Pt 2: How the Tories abandoned gay rights over Europe


10:00 am - October 5th 2009

by Soho Politico    


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I’ve been collecting information on one of David Cameron’s allies in his new European grouping. This is the second part of that investigation, the first part is here.

In part one I exposed how the Lithuanian member of David Cameron’s new European grouping had voted to support some very homophobic legislation.

To reiterate, the ‘Law on the Protection of Minors from the Detrimental Effects of Public Information’, which has been described as a harsher and more wide-reaching version of Britain’s old Section 28, bans discussion of homosexuality not only in schools but in any public places and media that could be accessed by young people.

It has been condemned by Amnesty Intl, the European Union itself and activists in the UK.

Valdemar Tomaševski, the Lithuanian MEP in question, is also on record as having branded homosexuality a “perversion”. Yet the Tories apparently did not view that as a reason not to welcome him into their European alliance.

On the 21st June Tomaševski left his Seimas seat to join the European Parliament, five days after voting (see Row 10) to pass the homophobic law.

On 22nd June he asked to be admitted to the European Reformists and Conservatives group, and was accepted by the Tories the following day.

And incredibly, only eight days later, at a Tory fundraising event linked to Gay Pride, David Cameron made a speech emphasising how much the Conservatives had changed on gay rights. That was also the day of his widely-publicised apology on behalf of the Conservatives for Section 28.

Since accepting Tomaševski into their European coalition, the Tories have shown solidarity with him as he prosecutes his anti-gay agenda.

Last week, on 17th September, the European Parliament agreed on a resolution pointing out that the Lithuanian hate law is in breach of EU and international treaties, and anti-discrimination texts.

Conservatives in the European Parliament initially backed Tomaševski to the hilt, siding with him to vote against motions for a resolution condemning Lithuania.  In the final vote, whilst their Eastern European comrades voted against the resolution, the Tories in the chamber meekly abstained.  To the last they refused to condemn their close ally.

Valdemar Tomaševski is leader of the small Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania party, and noted for his “quest for more Christianity in politics.”

These developments clearly raise questions about the sincerity of Cameron’s apology and the depth of the party’s commitment to eradicating prejudice against LGBTs.

——————
cross-posted to the Soho Politico blog.

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Reader comments


Looking at that law by the way, it was initiated by the Lithuanian governing party, the Christian Democrats – who are members of the EPP – in conjunction with their coalition colleagues the Liberals – who are members of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. It was passed through the parliament with only three no votes, which implies that the lead opposition the Social Democrats – PES – either don’t object or don’t care. And you’re focusing on the vote of a party that won 4% in the Lithuanian elections. It’s like focusing on the contribution of Dr Richard Taylor to the fox-hunting ban.

TIMj:

And you’re focusing on the vote of a party that won 4% in the Lithuanian elections. It’s like focusing on the contribution of Dr Richard Taylor to the fox-hunting ban.

But Cameron needs the support of such a one-man band to maintain the ECR group: it will collapse if it has members from fewer than 7 member states.

“But Cameron needs the support of such a one-man band to maintain the ECR group: it will collapse if it has members from fewer than 7 member states.”

Oh now I understand what this hue and cry is all about…

4. the a&e charge nurse

Isn’t this a bit like Man U worrying about a home tie against FBK Kaunas (after securing a 2-0 lead in the away leg)?

Lithuania is not England, and certainly not London – although it may have a whiff of certain parts of Ireland when it comes to fears about who does what to whom in the boudoir?

The important point is wether or not these Tory links to the Lithuanian euro-thugs is really a harbinger of change in either policy or sexual attitudes in the UK?

My instinct is that the Tories will not want to rock the boat when it comes to the ‘pink pound’ – many gay and lesbians are high achievers, if not national treasures – would the Tories risk so much good will for a few crazy Lithuanian skin heads?

