Reaching out to homosexual groups will be one of David Cameron’s top five priorities in the coming months, it has been reported.
A shadow cabinet member told ConservativeHome.com blogger, Tim Montgomerie, that it is part of Mr Cameron’s drive “to show that ‘new Toryism’ is still alive and kicking”.
The news follows yesterday’s announcement that the Conservative Party leader will speak at a Gay Pride event in June alongside fellow Tory Nick Herbert.
Mr Cameron’s move mimics that of Tony Blair prior to the 1997 general election when the then Labour leader courted support from the homosexual lobby group, Stonewall.
Sir Ian McKellen, a founder member of Stonewall, has since boasted that his pre-election meeting with Mr Blair resulted in a wave of ‘gay rights’ legislation.
Sir Ian said: “I reeled off Stonewall’s demands, and he nodded, wrote them down, and put a tick by them all. Then he said we will do all that.”
However, a poll of Conservative candidates hoping to be MPs after the next election shows that large numbers are concerned to protect religious conscience.
Over 70 per cent of them would support the right of faith-based adoption groups to maintain their religious ethos by placing children with married heterosexual couples only.
They also support removing the tax penalties on married couples and making abortion laws less liberal.
The other priorities for Mr Cameron in the months ahead include the environment, more women MPs, and more initiatives on social justice, with a greater role for Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr Duncan Smith has been speaking out about the crucial role of fathers in children’s lives and the social damage caused by family breakdown.
But commentator Melanie Phillips, speaking about Mr Cameron’s “new Toryism” priorities for the coming months, says Mr Duncan Smith has been “tacked on as camouflage for the final disintegration of normative values”.
In discussions about promoting marriage Mr Cameron has more than once put it in the same category as same-sex partnerships.
In a recent interview he recalled telling his first party conference as leader “that marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman”.
Although the present Government was responsible for introducing same-sex civil partnerships, it has been clear that they are not marriages.
Similarly, Michael Gove, Conservative spokesman on children, schools and families, has echoed Mr Duncan Smith’s support of marriage, but also believes gay adoption and civil partnerships are “right and moral”.
Veteran Conservative Kenneth Clarke recently rejected the proposal to reintroduce tax credits for married couples in light of fears that recent policy has given couples financial incentives to split. The former Chancellor, who recently returned to the shadow cabinet, was originally responsible for scrapping the credits.
And Alan Duncan, who hopes to become Home Secretary in a future Conservative Government, sparked a furore earlier this week by joking that he wanted to murder a beauty contestant because she thought marriage should be between a man and a woman.
However, ConservativeHome.com’s survey of potential Conservative MPs found that 93 per cent supported a reintroduction of the married couples tax allowance.
In answer to a question about abortion, 85 per cent wanted a more restrictive law.
And when questioned about gay adoption, 71 per cent supported the right of religious adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples.
ConservativeHome polled 148 Tory candidates in a range of Tory-held and target constituencies. Questions covered a range of moral and political issues.
The survey yesterday led to speculation in The Times that Mr Cameron’s “modernising” leadership team may not be entirely comfortable with some of the views of the would-be MPs, and as Prime Minister he could face backbench pressure on “conscience issues”.