The founder of the Conservative Party's biggest group campaigning for gay rights has said she will now vote Labour at the general election after David Cameron failed to reprimand a Shadow Cabinet member for questioning gay rights.
Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, the first chairman of the LGBTory group, said she felt guilty for having told gay voters to back the Tories in the past after Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said he believed bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban gay couples from staying in their property. She called on the Tory leader to dismiss Mr Grayling. So far, Mr Cameron has refused to take any action against him.
"I feel guilty because as a gay woman affected by LGBT rights I am on record saying you should vote Conservative, and I want to reverse that," she said. "I want to go on record to say don't vote Conservative. I'd go as far to say that I'll vote Labour at this general election." The endorsement for Labour from Ms Beaumont-Bott, 20, will be an embarrassment for the Tories. She had been picked out as one of the faces of Mr Cameron's young, modern Conservatives for her work in promoting gay rights within the party.
The gay rights row erupted after Mr Grayling's comments were published over the weekend. "I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences," he was recorded saying. "I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home."
Ms Beaumont-Bott said she decided to leave the party 18 months ago after she encountered homophobia, but had decided not to speak out about the prejudice she encountered. However, she said Mr Grayling's comments were the "last straw".
"It's been in my head for a while to speak out, but the Chris Grayling issue has made me realise that a year-and-a-half ago, I was someone who was standing up and telling gay people that they should vote for Mr Cameron. But I became disillusioned after meeting one too many people in that party who were not like what the leader was saying the party was about. If you make a comment like [those made by Mr Grayling], you should be out. This isn't a question of party lines – it is disgusting. I don't like doing this to Mr Cameron. I like him, but the insides of his party are not what the people are led to believe."
Those close to Mr Grayling said he was not homophobic and had a record of voting in favour of gay rights. "Any suggestion that Chris Grayling is against gay rights is wholly wrong – it is a matter of record that he voted for civil partnerships," said a party spokeswoman. "He also voted in favour of the legislation that prohibited bed and breakfast owners from discriminating against gay people."