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What the Hague ‘scandal’ says about gay rights


2:56 pm - September 3rd 2010

by Dave Osler    


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Look away now if you have an unduly salacious imagination, but I confess to sharing a hotel bedroom with Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason. Yeah, I know, girls. Dishy, isn’t he?

This, you understand, was simply to save the National Union of Journalists a bob or two on conference expenses. It does not imply that we are anything other than red-blooded meat-eating full-on skirt-chasing 100% heterosexual coureurs des dames. Or I am, anyway. Can’t speak for Paul.

The saddest thing surrounding the kerfuffle over William Hague and his special advisor Christopher Myers is that most reasonable people get over any hang-ups about homosexuality by the time they are actively involved in the mating game, whichever team they bat for.

‘Poof’ was absolutely the worst insult that could be thrown at a boy in Wellingborough Grammar School in the mid-1970s, and honour would demand that you at least threatened to thump anybody who addressed you in such terms.

But after I got a bit older and had been to a couple of Tom Robinson Band gigs, and a mate came out of the closet, it all became a non-issue. Anyway, I reasoned, if some blokes were getting off with other blokes, the less competition the rest of us faced when hitting on Northampton’s outstanding array of sultry teenage temptresses.

I remember being slightly shocked when I moved to London and saw two men snogging at a party. Oooo-er. But I had come to the capital expressly to be a bohemian, and it would have been uncool in the extreme in leftwing circles to let on that I had even noticed.

For the political right, it was a different story. Among the many reasons many young people learned to hate Thatcherism was its wilful inculcation of discrimination against gays. From my point of view, that was only a minor concern in comparison to deliberately engineered recession, mass unemployment, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike and the poll tax.

But section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 – which provided that that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ – seemed to sum up Thatcher’s home counties golf club bigotry on the matter, even if the law had little impact in practice.

One of the few tests that the New Labour administrations passed with flying colours was its agenda for gay equality. S.28 was repealed, the age of consent equalised and civil partnership introduced.

And guess what? The institution of marriage has not collapsed. Het couples still cohab. Why, last time I checked, women were busily dropping sprogs all over the shop. Meanwhile, gays get on with those notorious unspeakable practices that cannot be reported in a family newspaper (see pages four, five, six, seven and eight).

Today, the Conservatives are supposed to have their heads round social change, and be just as intensely relaxed about homosexuals as New Labour was about the super-rich.

Before the election, Cameron told Pink News:  ‘I’d like to make one thing clear — we are totally committed to the fight for gay rights and there will be no going back on equality legislation if the Conservative party is elected.’

The ‘fight’ for gay rights, Dave? Steady on, old chap, that’s a bit Spartish, is it not? Next thing we know, you’ll be boasting to some feminist rag about your plans to smash patriarchy.

Churls raise such quibbles as his party’s support for bed and breakfast proprietors who are opposed to, er, permitting two men to share a bedroom. But let’s not nit-pick, right?

And now the Hague/Myers row. The foreign secretary could have chosen not to dignify internet tittle-tattle with a detailed rebuttal telling the world more than it needs to know about his efforts to have children with Ffion.

Many commentators point out the obvious danger of issuing a denial denial of ever having a relationship with a man, rather than opting for the standard non-denial denial tactic. Should even a single past liaison emerge, the man is toast.

Hague is roughly the same age as me – which is why he looks such a prat in wraparound shades, I guess – and will have been through much the same experiences of the situation facing gays as I have.

For my liking, the statement sounds rather too much like the seventies grammar school kid that Hague is too, threatening to hit a  classmate who called him a bender. We are supposed to have moved on since that time, aren’t we?

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


Be fair Dave.

Everyone looks a prat in wraparound shades, not just middle aged men.

With the comments about wraparouond shades here and the EDL post in the sidebar, I am going to have to start using this site to inform me what to wear.

Many commentators point out the obvious danger of issuing a denial denial of ever having a relationship with a man, rather than opting for the standard non-denial denial tactic. Should even a single past liaison emerge, the man is toast. Watch the Sunday papers.

Assuming Mr Hague knows this, it is possible that he has therefore good reason to believe no past liaison will emerge? Whatever people say (at length) about Andy Coulson elsewhere on this site, he is not that stupid a media operator after all.

And believe it or not, the gay angle has distracted from the suitability of the adviser for the job issue, which is substantive and worth pursuing.

The other story here is how Paul Staines (never has someone been so aptly named) can act as judge, jury and executioner in making sure Christopher Myers had to resign – thus screwing up a young man’s career. Say what you like about Tory SpAds (and I do), it’s pretty low to mess around with someone’s life like that just to sate your homophobic audience’s penchant for gossip and malicious rumour.

4. John Meredith

Of course there is still a strong current of homophobia in our media and the society at large, but let’s not be dishonest about the Hague thing: if he were straight and had been sharing his room with an attractive young female researcher the scandal would have been as strong and it really is a public interest question if he is employing a lover. And let’s not pretend that Hague’s sexuality is not an open secret and always has been. It is horrible to watch him deny it, but hardly the fault of the press or a homophobic society given his position. If he had not been employing the lad on public money, I would agree that it was nobody’s business but his own.