In some ways I hope they do – I think the other parties are going to need all the amo they can get when it comes to June 2010

“Oh now I understand what this hue and cry is all about…”

Are you implying this is less to do with a principled stand on gay rights and more to do with doing over the Tories? I thought those were the sort of dirty tactics right-wing Republicans use…

@ Tim J:

Looking at that law by the way, it was initiated by the Lithuanian governing party, the Christian Democrats – who are members of the EPP – in conjunction with their coalition colleagues the Liberals – who are members of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.

The Lib Dems’ ally from the Lithuanian Liberal Movement was one of the authors of the EP resolution condemning the law:

http://www.alde.eu/en/details/news/european-parliament-no-place-for-homophobic-legislation-in-europe-4/?no_cache=1&cHash=22fd9423b0

And you’re focusing on the vote of a party that won 4% in the Lithuanian elections. It’s like focusing on the contribution of Dr Richard Taylor to the fox-hunting ban.

That is a very weak argument. It is wholly appropriate to judge the Tories on the basis of who it was that they invited to join their coalition. What if they had admitted Nick Griffin? Would you then claim that it doesn’t matter, because he is only one individual, of marginal influence? Clearly not. So really, it is no use claiming that inviting extremists to get into bed with you is no big deal. Unless, of course, what you in fact think is that his particular brand of hatred is itself no big deal.

@ the a&e charge nurse:

The important point is wether or not these Tory links to the Lithuanian euro-thugs is really a harbinger of change in either policy or sexual attitudes in the UK?

But that is like saying that it wouldn’t have mattered to black people in Britain whether their politicians were supporting apartheid in SA as long as they weren’t intending to implement it here.

7 – it was a Lithuanian Government motion. The Lib Dems’ allies are in the Lithuanian Government. Only 3 members of the Lithuanian parliament voted against it.

But hey, feel free to go ahead with this angle. Politics in Eastern Europe is different to politics in the UK. Who knew?

8. the a&e charge nurse

[7] “But that is like saying that it wouldn’t have mattered to black people in Britain whether their politicians were supporting apartheid in SA as long as they weren’t intending to implement it here”.

I don’t think we can win all the battles all the time, Soho – any parent with a teenager will tell you that.

My personal opinion is that we should worry about the UK before S Africa – I accept some will regard this as ideologically impure but that’s just how I see it.

By the way S Africa’s leadership is deeply homophobic – in this respect they are just as bad, if not far worse than the Lithuanian skin heads – what do you suggest we do about it?
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×1567253

“These developments clearly raise questions about the sincerity of Cameron’s apology and the depth of the party’s commitment to eradicating prejudice against LGBTs.”

I think you’re being a tad hopeful there. I realise that many believe that politics and political parties can do more than I think they can but “eradicate prejudice”? That’s seriously ambitious.

They might be able to change the law so that prejudice is not enshrined in it (as has very much happened. There was one year in English history when more were hung for sodomy than for murder for example, times have certainly changed since then). They might be able to make the law punish prejudiced actions, but the law “eradicating prejudice”, actually changing what goes on in people’s minds rather than their actions?

Well overly hopeful there about the power of politics.

8 – The Lithuanian Liberal Movement are indeed one of four parties in the coalition government. As far as I am aware, not a single one of their 11 MPs in the Seimas voted for the law. But even if they had all voted for it, they are not MEPs, nor therefore sitting side by side in the EP with the Lib Dems.

The facts are these: the Lib Dems sit with a Lithuanian MEP who opposes the law, and sponsored a resolution to condemn it. The Tories sit with a Lithaunian MEP who supports the law, personally voted for it in his national parliament, and then voted repeatedly against a resolution in the EP to condemn it.

But hey: Tory sympathisers excuse homophobia, and play transparent whataboutery. Who knew?

11 – It’s just getting a bit silly is all. You’re spending a lot of time and trouble finding out that Eastern European politics is full of homophobia and anti-semitism. Who is this supposed to surprise?

As I said above, only three members voted against this law – tying this exclusively to the Tories on the grounds that one of the parties voting in favour is now in the ECR is just too much of a stretch. Had the Tories not left the EPP you could have written precisely the same article.

