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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Tories split on 'gay rights'
Iain Duncan Smith meets hunt protester
Mr Duncan Smith wants to broaden the party's appeal
The thorny issue of gay rights will return to haunt Iain Duncan Smith at his party's annual conference next week.

Tory ex-minister Steven Norris is set to make the case for the scrapping of Section 28, the law banning local authorities from promoting homosexuality, at fringe meetings in Bournemouth.

Attempts to proscribe lifestyles are doomed to failure

Steve Norris
Mr Duncan Smith's stance on the issue has been portrayed as a "make or break" situation for him as Tory leader, as he battles to project a more inclusive image for the party.

Ministers will attempt to repeal Section 28 when Parliament returns, but some right wing Tories - including former party chairman and shadow deputy prime minister David Davis - have reportedly threatened to resign if Mr Duncan Smith backs the government's position.

However, modernisers in the party believe that if Mr Duncan Smith supported the government's bid to scrap the measure, the Tories would be sending out a clear signal that they have changed.

Learning curve

Mr Norris, who was the Conservatives candidate for London mayor in 2000, will raise the issue as part of a wider call in his fringe meetings for the party to adopt a modernisation agenda.

Steve Norris
People should be treated with equality and respect, says Norris
He is set to describe Mr Duncan Smith's attempts to be the champion of the vulnerable as "intellectually incoherent".

He is equally damning on the party's current stance towards Section 28.

He told The Times: "Attempts to proscribe lifestyles are doomed to failure.

"You would have thought that Conservatives would have learnt that."

Child protection

In January, Mr Duncan Smith signalled a change in its approach to gay issues by calling for homosexual partners to be given some of the legal rights held by married couples.

Section 28 was always a foolish policy and should be scrapped

Edwina Currie
And he was quick to offer his support to Alan Duncan after he became the first sitting Tory MP to declare publicly that he is gay.

Mr Duncan Smith pledged last year to review his party's position on Section 28.

Last month he said: "I believe the principle behind Section 28 is that children who are under the authority of adults other than their parents must be protected in case adults beyond those teachers have particular desires or views.

"We will look at this and decide how best to do that."

'Matter for government'

Tory chairman Theresa May is marked out as one member of the shadow cabinet thought to be in favour of scrapping the legislation.

However, in a recent interview with BBC News Online, she refused to be drawn on the issue.

"In terms of trying to repeal Section 28, it's in the government's hands. That is a matter for the government whether they bring that forward," she said.

"But for us as a party, the key thing is to be focusing on the issues that matter most to most people."

Currie weighs in

She went on: "The issues people say are of most concern to them today, are Labour's failure at public services and it's not just the crumbling transport system, it's the problems in the hospitals, it's failing schools, it's rising crime."

Former health minister, Edwina Currie, who this week stunned the political world with revelations of an affair with John Major, has also weighed in.

She told the Times: "If they try to tell people how to live, the electorate will blow them a great big raspberry.

"Section 28 was always a foolish policy and should be scrapped."

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See also:

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