David Cameron has tried very hard to repaint the Tory party. To clean up their reputation. He apologised for section 28, and carried out some other PR exercises and interviews to win back the “gay vote”. I’m not sure he won everyone over, but he certainly made big leaps forward.
And then the Observer released the story of Chris Grayling being taped supporting a ban on gay customers in Bed & Breakfast guesthouses in the wake of the Berkshire B&B that refused a gay couple’s custom. Oopsy. You can just imagine the Nokia being thrown about in chez Cameron last night. Or something. Grayling didn’t know he was being recorded in a meeting at the Centre for Policy Studies when he said people should have the right to turn away homosexual couples.
What he actually said was
“I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel … that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home…. If they are running a hotel on the high street, I really don’t think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes.”
If, dear reader, you don’t think that sounds too bad, let’s try a little exercise. Let’s swap the word gay for another word and see how it reads then.
“I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a… hotel owner have the right to exclude a black couple from a hotel … that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home…. If they are running a hotel on the high street, I really don’t think that it is right in this day and age that a black couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a black couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes.”
How does it read then? Make a bigger difference? It actually shouldn’t. They’re both as bad as each other, but some don’t see discrimination on grounds of sexuality as bad as on other grounds.
Grayling’s argument is even weaker when you realise that he says the Hiltons and Premier Inns of the nation need to abide by the law, but owners of guesthouses don’t on the grounds that they’ve opened up their own houses to the public. That’s an odd argument. Surely, if people aren’t willing to open their houses to any law-abiding member of the public, then they shouldn’t open their houses. Another career choice may suit them better.
It gets even worse when you look at the relevant legislation in this case. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. This is the most recent legislation that ensures it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexuality. And Grayling voted in favour of it. So even if he isn’t a homophobe, he’s definitely a liar. Either he lied when he voted in favour of this Act of Parliament as whipped by Cameron’s leadership during the “brand detoxification”, or he lied in his recorded interview. I know which I think it is, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
The question now is what does Cameron do? Fire him like Adrian Watson, or shrug it off as he has with Michal Kaminski time and time again? Either way, it doesn’t look good for Team Cameron.