It’s the same with the whole Latvian SS farago. The main centre-right Latvian Peoples Party also attends the march, and has done for years. It’s in the EPP. So why all the attention now? It’s just a fairly desperate guilt by association tag.

I’m not excusing homophobia, I just don’t think that your attempt to associate the British Conservatives with every element of domestic Lithuanian politics because one of the members of the ECR voted with the majority in the Lithuanian Parliament holds water.

Off-topic @ TimWorstall: “There was one year in English history when more were hung for sodomy than for murder for example, times have certainly changed since then”

My understanding was that ‘sodomy’ meant any kind of sex that wasn’t about making babies in a marriage, thus conflating all sorts of sexual practices performed in same-sex as well as opposite-sex relationships (I think some countries still use that kind of definition).

@Praguetory: Them’s the rules – holding that coalition together is nobody’s problem but Cameron’s.

“My understanding was that ’sodomy’ meant any kind of sex that wasn’t about making babies in a marriage, thus conflating all sorts of sexual practices performed in same-sex as well as opposite-sex relationships (I think some countries still use that kind of definition).”

Indeed: some US States for example still use “sodomy” to include oral sex (no. Roman Polanski was accused of the narrower meaning, not the broader).

However, the UK definition back when people were being hung for it was the narrow definition. More specifically, male on male definition of it.

Shocking from the Tories

But hey, feel free to go ahead with this angle. Politics in Eastern Europe is different to politics in the UK. Who knew?

In other words, ‘let’s just turn a blind eye to what happens there ok… we are a principled party except when it comes to our allies’.

16. Shatterface

I’m just glad the Laboour government never allied itself with reactionary, homophobic arseholes.

I’m just glad the Laboour government never allied itself with reactionary, homophobic arseholes.

Could maybe have been more thoughtfully phrased?

Or perhaps less thoughtfully……

16 – or just different strokes for different folks. For example, you’re quite happy when labour politicans support movements with links to the Waffen SS, and unhappy when Tory politicians are allied to other politicians who support movements with links to the Waffen SS.

Always good to see the Tories showing their true colours.

Jack boot Dave is just another GWBush.

20. Shatterface

‘Jack boot Dave is just another GWBush.’

Yes, he’s just like the guy Labour sucked up to, when sucking up to reactionary, homophobic arseholes was okay.

Yes she does sound like a teacher.

It’s easy to sneer at sally for being slightly hyperbolic Tim J et al, but she’s not the one making excuses for homophobes and the Tories with brilliant arguments such as:

– look you were just as bad! or
– who cares about Europe anyway… *yawn*
– hey this is politics for you! get used to it

when Damian McBride was caught smearing all the same people were pompously proclaiming that the left was so nasty and that there should be no whataboutery on these issues etc etc. And now that’s all I see here. None of you Tory apologists can actually bring yourself to say: this is not a good move and I condemn the Tories for making this alliance

Oh no. Instead, shatterface, Tim J et al have become completely predictable.

“Yes, he’s just like the guy Labour sucked up to, when sucking up to reactionary, homophobic arseholes was okay.”

Oh look the tory troll is having a tantrum because his party has been shown to be quite happy to align it self with fascists.

When will Dave join up with the BNP?

But then the tories where quite happy with Hitler in the 1930s . They kept ignoring Churchill. Shouted him down they did because he pointed out what was really going on in Germany. And then they all try to pretend how wonderful he was after the war. Typical two faced tories.

24. Praguetory

In the 1930s Labour frequently disparaged Chamberlain as a crazed war-monger… No prizes for guessing who Sally would have been screaming at.

@ Tim J, 12

You’re spending a lot of time and trouble finding out that Eastern European politics is full of homophobia and anti-semitism. Who is this supposed to surprise?

Surely all the more reason to exercise particular care and discrimination if one is putting together a coalition including members from that reason.

