Europe,  Homophobia,  Tories

Taking a (grand)stand

News in is that Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill has run away from another fight. In July he resigned from the Equality Commission because he felt “taken for granted”. It afforded him the opportunity to grandstand for a day (or just until lunchtime, if the truth be told) before the EHRC rumbled on without a gay rights advocate at all.

Now in a sulk, he has slunk away from the Tory conference over their disgraceful alliance with the European far-right. Trouble is, he made it as far as the venue before doing an 11th hour pull-out. But news of the Tories alliance with these homophobic elements in the EU broke four months ago. In fact, Labour MEP Michael Cashman warned of this budding romance back in April!

In other words, Summerskill must have know the situation when he accepted the invitation to speak at a gay Tory conference fringe event. And, if he was booked simply ages ago, he’s had a whole six months to pull out.

Obviously the Tory alliance with these homophobes is a disgrace and may even prove their undoing, but was Ben Summerskill’s last-minute withdrawal (some might say ‘retreat’) even the best tactic to embarrass and confront the Tory leadership?

I suspect a more canny activist like Peter Tatchell would have stayed to fight. Tatchell, it isn’t hard to imagine,  would have strongly urged gay Tories to take a stand, to lobby their party leadership, and to make their voices heard. He would have used the opportunity to hold a press conference outlining the issues and briefed journalists.

Summerskill didn’t even do that. So what did he do? Did he have a catchy soundbite or stinging rebuke to hand when cornered by reporters? When asked why he pulled out, was he ready? No, he squandered this opportunity too by muttering mysteriously “you’ll have to draw your own conclusions about that”.

Perhaps he’s engaging in some strange performance art to publicise the government’s apology to Alan Turing by behaving like an enigma. If so, it’s really too subtle.

If you’re going to make a grand gesture, Ben, at least be ready to spell out your reasons.

What a waste of an opportunity. Summerskill has lost both the opportunity to rally gay Tories and to make a strong statement against this foolish alliance in Europe.

You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about that.