@4

Any evidence that Hague is gay? By which I mean evidence, not a link to some scumbag homophobic blog, ta.

Urgh, thank you. The man should have just ignored the rumours. You don’t see Obama paying much attention to the Secret Kenyan Muslim crap, and that’s far more widespread than Hague/Myers gossiping.

7. John Meredith

“Any evidence that Hague is gay? By which I mean evidence, not a link to some scumbag homophobic blog, ta.”

It has been an open secret for some time, but if he is not in a relationship with the man, I seriously don’t understand his reaction. It is, to say the least, a bit odd that he decided to bunk up with a young man when on the road (would YOU choose to share a room with a workmate if you could afford your own?) but if it is innocent, I think he should have refused the man’s resignation. Would it ever OK for a senior politician to hire an attractive young woman and then share a room with her on the road, even if that politician was already in a realtionship with another man?

JM – nice to see you colluding in rumour mongering again. Going to offer any evidence for it?

Personally I really hope Hague slaps a big fat libel writ on Staines.

I go along with the emerging conspiracy theory that the Hague kerfuffle is to divert attention from the issues in the news about Andy Coulson and the hacking voicemail boxes.

@4,

John,

Are you saying that Mr Hague is gay? Because that seems to be a rather rash statement – the rumours have never had confirmation, and he has been leader of the Conservative party, so you would think this would have come out.

But this is the core of your response – that since we ‘know’ Mr Hague is actually gay (despite the fact we have no evidence, unless you have something in your past you want to tell us…) then sharing a room with an attractive male is the same as sharing a room with an attractive female for a straight person (bisexuals are fucked, although possibly not literally, either way).

So you somehow manage to come to the logic that it is impossible to sleep in seperate beds with someone who is attractive without having sex with them, whilst also assuming as given something that has been stated to be untrue and not contradicted. Pretty poor logic – puts you at about Guido Fawkes level there I think.

Bob,

I go along with the emerging conspiracy theory that the Hague kerfuffle is to divert attention from the issues in the news about Andy Coulson and the hacking voicemail boxes.

You just needed the Labour leadership contest and Connexions in there somewhere and you’d have got a clean sweep of all major topics being discussed on Liberal Conspiracy in one post! 😉

In fairness I once shared a hotel room with an attractive female without having sex with her – none of our friends could believe that we were not a couple, and being a bloke repeated denials of “I did not have sex with that attractive women” probably wouldn’t have done me any good.

@7 JM

OK I’ll be more specific: have you any evidence that Hague being gay is an “open secret”? The fact that he is married doesn’t actually mean he didn’t have to deny the rumours, after all a fair few married ministers and MPs have come out over the past few years (and months) so it’s not unreasonable of him to want to set the record straight (no pun intended). I’ve shared rooms with friends of both sexes without any funny business going on and yes of course people make insinuations but, luckily for me, I’m not a minister with a nasty blogger after me, so I can just laugh them off.

I usually have little regard for Prescott but this really is a far more substantive issue than whether William Hague might be occasionally gay:

“Lord Prescott has said he is prepared to take legal action to find out whether News of The World journalists hacked into his phone messages.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11175076

Glenn Mulcaire was paid an annual retainer of over £104,000 by the News of the World while Andy Coulson, the editor at the time, wants us to believe that he didn’t know what Mulcaire was doing for the money. C’mon. And Coulson now works in Downing St as the Director of Government Communications.

Try the PCC report about this:
http://www.editorscode.org.uk/downloads/press_releases/PCC_report_on_subterfuge.pdf

You don’t see Obama paying much attention to the Secret Kenyan Muslim crap…

I think he dealt with that one when he revealed he was the son of Jor-El.

‘And now the Hague/Myers row. The foreign secretary could have chosen not to dignify internet tittle-tattle with a detailed rebuttal telling the world more than it needs to know about his efforts to have children with Ffion. ‘

Was it Chaplin who refused to answer questions about whether he was Jewish on the grounds that even an honest denial would be playing into the hands of anti-semitism?

At this point, I wish everyone involved would just shut up and go away. The whole conspiracy rumour-mill really annoys me, especially when it’s stuff like this (it’s not that it’s Hague in particular, it could be any public figure and I’d still be annoyed). I don’t entirely know why.

Also, Paul Staines is a cheesy bell-end, for various reasons.

Well….. as the trolls used to say about Labour politicians . If they feel so outraged why don’t they sue Mr Stains? If Hague is so upset at the fact that people are saying he has gone all Freddie Mercury , then sue. He has the money.

What is really funny about all this is that when Hague was leader , he took the party way to the right on Gay issues. Be careful what you wish for Billy.

