So Gordon named the big day today, and we’re on with the campaign.
All went pretty much as expected – all according to the plans, everyone saying the things we expected them to say.
Or did they ?
Well – not quite – the press release for David Cameron’s speech said that he’d be talking about the people who he called “the great ignored” - “Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight.” (Armchair election: The great ignored – Financial Times Blog) and he duly did his “without notes speech” trying his damnedest to upstage Gordon Brown before he’d even announced the election, speaking outside the old GLC building over Westminster Bridge, and he certainly did talk about “the great ignored”.
Only he missed a bit out – He ignored his own planned reference to “gay, straight” people. Which only leaves us to wonder why. Especially coming hot on the heels, as it does, of shadow home secretary Chris Grayling’s reported comments this past weekends, in which he apparently defended the actions of Bed & Breakfast owners who had turned away an openly gay couple.
This was very quickly picked up on, and so we had the first “incident” of the election campaign.
I could tell it was making the news because when I turned on Radio 2 in the car (partly in an attempt to avoid the tedious repetition of the lack of election news on 5 Live), I was surprised to find the issue being discussed between the music – Jeremy Vine taking the issue up with Gavin Hayes from the left leaning Labour group Compass; and arguing the case against, was Telegraph columnist Charles Moore (he is actually a former editor of the Telegraph- and the Spectator, and is currently chair of the Right Wing think tank ‘Policy Exchange – which the BBC failed to mention. I think it’s fair to say he’s a Tory !)
Hayes promptly pounced on Cameron’s remarks, and brought up again Chris Grayling’s weekend comments citing them as evidence that the party had not changed, and that it was the same old Tories. A solid if fairly predictable response.
His opponent, for his part, did probably less well, choosing to focus only on the issues of Chris Grayling’s comments and taking pretty much the line of “An English man’s home is his castle, and I’ll be buggered if I’ll have sodomy going on under my roof”.
There followed a bit of to-ing & fro-ing, in which each protagonist re-iterated their position. End of skirmish.
One – Nil to Labour eh ?
Well I’m not too sure. I agreed with Gavin Haye’s arguments, and profoundly disagreed with the line taken by Charles Moore.
When all said and done though, my vote doesn’t have to be fought for – I’m voting Labour anyway.
That’s not the case for the votes of millions (well at least thousands) of listeners to Radio 2 this afternoon though. The casual listener, who hadn’t been following recent events could well have been forgiven for thinking that the right to exclude gay couples from B&Bs was a cornerstone of Conservative Party policy.
Which left them with an apparent choice between a party wanting equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation; and a party wanting to give business owners the right to exclude gay couples.
Now whilst the latter option is particularly odious to me, the sad truth is that there are many people who sympathise with that position. They also have a vote – and right now, the important thing is not to change their way of thinking – we have the rest of eternity to do that. No – the priority is in 30 days to get them to cast their votes for Labour.
So if you’re involved in this debate at some time over the next couple of days – don’t get suck into arguing about whether B&B owners should be able to exercise their prejudices. Point out instead the real choice that is available.
Point out that Chris Grayling voted in parliament to make it illegal for B&B owners to discriminate, point out that he’s said that he has no wish to change the law back, and point out that he’s happy to say and write and commit himself to one thing in front of the learned intelligentsia – but peddles something entirely different when he thinks he’s not going to be called to task.
Point out that David Cameron’s quite happy to write things down saying that his party’s changed, and that he’s not going to discriminate against gay people when he’s trying to demonstrate that his party has changed – but just like Grayling, he can’t be courageous enough to commit to the same thing in a live speech, that he knows will be seen by Sun reading potential tory voters, who might be a little anti-gay.
So point out the real choice, between a party that says that it is in favour of equality, and that takes steps to ensure that it really is; and a party that says it’s in favour of equality, but sometimes does something else – and whether you’re a homophobe or an egalitarian, you’ve no way of knowing what they’re really going to do.
My guess is this – what they’ll actually do is whatever they think it takes to gain them power – not because they believe it or want it, but precisely because they want that power. My feeling is that the reason the Conservatives find it so hard to say what their principles really are is because they really don’t have any – unless you count narrow self interest, and the pursuit of power and money.
Finally, I did think it was rather interesting, after having debated the issue of exactly who is or is not, on David Cameron’s list of “The Great Ignored” on BBC Radio this afternoon, that the BBC should then choose to not mention any of them on their website’s reporting of David Cameron’s speech. Cameron launches Tory campaign with ‘hope’ message
“And let’s win this election for the good of the country that we love.”
Mr Cameron said he was fighting the election for “the great ignored”. [ <-- OOPS ! THEY MISSED A BIT HERE - northernheckler !! ]
“They work hard, they set up businesses, they work in factories, they teach our children, they keep our streets safe, they obey the law and they their pay taxes,” he said.
Truly there are some things that are great, and are ignored.