Philip Lardner, Tory candidate for Ayrshire North and Aaron, recently argued that homosexuality is not “normal”. David Cameron immediately announced that he would be removed as a Conservative candidate.
Philippa Stroud, Tory candidate for Sutton and Cheam, hit the headlines for her involvement in a church that promotes “exorcism” for gay and bisexual people. She is still in place, with the backing of the Conservative Party election machine.
Why the difference?
It seems unlikely that Cameron thinks that “exorcising” gay people is not as bad as describing them as abnormal. There are three possible explanations for the inconsistent treatment.
Firstly, after a string of embarrassing incidents, Cameron may simply have decided that he might as well give up the attempt to gain the LGBT vote and that there is little to be gained by removing Philippa Stroud.
Secondly, the Tories may fear Stroud's links with right-wing Christian groups who wield influence and publicity beyond their numbers and who complain that Christians are facing discrimination.
But Lardner is also a Christian and has attracted support from these sort of groups. While the first two possibilities may both have elements of truth in them, I suspect the third is the central one one.
This is the simple reality that while the Tories stand no chance of winning the North Ayrshire and Arran seat, Sutton and Cheam is on their target list. They won't leave it without a candidate. Cameron will fight homophobia only as long as doing so doesn't get in the way of anything else.