As I said above, only three members voted against this law – tying this exclusively to the Tories on the grounds that one of the parties voting in favour is now in the ECR is just too much of a stretch. Had the Tories not left the EPP you could have written precisely the same article.

To my knowledge, nobody now in the EPP from Lithuania personally voted for this law. Tomasevski has a personal record of support for this law unmatched by any EPP member. And the Tories sit with him.

Besides, even if that is wrong, you are deliberately, repeatedly avoiding the central, undeniable difference between the Tories’ membership of the ECR and their membership of the EPP – they created the ECR. They decided it would be formed, and negotiated its membership with parties whom they took to be likeminded from across Europe.

They now bear ultimate responsibility for the composition and ethos of the ECR. If it is a rump full of extremists, it is because the Tories set it up that way. Nobody could make the same accusation of their membership of the EPP, even if it does include, among its 265 MEPs, a fringe element of extremists. The 55-strong ECR contains a high proportion of dubious characters, who are all there because the Tories invited them to be. I understand that you do not want to acknowledge the basic fact that the Tories have moved hell and high water in order to put together an alliance of crackpots, but it is a fact nonetheless.

“No prizes for guessing who Sally would have been screaming at.”

Well you would certainly not win the prize then because I would have been with Churchill and the many Labour people who opposed the brownshirts.

But the Tories and much of the aristocracy were quite happy with Hitler. As usual with Tories if they think there is money in it they are not to bothered who they work with. Just like today in fact.

27 ” I understand that you do not want to acknowledge the basic fact that the Tories have moved hell and high water in order to put together an alliance of crackpots, but it is a fact nonetheless.”

So true. But wasted on the moron trolls.

Tim Jerk is not worth debating. He would defend his brownshirts what ever they do.

I understand that you do not want to acknowledge the basic fact that the Tories have moved hell and high water in order to put together an alliance of crackpots, but it is a fact nonetheless.

Well technically that’s an opinion, but no matter.

The point, as I have mentioned before, is that the mainstream, majority political opinion on Europe in the UK is a minority view across mainland Europe. The Tories were members of a group that demanded that its members subscribed to policies included a harmonised European income tax, a common EU seat at the UN and the WTO and that there should be no referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. All these policies (and there are others) are in flat contradiction to Conservative European policy.

If the Tories had stayed within the EPP they would not have been able to campaign on their own manifesto. That was and is not a tenable position.

They therefore had two options: to sit as non-aligned members (which is what they did before they joined the EPP) or to form a group within the EP which does not sign up to the federalist ever-closer-union policies that the EPP and the other groups do.

The fact that only a very few political parties in Europe even remotely resemble the mainstream of British opinion is further evidence that the political cultures remain worlds apart. It is simply not an intellectually honest argument that the Tories have set themselves apart from their natural centre-right allies in Europe – their respective policies are incompatible.

None of you Tory apologists can actually bring yourself to say: this is not a good move and I condemn the Tories for making this alliance.

Because that’s not my opinion. As I said above, it was impossible to remain in the EPP, and putting together a new group based on the idea of a free-market European Union of sovereign nation states was the right policy.

@ Tim J:

We could have an interesting conversation about how important it is for the Tories to successfully prosecute their euro-isolationist agenda, and whether it justifies creating alliances with human rights abusing homophobes. But we don’t even need to do that.

You are implausibly suggesting that, if the Tories had not jumped into bed with Tomasevski, they would not have been able to create the ECR, and would have had to either remain in the EPP or go it alone. To be blunt, that is utter bullshit.

The ECR was already up and running when Tomasevski asked to join – he was the last to be admitted, after the deal was done with the other members. The group could have gone ahead without him. But, in spite of that fact, and in spite of his appaling record, they let him in. You are defending the indefensible here: there simply is no excuse for the Tories’ association with this individual.

31. the a&e charge nurse

Soho, you put the case very well – but the issue of association is a tricky one?

Earlier you mentioned S Africa, a country with a very suspect record on these issues.
I imagine all of the Gulf and Middle Eastern states take an equally dim view of gay rights?

