Politics: Lobby briefing - Ben Summerskill, chief executive,Stonewall

What agreement have you signed with the Tories?

They have joined our diversity champions programme.

What does that involve?

It means we will develop with them a work plan to help the party support, recruit and retain lesbian and gay staff.

Did you approach them or vice versa?

They approached us, but we have been in discussions with them for some time through our parliamentary lobbying work. The Conservative Party has been looking at doing things differently in recent months, and it was suggested that one of the positive steps it could take would be to look at its own workforce.

Parties often talk about what everyone else should do, but I think the Tories are alive to the fact that good practice begins at home.

Are you surprised?

We are pleasantly surprised by what is - for them - a courageous move.

Have you approached the other political parties?

We have made approaches to both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. I'm optimistic that the other major political parties will be coming on board in the near future.

When did the programme start?

In 2001, but in the past two years membership has grown from 35 to 240 organisations. The scheme now engages the employers of about four million people.

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