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.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.