David Cameron on gay rights – oops!

// 25 March 2010

Update: Here is the link to a transcript for the first video interview with David Cameron by the Gay Times. And here is the link to a transcript for the second video which is the Channel 4 piece on the Gay Times interview.

This video really speaks for itself, but for those who can’t view it or want a taster before clicking on it, the short version is this:

  • Conservative MEPs vote questionably on a key gay rights motion at the EU Parliament
  • David Cameron, in an interview with the Gay Times about the vote, gaffes, saying that, “I try to have free votes where possible on these sorts of issues. Sorry it’s not a very good answer. I’ll have to go and look at this particular vote in the European parliament.”
  • Martin Popplewell challenges Cameron about the idea that upholding equality should be left to a ‘free vote’, saying “You want us to vote for you. If we vote for you – we want you to vote for us.”
  • Cameron responds: “I do, I do. Do you know – can we stop for a second?” and seeks to end the – going very badly indeed – interview.

Channel 4 then did a follow up interview with David Cameron, which you can view below, presumably so he could ‘clarify’ the situation. It is really damning and only just over six minutes. Really worth the view!

The final effect? David Cameron does not come out (pun!) looking like there’s anything real about his (or his Party’s) so-claimed commitment to gay rights.

The Party has changed…. And there won’t be any turning back. So I understand the concern, but I think the change that’s happened is real, lasting and irreversible.

Erm. Or not?

h/t: Martin Hearson

Comments From You

Ally // Posted 25 March 2010 at 7:11 pm

I don’t think the the top of the conservative party has ever really cared about gay rights either way, and nor will it ever. They are a pawn to get votes and they have changed stance because they they will attract more votes than they will lose. There is really nothing genuine about the change of heart, and I don’t really get why that’s news to anyone.

Rose // Posted 25 March 2010 at 9:30 pm


Sounds to me like it’s a question (still?) of whether gay rights are a moral issue, voted on out of individual conscience, or a question of human rights, and therefore a matter for party whips.

Who voted for a party that doesn’t recognise homosexuals as humans? It’s just disturbing that such peole are given power.

Elmo // Posted 25 March 2010 at 10:29 pm

*Slow clap for David Cameron*

earwicga // Posted 26 March 2010 at 9:37 am

Brilliant! The nasty party – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thanks Zohra.

HarpyMarx // Posted 26 March 2010 at 9:56 am

Well if I remember correctly Cameron was against repealing Section 28 though he contradicts himself the next minute.

Tories are still the ‘defend the heterosexual nuke family’…traditional stomach churning family values rubbish which everyone has to subscribe to along with the institution of marriage…along with the reward of tax breaks….

zohra moosa // Posted 26 March 2010 at 10:29 am

For those who also didn’t realize, apparently ‘slow clapping’ is a very British way of showing disapproval. The Women’s Institute famously employed it 10 years ago against Tony Blair. (Thanks Laura!)

FeminaErecta // Posted 26 March 2010 at 3:36 pm

*joins with elmo in the slow clapping for Cameron* I feel a facebook group coming on here!

Elmo // Posted 26 March 2010 at 4:05 pm

Yes- it was dissaproval clapping-would like to make that clear! :)

Shea // Posted 26 March 2010 at 9:33 pm

*Also joins Elmo slow clapping for Cameron*.

JW // Posted 27 March 2010 at 1:37 am

This is a non story. He didn’t know about the vote, it not being his responsibility, which is why he struggled to answer. There was also uncertainty over whether he was giving a print or a filmed interview or both simultaneously. We have a general policy of not getting involved with the domestic issues of other EU states, as we don’t believe it … See moreto be the role of that institution. To be clear, we abstained from the motion, rather than voting against.

The days of Section 28 are long gone. We have apologised for it and it is wrong to suggest that we are anything other than pro-gay rights. Indeed, come 6th May some 20-25 of our MPs will have somewhat of a vested interest in the matter.

