for the course. Over the years any politician I've ever met, from whichever political party (and I've met some quite senior ones from various of them - Tory, Labour, Libdem, SNP) and I have always found every one of them to be similarly opportunistic and focussed on the one issue - getting your vote, specially if you happen to live in a 'target seat' or a marginal. I am afraid to say I am surprised that you were surprised by David Cameron's focus - that's the way almost all politicians are.

How I cast my votes (in EU, Scottish, Westminster or indeed local elections) is a lot more complicated that my sexuality, but whereas you will most probably be voting SNP because you generally support the aims of that Party, from what I can gather, it is most probable I will be voting Conservative or just possibly abstaining or spoiling my vote as I have done occasionally in the past, specially when IDS was Leader, because they reflect my views on most issues; I've grown bored over the years by fellow-gays/lesbians expressing dismay that 'one of us' could even consider voting Conservative, as they thought we should all be 'left-wing' - it's not just Conservatives that make unwarranted assumptions about how certain categories of people should vote! When I studied Arabic some years ago at London University (SOAS), it was often amazing to me how suspicious were most people I met there of me who had come from an unashamedly business and profit-oriented background and my views on the NHS and private education were anathema to most people there, until of course it came to people who were very left of centre but who had kids they wanted to avoid sending to the local uselsss comprehensive and so had no qualms about using private education for themselves, if not for anyone else and certainly not their own constituents (in the case of a few Labour MPs I've met); I think they expected me to have horns. Prejudices are to be found in all sorts of places, I'm afraid. And I have my rpejudices, too, but so it appears do you as well, if this article is a guide ;) Sorry I have rambled on.

Will said...

Bill, I was just horrified that a Scouser would be chosen for clearly non-Scouse Chorley, especially on the new boundaries which gets rid of the outlying Western villages which are reasonably close to Southport and Ormskirk. I mean, what were they thinking?

And the reason I was surprised was that he was so blatant about it... I expect to be schmoosed and finessed. So for the brief chat to head stright into a discussion of constituencies was a shock - what happened to subtlety?

Though I agree with the general sentiment, I find nothing quite as bigoted as the phrase "You're gay, so why don't you believe X?"

Grogipher said...

Hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah!

As a smelly student, do I care less about tax then? How does that fit in with caring more because I'm a poof? Does that balance out? I'm confused.

Not confused enough to vote tory like, but confused nonetheless.

~this is the bit where I shamelessly plug Out4Independence~

Jacq Kelly said...

These comments are offensive for all of the reasons that you mention – brilliant post. However, I’m additionally irked by the implicit suggestion that because gays “tend not to have families” – erm, excuse me???? – we don’t give a damn about the welfare of other people’s children, or about the greater good of society as a whole. I don’t have children at the moment but I do want to invest in excellent nurseries and schools. I do want a health system that cares for everyone - other people’s children included – and I do want a healthy, happy and cohesive society where everyone is looked after, regardless of whether I gave birth to them or not.

Anyway, the Tories have spent years telling us that we shouldn’t be allowed to have children. It’s their bloody fault that it has been so hard for some people.

This is just the Tories at the worst – showing that they are all for themselves and, for some reason, seem to think that all gay people are equally selfish, narrow and minded. And that we all operate as a singular block when it comes to politics. How very offensive. Margot James ought to be ashamed of herself.

Nice they got the one gay who doesn’t want to talk about being gay to be wheeled out to tell other gay people how to vote.

Will said...

Grogipher... too right! But please tell me the "4" isn't in the offical name now, rather than the "for". I will have to bust open the biggest can of whoopass in the history of time at Conference if it is. I'm a stickler for these things, you know ;)

Jacq, I agree with everything you've just said. Too often, the Tories governed for their own without looking at the bigger picture, and Margot James made the mistake of assuming that all gays were like her, so that we would think like her and would slavishly turn blue. We aren't, we don't and we won't.

Ted Harvey said...

Now Will, why would I want to start a blog when I can come in and contribute this excellent facility here :-)

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the sexuality angle, the underlying idea that voters should necessarily object to social services of which they don't personally make use is is utterly crass.

Grogipher said...

If I'm honest - i have absolutely no idea :P

Will said...

Ted, blog or no blog, you're welcome here!

Agent, well said. And has she not realised that just because you don't make use of a service now doesn't mean that you won't make service of it in the future?

Grogipher, I hope we haven't gone for the "4". I boycott Avril Lavigne records over her use of "8" as a letter.