'SECTION 28 DEFECTIONS'

Daily Telegraph – 3 August 2000

According to Ivan Massow (report, August 2), "the very things that led the electorate to reject [the Conservatives] at the last election have been compounded since". Nothing could be further from the truth.

My party's annihilation in May 1997 can be explained in a single sentence: Labour made itself more electable by abandoning Socialism, while the Conservatives made themselves less electable by abandoning Conservatism. The Major government made the fatal mistake of alienating its core voters by failing to stand up for Conservative values and principles.

It has taken three years for the country to see that Labour's unpopular socialist philosophy has been replaced by no philosophy at all. Meanwhile, Conservatives who sat on their hands in 1997, or voted for fringe Eurosceptic parties, are returning in response to our commitment to keep the pound.

The defection of Mr Massow – someone of whom most Conservatives had never heard prior to the London Mayoral contest – is less spectacular than that of Shaun Woodward. But it derives from the same cause: the successful blocking of moves to allow council taxpayers' money to be squandered on propaganda promoting homosexuality. Suddenly, people who proclaimed themselves to be Conservatives across the board now say that the retention of Section 28 has opened their eyes to how "just plain nasty" our party is.

What their exit really shows is that the "gay" lobby, viewing politics through the narrow prism of a single obsessive cause, has little interest in Conservative values or policies – now that the attempt to enlist the party in "gay" proselytisation has been blocked.

Tony Blair will find that the recruitment of Mr Massow will benefit Labour as little as his loss will damage us. Labour is setting itself at odds with common-sense values over issues like this in the same way that the Conservatives did over issues such as Europe in the 1990s. The difference is that we have learnt our lesson and are getting back in touch with the mainstream beliefs that carried Margaret Thatcher to victory.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
Cadnam, Hampshire