Nick Herbert hopes gay pride visit will stop homophobia of Euro allies
Nick Herbert entered into a civil partnership with his long-term partner Jason Eades last year.
Nick Herbert, Britain's most senior gay minister, will tomorrow attend Europe's largest gay pride celebration in Warsaw in an attempt by the Tories to encourage their eastern European allies to abandon homophobic views.
The policing minister, who told US Republicans in Washington in February that gay rights are compatible with conservatism, said last night he hoped the centre right in eastern Europe would follow the Tories' modernising example.
Herbert will appear at the EuroPride celebration in Warsaw tomorrow after David Cameron pledged in April that the most senior gay figure in the Tory party would travel to Poland to encourage the Law and Justice Party to moderate its views on sexuality.
Cameron made the announcement in an interview with the Guardian ahead of the second general election leaders' TV debate in which Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown had been expected to highlight the Tories' links with hard-right groups in the European parliament.
Clegg accused Cameron of linking up with "nutters" after the Tories abandoned the main centre right grouping in the European parliament to form a new bloc with hard-right parties from eastern Europe. The largest of these is Poland's Law and Justice Party, founded by the late president Lech Kaczynski who banned gay rights marches in Warsaw when he was the city's mayor.
Herbert said last night he hoped that Law and Justice would, as Cameron said in April, embark on a "journey" to moderate its views as the Tories had in Britain. "I know that in some countries social attitudes are evolving more slowly," the policing minister said.
"We ourselves have further to go to ensure equality in the UK. I also believe that part of living in a tolerant society is to show respect for the proper exercise of individual conscience and religious belief. But I hope that when others see how the Conservative party has changed under David Cameron's leadership, reaching out to people and communities which we couldn't reach before, they will be encouraged to take the same course."
Cameron told the Guardian in April: "We do recognise that, particularly in central and eastern Europe, there are parties that have still got some way to go on the journey of recognising full rights for gay people. We are helping them make that journey."
Herbert, who entered into a civil partnership with his long-term partner Jason Eades last year, added that the Conservative party had changed beyond recognition in recent years. Cameron, who voted against the repeal of Section 28 as recently as 2003, apologised last year for the Tories' role in drafting the notorious legislation which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools.
"I wanted to take part in EuroPride to support the event and send an unequivocal message that the British Conservative party has changed, that we're committed to equality, and that an agenda to ensure respect and equality for gay people is completely compatible with modern conservatism," Herbert said. "Under David Cameron's leadership, we have developed a modern, progressive agenda, with a commitment to equality and a determination to ensure that no one in today's society should be discriminated against because of their gender, race, or sexuality."
At Pride London earlier this month Herbert spoke of how the Tories have come a "helluva long way".