As a Conservative, I am of course disappointed to see the party lose seats in yesterday's General Election, especially Ben Howlett who was a champion for equality, in particular in his role on the Women and Equalities Committee. The hung parliament presents a challenge for the whole country, not just for the Conservative Party. Theresa May and the Conservatives fought this election on the basis of stability ahead of the Brexit negotiations due to begin in just over a week. And the party has a duty to fulfil this commitment to the 42% of the electorate who voted for the Conservatives and certainty.
Clearly the Conservatives, albeit as the largest party by more than 50 seats, cannot form a majority government. This will mean, unfortunately, that the Prime Minister is likely to need to enter into an informal arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party. Let me be clear from the outset, the DUP and some of its MLAs hold some pretty appalling views on LGBT rights. The party's entrenched opposition to equal marriage has prevented the LGBT population in Northern Ireland from benefitting for the same rights as LGBT people in the rest of the United Kingdom and this is unacceptable. It is right, therefore that, as a modern, pro-equality party, that the Conservatives are not even considering entering into a coalition with the DUP.
Nevertheless, given the need for stability ahead of the Brexit negotiations, I can understand why Theresa May is considering seeking loose co-operation from the DUP, to ensure that Britain is able to get the right deal as it prepares to leave the European Union. Getting Brexit right has to be the number one priority for any government. A Prime Minister who is not able to pass legislation is most likely to find it more difficult to get the best deal for Britain's future in the negotiations. As such, the Prime Minister is right to consider options that will allow her to get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons, even unpalatable options such as informally working with the DUP. While I find it hard to categorise the DUP as either a friend or an ally, I do agree with the Prime Minister when she says that we need to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.
The Conservative Party has come so far on LGBT rights in a relatively short period of time and it is inconceivable that it would even consider gambling away its status as the true party of equality. Yesterday's General Election saw the Conservatives field 42 LGBT+ Candidates across the country with 19 being returned to the House of Commons. One of the standout figures in the General Election campaign has been the out leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who led the Conservatives into second place in Scotland gaining 12 seats, including out MSP Ross Thomson in Aberdeen South.
For anyone to suggest that the Conservative Party would begin to erode its strong support for LGBT rights is ridiculous verging on the contemptible. I cannot imagine a situation in which the DUP will have any influence on the Conservative Party or the Government's policies on equality. And, I even hope, that closer co-operation between the DUP and the Conservative Party will lead to a change in the DUP's attitude towards LGBT rights, especially with a view to unblocking the issue of equal marriage Northern Ireland. After all, it was a Conservative Prime Minister who introduced same-sex marriage in England and Wales and, in 2015, his bold decision was rewarded at the ballot box.
Matthew Green is the Chairman of LGBT+ Conservatives. He writes this article in a personal capacity.