At the last Labour conference Brown rightly championed the introduction of civil partnerships yet NuLab have tried to forge ties with countries where a ‘gay marriage’ would be a complete anathema.

Your post has certainly got me thinking about the intentions of the Tories but overall I think there is too much balance even amongst the centre right to turn the clock back – after all, around 10% of them are likely to be gay themselves, aren’t they.

yet NuLab have tried to forge ties with countries where a ‘gay marriage’ would be a complete anathema.

Huh? In what way? We trade with the Middle East and other countries and we have broad groupings like the UN – but that isn’t the same as forming an alliance with them on an individual level.

Furthermore – the Tories first voted AGAINST condemning Lithuania and then ABSTAINED. You’ve got no grounds to play whataboutery here a&e nurse.

It’s easy to sneer at sally for being slightly hyperbolic

Sunny, that statement is either tautologous or, in itself, hyperbolic.

Or both.

Grammarians? 🙂

Pagar @ 34, I think “slightly hyperbolic” is an oxymoron.

35. the a&e charge nurse

[33] the Lithuanian-loving right wing Tories are wankers, no argument there, Sunny.

But I still say these developments are likely to have little direct bearing in the UK itself (leaving aside Soho’s broader concerns for the moment) and political associations can take various forms, and often include imperfect bed-fellows (if I may throw in a little sexual metaphor to make my point).

Dismiss these observations as ‘whataboutery’ if you like but other commentators have already drawn attention to the likes of Dubya whose arse we have been kissing for some time.
http://www.juicycerebellum.com/200602.htm

Perhaps our ‘special relationship’ with the Yanks falls outside of your purview as well?

Pagar @ 34, I think “slightly hyperbolic” is an oxymoron.

Thought so, but you’re a braver man than me to use that word here.

Oh, Soho, say it ain’t so, we’re allied to a Lithuanian homophobe?

Shall we check out the record of Danny Cohn-Bendit, perhaps?

@34 and 35

As far as I can tell, there nothing tautologous about Sunny’s statement, and “slightly hyperbolic” is not an oxymoron.

To wit:

“It’s easy to sneer at sally for being slightly hyperbolic”

What is tautologous about this? A tautology is defined as either “repetition of meaning, using dissimilar words to say the same thing twice, especially where the additional words fail to provide additional clarity and meaning.” or (in logic) “An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow.”

I guess you could be aluding to the first sence, implying that “sally” and “slightly hyperbolic” are synonyms, making the sentence read “It’s easy to sneer at sally for being sally” OR “It’s easy to sneer at slightly hyperbolic for being slightly hyperbolic”. I guess that is (just about) tautologous in the first sence (though not in the logical sense). But it rests on a rather cruel implication that “sally” and “slightly hyperbolic” are synonyms (without that conflation, there can be no tautology in the sentence that would make sense). And I think there are good grounds to doubt that they are synonyms, as a claim about words and meaning. Rather, it looks like you are just finding further excuses to be cruel, and dressing it up in fancy rhetoric.

As for “slightly hyperbolic” being an oxymoron, it manifestly isn’t. Hyperbole is defined as “A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.” There is no reason one cannot exaggerate slightly for effect, is there? “The spider was as big as my palm!” – it wasn’t really, but then again, it wasn’t that far off. I exaggerate – but only slightly.

It is perfectly possible to be “slightly hyperbolic”. There is nothing contained within the word – or meaning of the word – “hyperbole” or “hyperbolic” which entails significant magnitude or scale above a threshold below – but not above – which the word “slightly” is generally accepted to be appropriate.

If we want to play grammar and word pedants, we have to do rather better, yes?

(All definitions taken from thefreedictionary.com and wikipedia).

As for the more substantive points: whataboutery and lookovertherism – it is worth noting – is to employ moral reasoning at the level of a 5 year old. It all amounts to the same thing, pointing out that “they done it too!” and then demanding it be acknowledged that two wrongs make a right.