It was pretty sloppy of C4 to choose those two to interview on the matter. Ben Bradshaw is frankly ridiculous and would criticise the Tories even if we did exactly what he wanted. And as for MacMillan-Scott, far from ‘defecting’ from the Tories, we threw him out and he’d been trying to get back in until his sudden realisation that he’s a Lib Dem a couple of weeks ago. He’s incredibly embittered and would say anything to smear us.

We’re a changed party. To read what some have done into this interview is just wishful thinking. Too many people let their hatred for the Conservatives colour their interpretation of anything we do. Gordon Brown might have attempted to use this phrase to turn people away from us but I’ll accept the challenge; take a long hard look at the Conservative Party, with unprejudiced eyes, and you really won’t be able to argue we haven’t changed.

zohra moosa // Posted 27 March 2010 at 2:02 am


I’m kind of confused by your comment.

For example, re this:

We have a general policy of not getting involved with the domestic issues of other EU states, as we don’t believe it … See moreto be the role of that institution.

That is the claim that David Cameron makes in the interview, but the Channel 4 presenter does credibly refute it by pointing out that Conservative MEPs have actually initiated motions on other EU nations in other situations.

On this:

There was also uncertainty over whether he was giving a print or a filmed interview or both simultaneously.

I’m not sure why this is relevant. Why would David Cameron’s answers change if it was one versus the other? Either way, he knew he was on record.

On this:

The days of Section 28 are long gone. We have apologised for it and it is wrong to suggest that we are anything other than pro-gay rights.

Sorry, I really don’t understand. If it’s true that the Conservative Party is pro gay rights, why did Conservative MEPs abstain from a motion condemning homophobia? The Labour Party MEPs and the Lib Dem MEPs felt they could vote, why not the Conservative MEPs? Or are Conservative MEPs not really representative of the Conservative Party, is that what you mean? I’m not clear.

On this:

We’re a changed party. To read what some have done into this interview is just wishful thinking.

What I have taken from the interview is that left to their own devices, Conservative MEPs did not actively seek to condemn homophobia. When asked whether, as Party Leader, David Cameron thought it was appropriate to whip his parliamentarians so that they would uphold basic human rights (since they were demonstrably disinclined when left to their own devices), he seemed confused about what is a matter of conscience and what is a fundamental equality issue. When pressed, he conceded (apologizing and accepting that the interviewer was right) that indeed his parliamentarians should be whipped, that it was a matter of basic human rights, and that they would be if the vote were in the Commons.

Finally on this:

Too many people let their hatred for the Conservatives colour their interpretation of anything we do.

That may well be true, but it does not apply to me. I think the evidence is quite clear on this and nothing I’ve said has been misleading or incorrect. Both videos offer plenty of evidence that there is a problem afoot. If nothing else, the repeated apologies from David Cameron himself should be sufficient for you to accept that mistakes were made.

JW // Posted 27 March 2010 at 2:47 am

zohra moosa, I’ll deal with the points you raised in the order you put them.

I don’t think she refuted the point altogether. We do have a general policy of non-intervention in the domestic matters of other states, whether we agree with them or not. The instance she mentioned must have had some mitigating factor which caused us to depart from our general custom. I can’t tell you what it was, but there must have been something.

The confusion over whether it was print or film doesn’t relate to the substance of his answers, but his performance. Print interviews are generally phrased differently from film ones, so it’s understandably difficult to try to produce something suitable for both.

We have changed since the days of S28. We are pro-gay rights and obviously therefore we disagree with the proposed law in Lithuania. The reason we abstained was that we don’t think it is the purpose of the EU to direct member states on domestic policy, whether we agree with those policies or not.

Let us be clear. Were such a bill as that passed in Lithuania to come before the UK parliament, we would oppose it, and we would whip MPs. We condemn homophobia, and those who seek to institutionalise it. We abstained in the EU Parliament for the reasons above, not because we opposed the condemnation of homophobia. David Cameron’s confusion arose because of the circumstances of the interview, as dealt with above. The House of Lords amendment about which the interviewer inquired was rather less clear cut, and all parties allowed a free vote (indeed the government forced its withdrawal), which is why it appears there is confusion over matters of conscience/right.

