David Cameron praises gay tolerance in Tory conference speech

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Although he failed to mention equal marriage, Prime Minister David Cameron listed Britain’s acceptance of people who are gay as one of many reasons to be proud of the country in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Responding to last month’s jibe by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who dismissed Britain as a “small island” whose views can be ignored, the Prime Minister said: “Let me just get this off my chest. When the world wanted rights, who wrote Magna Carta?

“When they wanted representation, who built the first Parliament? When they looked for compassion, who led the abolition of slavery? When they searched for equality, who gave women the vote?”

Speaking of the world Mr Cameron said: “Whose example of tolerance…of people living together from every nation, every religion, young and old, straight and gay…whose example do they aspire to?

“I haven’t even got on to the fact that this small island beat Russia in the Olympics last year…or that the biggest-selling vodka brand in the world isn’t Russian, it’s British – Smirnoff – made in Fife…so yes, we may be a small island…but I tell you what, we’re a great country.”

Unlike his political peers, Mr Cameron chose not to mention this year’s historic signing into law of equal marriage for England and Wales in his conference speech.

On Monday, Chancellor George Osborne briefly touched upon same-sex marriage as an example of a “modern reformed Conservative Party” during his speech.

Last week, at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Labour leader Ed Miliband noted the role played by gay and lesbian young people in the campaign for equal marriage.

Earlier in September, Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told his party’s conference in Glasgow that he was “proud” of what the Liberal Democrats had achieved as part of the coalition, and that “Britain is finally a place where we celebrate love equally”.

Last weekend, David Cameron dismissed claims made by journalist Matthew d’Ancona that the Prime Minister’s support for same-sex marriage provoked such a backlash from Tory party members that he almost wondered whether it was worth the cost.

”I don’t regret it. Britain is a more equal and fairer country for having done it,” the PM said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Following Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in June, Mr Cameron spoke of his pride at the achievement in an exclusive article for PinkNews.co.uk.

Hosting an LGBT reception at Downing Street in the same month, the Prime Minister told guests that he was never in doubt that the argument for equal marriage would be won.

The decision of the House of Lords to give the bill a larger majority than in the Commons in a key vote on 4 June was cited by the PM as an example of how the debate had shifted in society.

Two years ago in Manchester, Mr Cameron urged reluctant Tory MPs and members to support equal marriage in his keynote speech.

He said: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

“So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”