Sunday, October 15, 2006

Who's calling Ruth Kelly a bigot?

If The Observer is to be believed -- and I accept that that is 'if' written in metre-high letters -- there is internecine conflict in the Cabinet. Not, in itself, much of a revelation, but the latest spat makes Northern Ireland look like an ecumenical bun-fight. Legislation for gay rights is, we're told the, casus belli with (in 'The Now Show's' inimitable phrase) the headboy, Ms Kelly, on the side of Banquo's not-yet-ghostly presence (aka the Prime Minister) fighting against such shocking novelty.

We don't know much about the details, we don't know if it's all cooked up -- and let's face it, this year's silly season has gone on as long as the preternaturally extended summer -- but, somehow it rings true. Not the Papists versus the Prods analysis but, frankly, Labour's failure to embrace gay rights to the full. There's nothing new there. If you think back, you might remember that New Labour were more interested in taking up parliamentary time discussing fox hunting rather than legislating on an equal age of consent. Great sense of priorities.

I know people in the gay community who don't see their sexuality having any bearing on their political outlook. If that's how they want to see it, that's their choice. But we still live in a society where prejudice remains engrained -- both sexist and heterosexist. The present government has done something to improve the situation, but it has been so slow, so grudging, it's hard to credit them with recognising this must be a priority.

Nor, I will admit, are all in the LibDems utterly blameless: there are those who have baulked at the natural justice of an equal age of consent but, then, they are nowhere near the Shadow Cabinet. And, what's more, support for these causes is enshrined in our constitution: no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Politically, it's a matter of pride to be in the only one of three main parties with that explicit commitment but, for our society, it's sad the other two parties have failed alike on this crucial issue.


Mike Hobday said...

"New Labour were more interested in taking up parliamentary time discussing fox hunting rather than legislating on an equal age of consent"

age of consent changed: 2000
fox hunting banned: 2005

enough said?

David Rundle said...

The final date of legislation hides the facts about the fox hunting issue: Foster's private members bill in 1997, lost after long debate in 1998, Blair's announcement in 1999, amendment to a bill in 2000, fox hunting bill in 2001 etc etc. Of course, fox hunting was a free vote -- as was an equal age of consent.

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