A senior Tory has been accused of ‘dog-whistle’ politics after saying parents should have the right to choose when their kids are “exposed” to LGBT education.
Andrea Leadsom made the remarks on LBC Radio, where she appeared to suggest that children should not be required to learn anything about LGBT people until the age of 16.
It’s led to comparisons with Section 28, the Tory law which banned “promoting homosexuality” in schools.
But Ms Leadsom later claimed there had been “unacceptable and deliberate misrepresentation” of her views, which will have “genuinely hurt my own LGBT friends and family.”
She told LBC: “I think this party, my party has done a huge amount to support LGBT rights, and quite rightly to. I’m a massive supporter of the efforts that we’ve made to achieve real equality in LGBT rights.
“And so it’s absolutely vital that children do grow up understanding the society that they live in and they grow up tolerant and seeking equality and respecting differences.”
Mrs Leadsom abstained on the vote for same-sex marriage to be legalised in 2013.
In 2016, she said she “really didn’t like” the law because of the “clear hurt” it had caused to Christians.
During the interview, she added: “I think it’s right that the government should have passed legislation that requires that relationships and sex education is taught in schools.
“But at the same time I also agree that it’s right that parents should be able to choose the moment at which children become exposed to that information and there are steps taken to allow children to be withdrawn from classes up until a certain age.”
Ms Leadsom later said this comment was not specifically about LGBT education, but about sex and relationships more generally.
Asked at what age that should be, she said: “Actually I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure, I think it’s running up to their 16th birthday. But I would have to check.”
Ms Leadsom was slammed at Prime Minister’s Questions, and accused of using it as a “dog-whistle”.
Furious Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “I know the Prime Minister campaigned to keep Section 28, which banned LGBT people being talked about positively in schools and led to millions of young people like myself growing up in fear of being LGBT.
“I thought the Prime Minister had seen the error of her ways but this morning, the Leader of the House said on radio that parents should decide when they’re exposed to LGBT education.
“This is conservative party dog-whistle politics.”
He asked: “Will the Prime Minister condemn the Leader of the House?
“Will she condemn bigots who don’t want LGBT people to be heard in schools and will she support Ofsted with good LGBT education in our schools?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I’m very happy to write to him with the guidance that is given to schools on LGBT education and teaching.
“My right honourable friend, the minister for women and equalities and Secretary of State for International Development, has been at great pains to ensure working with the department for education that appropriate guidance is given to schools.
“I recognise the issue that the honourable gentleman has raised and I will write to him with the details of the guidance because it is very clear about what is appropriate.”
Later, Ms Leadsom said: “As I said this morning, it is vital that every child is taught about the need for tolerance and respect, at home and in school, and that they demonstrate these values towards LGBT individuals at all times.
“I believe wholeheartedly in equality and ensuring children grow up accepting and respecting the diversity that shapes our country.
“Government policy allows parents to choose when their child takes part in sex education lessons of all kind, up until the age of 15.
“This unacceptable and deliberate misrepresentation of my views will have genuinely hurt my own LGBT friends and family, as well as the wider LGBT community.”