39. the a&e charge nurse

[39] “then demanding it be acknowledged that two wrongs make a right” – eh? who said it was right?
Even so the plain fact is political expediency (of all hues) usually wins out over political idealism when international coalitions are formed.

Incidentally, it’s a bit much accusing posters of having ‘moral reasoning at the level of 5 year old’ without demonstrating even a rudimentary grasp of what they have actually said.

If we want to play grammar and word pedants, we have to do rather better, yes?

Agreed. Brilliant post. Thanks mate.

I particularly liked

It is perfectly possible to be “slightly hyperbolic”. There is nothing contained within the word – or meaning of the word – “hyperbole” or “hyperbolic” which entails significant magnitude or scale above a threshold below – but not above – which the word “slightly” is generally accepted to be appropriate.

Still not sure I understand it but it is beyond me to argue you are wrong……..

As for “slightly hyperbolic” being an oxymoron, it manifestly isn’t. Hyperbole is defined as “A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.” There is no reason one cannot exaggerate slightly for effect, is there? “The spider was as big as my palm!” – it wasn’t really, but then again, it wasn’t that far off. I exaggerate – but only slightly.

It is perfectly possible to be “slightly hyperbolic”. There is nothing contained within the word – or meaning of the word – “hyperbole” or “hyperbolic” which entails significant magnitude or scale above a threshold below – but not above – which the word “slightly” is generally accepted to be appropriate.

The spider was slightly as big as my palm? This book slightly weighs a ton? I could slightly sleep for a year?

As for the more substantive points: whataboutery and lookovertherism – it is worth noting – is to employ moral reasoning at the level of a 5 year old. It all amounts to the same thing, pointing out that “they done it too!” and then demanding it be acknowledged that two wrongs make a right.

Accusations of “they’re up to no good”, by Left or Right to the other, remind of that famous question, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the slightly Sequoia sized beam that is in thine own eye?”

I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Tories have abandoned gay rights.

Their decision to form the new group is all about distancing themselves from any signs of being pro-European, and nothing to do with promoting their new allies. The fact that they have ended up with a bunch of extreme rightwing misfits mainly reflects their weird toys-out-of-the-pram attitude to Europe. If you want to show that the Tories as a political party are homophobic, you need to look at the Tories themselves rather than people from other parties with whom they have formed an expedient alliance.

Fortunately, seeing as the Conservative Party will probably form the next government, their homophobic wing has been largely suppressed in recent years, as David Cameron rather astutely realised that if you alienate everyone there will be nobody left to vote for you. Far more damning is the fact that they are willing to forego any chance to actually change Europe for the better in an attempt to harness a populist anti-European sentiment among voters. I suggest if you want to attack the Tories, you stick to genuine policy failures (of which there are plenty!) rather than this rather thin guilt-by-association which will convince nobody who doesn’t already believe that the Tories are evil.

43. Jimmy Sands

“Oh I’m not going to be your friend now because you went to the park with Monica and she’s a SLAG”

That depends. Were they going there for a Waffen SS commemoration?

Meanwhile here’s Edward McMillan-Scott: Conservatives head for cul-de-sac with Kaminski.

45. Jo Bradford

“These developments clearly raise questions about the sincerity of Cameron’s apology and the depth of the party’s commitment to eradicating prejudice against LGBTs.”

It’s not the business of the state to eradicate prejudice.

I have posted on this investigation over at Next Left, both to flag it up and extending my comment in the earlier thread …. Had been meaning to write something about it earlier.

As previously, I don’t think this proves the Conservative shift on gay rights is a sham.

But I do think it is legitimate and appropriate to challenge them to respond (and it would be good if the Lithuania example, of a law being passed now, was more prominent and not only the argument over Latvian history).

I think it would be useful for groups and media outlets highlighting these issues to try to find constructive ways to offer platforms to Lithuanian voices (as this investigation has done, I think), so that their cause does not just become a means to an end in a UK domestic argument.

http://www.nextleft.org/2009/10/embarassing-allies-and-constructive.html


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