Johann Hari has a revealing and “grilling” interview with David Cameron in today’s Independent.
In the interview, Cameron denies he voted against gay adoption and insists he “abstained” on the 2002 vote. Hari writes:
“He says he didn’t know any openly gay people as a child, or even at university. The first openly gay people he met were at the Conservative Research Department, after he had graduated. Perhaps this explains how he formed the attitudes that kept him opposed to gay equality for so long. I start to go over his record beyond Section 28 – and slap into a brick wall. In 2002 he voted against allowing gay couples to adopt. Yet when I ask him why, he flatly denies it. He says: “No… we were three-line-whipped on that vote and I abstained on it.” I point him to Hansard, which records his vote against gay marriage in cold, black ink. He says “my memory” is that he abstained, and that he now thinks “the ideal adoption is finding a mum and a dad, but there will be occasions when gay couples make very good adoptive parents. So I support gay adoption.”
But despite Cameron’s denial, it’s clear from the records that he did not abstain from voting in the first two instances, but that he voted against gay adoption, favouring adoption for specifically ‘married’ couples only.
The Tory leader also voted, along with many of his Tory colleagues, for an amendment to allow unmarried couples to adopt, but which specifically excluded gay couples. The amendment he backed sought to replace the words “whether of different sexes or the same sex” with “of different sexes”.
In an interview with Sky News in 2005, Cameron was insistent that his voting record on gay rights is vindicated by his abstention from a Tory three line whipped vote, rather thanvoting against the party whip:
Cameron: The thing we voted on is when a person adopts should you take into account the fact that they are in a stable relationship and..
Adam Boulton: But you didn’t vote…
David Cameron: I abstained on a three line whip.
Adam Boulton: But you voted against it twice previously.
David Cameron: I abstained on a three line whip which was…
Adam Boulton: You voted against it twice.
David Cameron: I abstained on the three line whip, Adam. I haven’t been through Hansard.
So, ConservativeHome’s trumpeting that David Cameron is “reaching out” to the gay community is exactly right. But he can’t rebrand his voting record.