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HomeNewsExposed by Lord Frost, the Tories’ betrayal of their foundations

Exposed by Lord Frost, the Tories’ betrayal of their foundations

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LORD (David) Frost’s prophetic speech in the House of Lords against banning gay conversion therapy sums up why Cameronite Conservatism has failed.

That diagnosis may not have been Lord Frost’s intention in his speech on February 9 during the debate on the second reading of Baroness Burt’s Conversion Therapy Prohibition (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Bill. But his penetrating analysis of the threat to liberty in the Liberal Democrat peer’s Private Member’s Bill exposed the Conservatives’ 14-year failure to tackle the neo-Marxist authoritarianism that has swept through this country’s institutions.

The former Brexit minister who resigned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet in December 2021 because of the government’s ‘direction of travel’ said:

‘I have certainly not been persuaded by anything I have heard that there is a genuine problem with violent or coercive conversion therapy in this country. These things are, after all, already illegal. What worries me is that the effect of the Bill would be – as we have heard from many noble Lords – to criminalise a much broader range of actions and interactions. The consequence of that – and maybe this is one of the underlying purposes of the Bill – would be to reinforce a tendency towards control and conformity that is already very evident in our society. That is what worries me.’

He described three ways in which the ban would have this broader controlling effect: ‘First, it begins the process of giving legislative force to the controversial view that simply hearing opinions that you do not agree with can in itself cause harm and should therefore be made illegal. This is a damaging proposition anywhere, but it is particularly harmful in this area, where individuals differ and where, as we have heard, there is far from societal or expert consensus – thus free debate and discussion is vital if we are going to find the right solutions.’

He argued that free society ‘works on the principle that everyone has the right to reach their own judgments and opinions, and equally, that every adult has the right to ignore such judgment and opinions and do what they want within the law. Once we question that principle, as the Bill begins to do, we are changing the nature of society. We are asking the state to be our parent, to protect us from uncomfortable concepts and challenging ideas. The only way the state can do that effectively is to define which opinions are acceptable and which are not.’

This tendency leads to the second problem, he said: ‘The Bill is another step towards creating in practice a state ideology of approved and unapproved ideas. After all, without such an ideology, how do you know which opinions can be safely expressed and which cannot? In fact, we have already gone some way down that road. It is not possible to hold certain jobs in the public sector without signing up to – or at least not publicly dissenting from – a set of controversial beliefs about diversity and inclusion. The Bill would take it further into wider society. It would make it illegal for religious leaders with their flock, parents with their children, psychologists or psychiatrists with their patients, to express some of their profound disbeliefs, or even to broach certain ideas. Indeed, in some cases, such people would seemingly be required by the Bill to actively say things they do not believe in order to avoid prosecution.

‘That is obviously a problem in itself, but it is also a problem because, in modern conditions, such a state ideology will inevitably be aggressively secular – not just neutral, as between different belief systems, which is what many of us think of as secular, but rather one that requires conformity to a particular set of propositions. This is the third way the Bill shapes society more broadly. These are not propositions shaped by traditional values, beliefs or an established philosophical code, but propositions defined by opposition to those things, in which there is no room for such beliefs.’

That is why the conversion therapy ban ‘is another step towards pushing religious beliefs out of mainstream debate. If it is not slowed, before long we will find that religious beliefs may be held in private, may occasionally be referred to in public – like a dark and shameful secret – but may never be actively brought into the public or professional square. When we reach that point, which is perhaps not far off, if you believe God created men and women in male and female bodies, you had better keep it to yourself, because the state may think differently.’

It is important to remember that the conversion therapy ban is still Conservative policy after Theresa May promised it in 2018 as a central plank of her government’s ‘LGBT action plan’. The failure of the Conservatives to adhere to the political philosophy so superbly articulated by Lord Frost is not new. Embrace of the new authoritarianism and shift leftwards is their hallmark. Mimicking Labour, however, is no longer an election-winning strategy. Appeasement has not won respect nor will it diminish public hostility to a party that has no chance of taking power until it sees the error of its ways. 

The reality now is that the Cameronite Conservatives have strayed so far from the party’s Christian foundations that the 2024 General Election could see them losing power permanently.

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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