Mistakes were made, yes. But only in Cameron’s answers, since he didn’t know anything about the vote he was quizzed on. We did not do anything anti-gay or anti-gay rights, and would not do so.

zohra moosa // Posted 27 March 2010 at 3:21 am


I’m going to give some space to others to respond to your substantive points but wanted to clarify two issues:

1. The Gay Times camera was clearly visible, so David Cameron would have known he was being filmed right from the start. Plus, frankly, I absolutely cannot believe that his press office would not have checked and known and briefed him about whether the copy he provided would be for print or telly. Especially in the lead up to the election.

2. When you say ‘we’, what do you mean? Are you a Conservative party member? Do you have a particular role (say in a constituency office or at the local level)? Are you a parliamentarian? Something else?

Btw, no need to use my full name, you can just call me zohra.

JW // Posted 27 March 2010 at 3:37 am

Sorry for being overly formal Zohra, I never like to presume.

1. Yes the video camera was there, but I am under the impression that the editorial team at Gay Times hadn’t decided whether it would be film or print or both. As such Cameron, unusually, had to try to provide something usable in both, and was tripped up by the question on something he had no knowledge of. In the end he stopped it and asked to start again with one or the other.

2. I do apologise, I should have clarified from the outset. I am a member of the Conservative Party, but I hold no position within it.

angercanbepower // Posted 27 March 2010 at 10:48 am

JW, yes, of course it’s a non-story: because everyone already knows Cameron cares about equality now because there’s equality in the polling booth.

I’m too hungover to write anymore but I made these posters:

a couple of posters

Elmo // Posted 27 March 2010 at 4:27 pm

aw, angercanbepower, I’m going to be playing with those posters all day now!

If David Cameron really, fully believed in equal rights for gay people, he would come straight out and say it-there would be no need to get toungue-tied or confused.

I cant believe I spelt disapproval wrong, after double checking it was right. I really need help with this :s

JW // Posted 27 March 2010 at 7:49 pm


Do bear in mind that the footage we have is only in clip form. All that is shown is the moments in which he had difficulty. He does believe in equality for homosexuals, and has said so, and there is no reason to suppose he didn’t restate this in an unbroadcast part of the interview. If he didn’t support gay equality there wouldn’t be policies such as the following http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/28/david-cameron-gay-equality http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7017147.ece

Elmo // Posted 27 March 2010 at 8:10 pm

I still dont believe it keeps him awake at night

Kate // Posted 29 March 2010 at 1:53 pm

Indeed. He’s leader of a political party and wants to be this country’s next prime minister. It’s not enough to privately believe something, he’s got to demonstrate that he does so and show a little leadership over it. DC has been very good at making the right noises over key issues, but he gives no indication that when push comes to shove he would fight for them in his own party. That is the benefit of politicians like Harriet Harman who actually have a conviction about equality issues; they don’t just say the right things, they make life difficult for their own government to actually fight for equality. Cameron suggesting that he’d give free votes on this “moral” issue is a hugely regressive step from where we are.

Amy Clare // Posted 29 March 2010 at 4:23 pm

Sorry but I don’t accept that ‘confusion’ over whether the interview was for TV or print is in any way an acceptable excuse for this. He is a politician, the leader of the opposition, and as such he is well accustomed to being at press conferences where he is being filmed for TV, recorded for radio *and* reported on for print *all at the same time*. What flummoxed him was being able to think up a politician’s answer to a challenging question on the spot, not the arduous task of saying words that could be both filmed and written down (difficult though that is).

JW // Posted 29 March 2010 at 5:53 pm


I really don’t get what you want him to do. He believes in gay equality and has said so publicly. He has changed the policies of the Conservative Party to reflect this. At no point did he say he would give a free vote at Westminster on clear cut issues of gay equality. They would be whipped. As for Harriet Harman, she has never made life difficult for her government. Her childish approach to her job of Leader of the House has allowed government to ride roughshod over parliament, guillotining debate on issues of equality as with everything else so as to push her own agenda through without due consideration.

