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Fry's fears over Tories' anti-gay links

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 October 2009

A group of activists wants the Conservatives to disassociate themselves from a right-wing European parliament grouping which it says is homophobic. Jon Snow spoke to Stephen Fry and Tory MEP Charles Tannock.

Stephen Fry

The Conservative party insists it can exert influence over the Polish Law and Justice party as members of the same pan-European group.

But the Tories have been urged to make it clear they do not support parties that are alleged to have extreme right-wing views.

Stephen Fry is one of a group of activists, which also includes comedian Eddie Izzard and the Unite union, who have written to David Cameron asking him to reconsider the Conservative party's links with the Polish Law and Justice party.

Stonewall boss boycotts Tory gay event

Fry told Channel 4 News he fears there will be a nationalistic and homophobic reaction to the current recession, unless groups across Europe take action.

He told Channel 4 News: "This is a problem that is not going to get smaller because, as we start to pay for the financial disaster of the last year, a kind of great pimple of nationalism, homophobia and racism is going to erupt around Europe because there is going to be trouble with unemployment.

"The problem with the 30s was not that period. It was the end of the 30s when you start to pay the price - and that's why it matters now to make a stand because things will get worse.

"I, like many others, fully believe the Tory party has changed its rather antagonstic stance towards gay and lesbian people and that the days of clause 28 and section 28 are well past us.

"It upset me to see the Tories for strategic reasons sitting with an unpleasantly homophobic nationalistic party in Poland and sharing their whip in Europe.

"While it may not seem important as to whom they sit with, to me it just struck a very sour note and I just thought it would be very good during the conference to give David Cameron and the Tories an opportunity to disassociate themselves from that kind of 20th century, or frankly 19th century, rhetoric that the Polish Law and Justice party has been responsible for.

"It seems extraordinary that the modern Tory party, in which I fully believe in terms of its acceptance of gay people, should sudddenly have changed its tune or at least allow itself to associate itself with these people."

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock insisted his party should remain members of the European parliament grouping in order to exert influence across Europe.

He told Channel 4 News: "It's very clear that the modern Conservative party is fully committed to equal opportunities to tolerance and anti-discrimination measures.

"I've been a member of the European parliament for 10 years, I've known the Polish Law and Justice party for five years, I know central and eastern Europe extremely well, and I have never come across any utterances of the kind that Stephen makes strong allegations about.

"I would also argue that Poland is a deeply conservative Catholic country, a bit like Britain 50 years ago, and one of the roles we can play is to move the public opinion in Poland in the right direction.

"I think our influence in central Europe with this new group will mean that our kind of tolerant vision of Britain and the rest of Europe will carry much more weight if these people are people we have communication with."

Cathy Newman reports on the equality campaign group Stonewall pulling out of the Tories' first official gay conference event tonight, in protest over the party's right-wing allies in the European parliament.

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