August tends to be a slow month in politics—usually, at least, when there’s not an ongoing leadership debate to decide who will be the next Prime Minister. September inevitably brings the party conferences, with the new Conservative party leader expected to be announced on 5 September 2022, after Parliament’s summer recess.
But the worst story of this year’s Conservative Party Conference has somehow already broken: the LGBT+ Conservatives are giving out free condoms emblazoned with Tory sex puns. Announced on Twitter, the slogans include “Strong & Stable”—Theresa May’s slogan that didn’t prove particularly prescient—“Unleash Britain’s Potential” and “Labour isn’t working, but this condom will (*99% of the time)”—a callback to the 1978 election campaign that seems to ignore the fact that the Tories are currently in charge and it is under their rule that the country isn’t working… I’ll give them one concession: “This condom is for the most honourable member.” Now, that’s a great pun.
But what on earth is a “patriotic approach to safe sex”? Is there a traitorous form of safe sex too? Given parts of the party’s recent history—from Section 28 and its legacy to debates around sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools—this feels, at best, insufficient and, at worst, like a cruel joke.
Twitter quickly jumped on the news, with responses ranging from, “I don’t know how but this just gave me back my virginity” to “Seems odd to bring out a condom AFTER they have already fucked the country.” Surely, such tacky prophylactics handed out at a party conference are more likely to encourage celibacy?
Some of the condoms bear puns based on specific politicians’ names, patrons of the LGBT+ Conservative including MP Gary Sambrook—of “Gary Sambrook Eats Big Dinners” fame—who has opted for “Strap it for Sambrook.” I don’t think he’s quite thought that one through. Meanwhile, Peter Gibson went for “Glove it for Gibbo,” which sounds more like a threat than a pick-up line.
Three Conservative members of the London Assembly have also joined in, maybe in hopes to build some recognition around their names. Andrew Boff has “Boff—Safely,” while Emma Best chose “Bang for Best,” which feels like a wasted opportunity and Nick Rogers went for “Roger for Nick.” Sometimes, simple jokes are the best.
It’s been pointed out that there are many missed opportunities, namely straight MPs with potential for great sexual puns: former health secretary Matt Hancock, MP Peter Bone, and even Boris Johnson himself. Although I’m thankful not to count any of these men as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the BBC reported that dozens of MPs were approached to feature as part of the campaign but “either declined or did not respond.”
The chair of the LGBT+ Conservatives group, Elena Rose Bunbury, told the BBC: “We all know people like a good time at conferences, and we’re here to help ensure that happens safely.” They’ve ordered 500 condoms and dental dams for the four-day event in Birmingham. “We don’t know if that’s enough but all our money is fundraised and we have to justify where our money is being spent,” she added.
A condom makes for a strange choice of merchandise—the suggestion is that a good conference will result in the condom being used, and thus binned. Bunbury said that “we hope it provides a fun tool and useful memento for all those using them,” but surely it’s either a fun tool or a useful memento, not both?
Also, condoms are not sufficient for gay men to practice safe sex at the moment, given the ongoing monkeypox epidemic. While monkeypox is generally thought to be transmitted during sexual intercourse, it’s via skin-to-skin contact, not penetrative sex—so a condom does nothing. A swift and targeted vaccine rollout would do far more for the community. Hopefully, the LGBT+ Conservatives will be petitioning for this too.
The group added: “Party members’ hormones are in full bloom, with the taste of liberalism on their lips, and capitalism in their hips. They are ready to create the next generation of Brexiteers and Liberalism enthusiasts in the microclimate of Conservative Party Conference.” I have so many questions…