Is it possible to be young, LGBTQ and a Tory?
Though equal marriage was passed in 2013 under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, the party's stance on LGBTQ rights is historically horrific. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher enacted Section 28, a morally reprehensible piece of legislation that said schools weren't allowed to "promote… the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". Until it was repealed under Tony Blair's Labour government 15 years later, young LGBTQ kids and kids of LGBTQ parents were essentially treated as second-class citizens by the school system.
Though Boris Johnson voted to repeal Section 28 in 2003, the PM's past homophobic comments keep coming back to haunt him. Two years earlier, he wrote in his book Friends, Voters, Countrymen: "We don't want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage being the same as normal marriage, and that is why I am more than happy to support Section 28." And the year before that, he referred to gay men as "tank-topped bum boys" in a Daily Telegraph column.
Here, six young LGBTQ people explain why they're voting Conservative on the 12th of December.
Cameron, 24, Norwich
"I come from a single-parent family and my mum taught me the value of hard work. So I believe we need a government which values hard work and allows people to have success. For me, the Conservatives are the only party that can be trusted with the economy. I also think the Conservatives have the strongest plans and track record when it comes to the environment, which is an important issue for me.
"Labour may claim a kind of divine right to the LGBTQ vote, but I think the Conservatives actually place value on every individual and recognise an individual's talent, no matter what sexuality, race or religion they are. And obviously the legalisation of gay marriage happened under the Tories, so I consider them a natural home for LGBTQ people like me."
Danielle, 25, Scotland
"I'm voting Conservative because they're the strongest party when it comes to [keeping] the union in Scotland. I also believe in individual liberty, a smaller state and free trade, so I believe the Conservative Party aligns with my overall views the most."
Declan, 21, County Durham
"I very much identify as a 'small c' conservative, and I'm voting Tory in this election because I believe Labour are intending on government overreach. The idea of a nationalised BT and railway is daunting to me. I believe in the right to own private property and an organic society which has a natural economic hierarchy.
"I think it's important to remember that one shouldn't vote – or not vote – for a party because of a single issue. It's very clear the Conservatives don't have a great track record on LGBTQ rights, maybe because the idea of tradition is rooted in Conservatism. But I do think the party is starting to modernise, and I don't believe they'll damage or neglect LGBTQ rights in any way. That's just common sense: we're approaching 2020 now, and [taking away LGBTQ rights] would be a disastrous policy.
"I don't believe Boris is the best the party has to offer, but he was one of the Conservatives who voted to repeal Section 28 – something Corbyn didn't [he was absent]. That's definitely one reason why I'm not concerned about him."
William, 21, Sheffield
"I think the Tories line up more with me ideologically – I've found that, especially since Corbyn came along, I'm more fiscally conservative and support Brexit. Like, obviously the Tories have a dubious past on LGBTQ rights, but I think David Cameron reshaped the party to be more pro-LGBTQ.
"With Boris Johnson, I know this doesn't excuse it, but all his [homophobic] comments are from the early-2000s. Society has developed and changed since then, and so have his views evidently. He's been to Pride [as Mayor of London] and shown support for the LGBTQ community, and so have the previous two Tory Prime Ministers."
Oli, 20, Uxbridge
"I'm voting Conservative because I want to protect our economy, democracy and individual right to choose. The Conservatives are the only party who'll ensure we leave the EU, and if we don’t, I fear a lot of people in this country will feel betrayed and like they're not heard. Though I actually voted remain, I recognise the need to leave, and the only way that's going to happen is with a Conservative majority.
"I won't lie, Boris's past homophobic comments do give me cause for concern, but he's said enough recently to make me believe his views have changed and he's not going to snatch our rights away. I think the Tories' history on LGBTQ rights is quite awful, but I think the party now is just as pro-LGBTQ as Labour or the Lib Dems. Their current policies on our rights are definitely good enough for me."
Elena, 22, VC Comms for LGBT+ Conservatives
"It's a longstanding joke that if you ever meet a 'Tory boy' at a Young Conservatives event, you assume he's gay unless proven otherwise. No one really knows why so many young gay men flock to the Tory party, but it makes up a huge proportion of YC membership. I think all political party membership is male-dominated, regardless of sexuality or how you identify, but in the past six months we've noticed a huge spike in female members joining LGBT+ Conservatives, so we're definitely attracting them.
"I honestly don't think Boris is intrinsically homophobic; I just think he has loose lips and comes from a 'boys' club' era, where comments like the ones he's made in the past were locker room chat. He's done a lot of work for LGBTQ people, and I'm thankful for that, but I do think his past comments could put off some voters.
"Section 28 was truly dreadful and in no way can be forgotten. But I think it's unfair when people say 'Tories hate gays' or anything like that. Since then, a lot of people [in the party] have done a lot of learning, adapting and campaigning to improve LGBTQ lives. I think we need to hold our hands up, apologise and be allowed to demonstrate how committed we are to never going back to a place anywhere near Section 28."