Tories accused of hypocrisy as they seek the gay vote

Party's proposed 'blueprint for the family' signals a return to Back to Basics policies, critics claim

A row over homophobia in politics escalated last night as the Conservative leader, David Cameron, was accused of pushing "Victorian values" on to the 21st-century concept of the family.

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, accused the Tories of "hypocritical moralising" for putting forward plans to support traditional family values and make divorce more difficult.

A bitter debate about which political party has the right to claim the "pink vote" overshadowed Gay Pride yesterday, when up to a million people marched through the capital.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, stoked the row by criticising the "fierce opposition" to gay rights legislation by the Conservatives in Parliament, even though Mr Cameron has backed some of the measures. He became the fifth minister to claim that Labour was winning the battle for Britain's three million gay votes by declaring that the Government had led the way on overturning homophobic legislation such as Section 28.

His remarks came as it emerged that the Conservatives are considering a raft of "family values" policies which critics said had echoes of the ill-fated "Back to Basics" campaign of the John Major government.

A review by the former leader Iain Duncan Smith on behalf of Mr Cameron, hailed as a "Tory blueprint for the family", proposed tax breaks for married couples and laws to make divorce more difficult.

Ms Harman, who is also Equalities Minister, told The Independent on Sunday: "Families won't want to be lectured by anybody, whether in the Cabinet or the shadow Cabinet, about how to lead their lives, especially as politicians haven't proved themselves more likely to stay married than the rest of the population.

"Practical help is what is needed for families, not hypocritical moralising."

On the issue of allegations of homophobia in politics, Ms Harman said: "I would be more than happy for the question of gay rights to be not a political issue at all. No one wants to see prejudice in schools and children being homophobically bullied. But there is still a drag anchor in the Tory party which has not changed."

Mr Duncan Smith's plans did not appear to cover same-sex civil partnerships. However, Mr Cameron has indicated that an existing Tory commitment for tax breaks for married couples will cover gay marriages.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said last night: " On a weekend where they are trying to be the great friends of the gay community, the Tories are also trying to be the great advocates of the traditional Victorian family values. This is not so much Back to Basics, more them trying to have their cake and eating it."

Denis MacShane, the Labour former minister, said: "David Cameron has a real problem with modern relationships as he panders to those who want to imprison women in loveless marriages by making divorce more difficult while claiming he is pro-gay.

"Cameron is getting into bed with gay-bashing European parties in the European Parliament while saying he is pro-gay in Notting Hill. He wants to appease his traditional right and hope no one notices his forked tongue. It is undignified politics."

The row began last week when Mr Cameron apologised for his party's introduction of Section 28, the law that banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools, sparking criticism from two gay ministers.

Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, triggered controversy by saying that a "deep strain of homophobia still exists on the Conservative benches", while the Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant said: "If gays vote Tory, they will rue the day very soon."

The Tory leader voted in 2003 for the retention of Section 28, but has voted in favour of other gay rights legislation. Angela Eagle, the Pensions minister, said he was one of only 29 Tories to vote in favour of equality in goods and services.

Alan Duncan, one of two openly gay members of the shadow Cabinet, said yesterday that the comments by Mr Bradshaw and Mr Bryant were "scurrilous".

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?