Amy Clare,

My point was that the (as you recognise) taxing task of speaking for multiple media simultaneously combined with a question about a specific vote in the EU Parliament several months ago tripped him up. The result was that his performance was under par. To deduce from this that he is anti-gay, or whatever some people have, is ridiculous.

angercanbepower // Posted 29 March 2010 at 6:34 pm

JW, he’s not anti-gay, he simply doesn’t give a fuck. Gay people can vote so he’ll say he cares about gay issues, for now. To Cameron more than anyone, I think Schumpeter’s observation applies that, ‘politicians deal in votes just as businessmen deal in oil.’

Amy Clare // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:12 pm

@JW: I was being sarcastic. It is not difficult at all for a highly media-trained, experienced politician to speak in front of various media. It is their job. And apparently David Cameron is so good at his job that he is the leader of the party, so he should in fact find this very easy indeed. It is the journalists who have to do the recording, all he has to do is sit and speak, as he does on a regular basis for many media outlets. Did you know that journalists are able to take quotes from a filmed interview and use them to write a print article? Reckon DC would’ve probably been aware of that too. So it’s a ridiculous excuse.

When confronted with a particular question about gay rights issues, he fumbled and made excuses. This speaks volumes to anyone who cares about gay rights. The Tory voting record on gay rights is crap, so why should anyone believe they’ve ‘changed’? People are going to look at recent votes to inform them on who to plump for in the general election. It’s not enough to say ‘I’m for gay rights’. That’s just weasel words to win votes and many voters are wise to that, especially if they’ve been thrown under the bus by the party in the past.

I don’t believe for a second that the Tory leader is unaware of how his party votes in Europe. He took the decision to align his MEPs with the far-right group, he knows what’s going on. He was embarrassed about the MEP’s abstention because he’d been caught out, that’s all.

JW // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:13 pm

You have no evidence for that. Ask Alan Duncan if he gives a fuck. Ask Iain Dale. Etc.

Kate // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:28 pm

JW, what angercanbepower said. I want him to show some leadership on this. I want him to show its a deal breaker issue for him. It clearly isn’t or the Conservative party wouldn’t be in the mess it is in Europe.

But don’t waste your time worrying about what I want from him. Ultimately I will always be sceptical because I don’t think it is possible for one person to change a party as much as would be necessary for the Tories to take gay rights to its core. I think the so-called detoxing from Cameron on this is more a result of a general liberalisation that we’ve seen over the past 10-12 years and a hunger to do anything to get back into power. Tory local councillors have finally caught on to the vibe that you can’t be openly homophobic. It doesn’t mean they’re not prejudiced.

angercanbepower // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:35 pm

No evidence? What do you want, a double-blind trial? This video, and the fact that as late as 2003 he voted in favour of Section 28, is evidence enough.

JW // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:40 pm

Amy Clare,

I took my point about the film/print issue from a highly experienced interviewer/interviewee, who seemed to think it was difficult.

He wasn’t asked a question about gay rights issues, he was asked a question about an obscure vote in a parliament whose members are not his responsibility. Do you really expect him to keep up with every single vote when he’s not in charge of MEPs? It’s not part of his job. Ask Brown or Clegg and they’d have the same problem.

What do you want us to do? We have changed and we are in favour of gay rights. We have recognised that we were wrong in the past and we will vote accordingly in future.


We’re not remotely in a mess in Europe. Not even sure what you mean by that. I agree that all parties have changed their views to reflect those of wider society on homosexuality, but that’s not limited to the Conservatives.

To all of you, what I would say is that while I obviously can’t convince you that the change which has taken place is real, just watch our voting record in the years to come, whether we get into government or not.

JW // Posted 29 March 2010 at 11:05 pm


This video is evidence of nothing. Yes seven years ago he had a different position, but he changed it. Not just personally, but that of the party too. That is a real change, and it is here to stay.

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