Tory gay support collapses to nine per cent

Support falls thirty points to nine per cent in wake of Grayling affair and new EU alliance.

One of the early aims of David Cameron's leadership was to alter the perception (and the reality) that the Conservative Party was homophobic.

So presumably he'll be dismayed to learn that, according to a new Pink News poll, gay support for the Tories has plummeted from 39 per cent in June 2009 to just nine per cent today. That's lower than the 17 per cent recorded by Michael Howard in 2005.

Under our electoral system, small swings such as this could hurt the Tories in just the sort of Lib Dem marginals they need to win to secure an overall majority.

Unsurprisingly, a significant number of voters have been put off by Chris Grayling's extraordinary defence of the right of B&B owners to turn away gay couples and by Cameron's subsequent refusal to condemn him.

More recently, the decision of Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, the founder of LGBTory, to defect to Labour and to accuse the Conservatives of an "elaborately executed deception" on gay policy has also damaged the party.

But the slide in gay support can be traced back further, to Cameron's shameful decision to form a new EU alliance with several homophobic Eastern European parties

Elsewhere, the poll shows that the Lib Dems have replaced Labour as the party of choice for gay voters. Support for Nick Clegg's party has increased from 20 per cent in 2005 to 58 per cent today, while support for Labour has dropped from 29 per cent to 21 per cent today.

As for the Tories, it looks like Cameron will have to "detoxify" his party all over again.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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