The Tory leadership contest, quite apart from showing the world the dearth of talent in what is still the party of Government, has let everyone know just how determined some in The Blue Team are to turn back the clock to a world of prejudice and ignorance. And there is no candidate who better combines those qualities than Esther McVey, gifted a safe Tory seat after the people of Merseyside bid her good riddance.
Ms McVey has waded into the arguments over teaching children about the existence of people who are not heterosexual: this follows protests outside a primary school in Birmingham against the teaching of LGBT relationships. Although most of the pupils at Anderton Park primary school are Muslim, the protests have been joined by religious conservatives from other faiths, especially Christians.
Former prosecutor Nazir Afzal has been brought in to mediate, but has so far been unsuccessful in reaching a resolution. Cue the intervention of Esther McVey. “I believe that parents know best for their children. Whilst they’re still children, and you’re talking … they’re in primary schools, then really parents need to have the final say in what they want their children to know”. Bad news for maths, perhaps.
And just in case anyone didn’t get that, she said it again. “I’m being very clear. The final say is with parents. And if parents want to take their children - primary school children - out of certain forms of the sex education, relationship education, that is down to them”. So parents can prevent their children finding out about the real world, and that’s OK with Ms McVey. That sounds like a blast from the past. Because that is what it is.
It takes us back to the days of Section 28 (of the Local Government Act 1988, passed at the height of Thatcherite righteousness), which “stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’”.
It followed on from the Thatcher Government’s vindictive abolition of the Greater London Council and the six metropolitan county councils, for no other reason than that they were Labour controlled, and in the case of the GLC, run by someone Mrs T personally despised (Ken Livingstone). The GLC had also been attacked for “promoting homosexuality”.
Now we have a candidate for the Tory leadership advocating what is, in effect, the reintroduction of Section 28 by the back door, under the cover of “parental choice”. That’s the choice, often at the urging of religious conservatives, to enforce ignorance upon their children. And ignorance breeds prejudice. It takes us to a very bad place.
Still, good of Esther McVey to confirm that Section 28 never really went away. One can only wonder what might be next - climate change, perhaps? Not clever. Not at all.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at