Dave

You really do talk a load of crap about the Conservatives’ attitude to gays. Thatcher, in particular, was anything but a homophobe. Her PPS (Peter Morrison) was gay, her correspondence secretary (Matthew Parris) was gay and there were so many gays in senior positions in Central Office and the Conservative Research Department that there was a running gag about having to be gay to work there. Plenty of her most committed supporters were gay – Harvey Proctor springs to mind – other people’s sexual orientation was simply not a problem for Thatcher.

William Hague is absolutely the last person to have hang-ups on this score. One of the reasons that people have been peddling false gossip about him is that the media can’t get their heads around the fact that Hague could have shared a flat with the gay Alan Duncan and be straight himself.

@19 Flowerpower: “…other people’s sexual orientation was simply not a problem for Thatcher.”

I’ll accept that argument: Thatcher was happy to work personally with people who were gay, Conservative MPs and workers with whom she had a face to face relationship. Tolerance.

Then you have Section 28, which demonstrated her second face. It was about the other gays without political connections; the disposables in an expedient bid to prop up support from the conventional Conservative right. Disrespect.

Then you have Section 28, which demonstrated her second face. It was about the other gays without political connections

But all S. 28 was about was preventing councils wasting money on unnecessary gimmicks. S. 28 was a response to daft gestures by the GLC and some other hard-left councils to spend public money on Gay & Lesbian Judo classes and such like. The Tories (rightly) understood that people like Ken Livingstone were using this tactic of empty gesture politics to create an identity-politics based rainbow alliance and that ‘promoting’ homosexuality was an abuse of public funds in the same way any other blatant use of taxpayers money for sectional political advantage would be.

I agree they were none too subtle about it. Maybe in hindsight it would have been better simply to ban councils from ‘promoting’ any brand of sexuality at all. After all, that’s not what councils are for.

Though I can see why gays felt singled out by S. 28, I can’t see that any particular gay person was in any way harmed or disadvantaged by it.

@21 Flowerpower: “S. 28 was a response to daft gestures by the GLC and some other hard-left councils to spend public money on Gay & Lesbian Judo classes and such like.”

Theoretically, your argument might be true. But councils were not spending money on such causes. They were spending money on education about sex and relationships. It is the same sort of education that occurs in schools today.

Pedantry: the GLC was abolished circa two years before Section 28 was introduced.

“…I can’t see that any particular gay person was in any way harmed or disadvantaged by it.”

For most kids, schools are the most appropriate places to *listen* to lessons about sex and relationships. Owing to Thatcher, some people did not receive those lessons. Bad.

I occasionally have a go about 20 year olds with over confidence and misplaced egos (for which, another time). But I welcome their acceptance of gay and transgendered people which has rubbed off on their parents and broader society.

Charlieman @ 22

I hear what your saying. But I have problems with it.

They {councils} were spending money on education about sex and relationships.

But they shouldn’t have been. Councils are for collecting the rubbish and filling in potholes in the roads. Not for important stuff to do with education, values. We’ve all met councillors and council employees: they simply aren’t up to it. That’s why I’m delighted they are being taken out of the provision of schooling. Swimming lessons are about their limit.

For most kids, schools are the most appropriate places to *listen* to lessons about sex and relationships.

Not sure about that. certainly not when there are a bunch of sniggerers laughing behind their hands when the important bits are being discussed. Or when teachers have been so castrated by cultural relativism that they can only approach sex as a values-free recreational activity on a par with, say, gymnastics.

Perhaps the family environment is better for “most kids”, though I admit school is the only option for those with inadequate home set-ups.

Owing to Thatcher, some people did not receive those lessons. Bad.

You’d have to be pretty timid to interpret a statute forbidding ‘promoting homosexuality’ as a ban on educating kids in school about it. Every day we teach kids about Henry VIII but no one says that’s promoting adultery or domestic violence.

I never thought I’d see someone seriously arguing that Section 28 was not homophobic. Amazing.

Alun @ 24

Then you should get out more. Plenty of gay Conservatives supported S. 28 for a long time. The left-liberal myth is that they were ‘hypocrites’. Rubbish.

I changed my mind on this issue when it became apparent that many gay people were genuinely hurt by what they perceived to be hostile and discriminatory, but which lots of us had thought was merely common sense. I think it was right to scrap it to spare unnecessary upset. But I think people were way OTT in being upset in the first place. And I suspect that upset was cynically stoked and exacerbated by the Left, which doesn’t leave them smelling of roses either.

@23: “We’ve all met councillors and council employees: they simply aren’t up to it. That’s why I’m delighted they are being taken out of the provision of schooling. Swimming lessons are about their limit.”

And now for reality:

“Only 32 schools will transfer to academy status on the first day of term, despite a claim by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to MPs earlier in the summer that 1,100 were waiting to take advantage of the Government’s offer. However, a further 110 have been given the go-ahead to transfer from local authority control later on in the school year.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/goves-schools-revolution-begins-with-a-whimper-2068096.html

If local councils are so unimportant as you say, I wonder why so many council chief executives are so highly paid?

“Two council heads earned more than £300,000 last year, while a further 14 earned more than a quarter of a million pounds, according to research. A study of 151 councils by the GMB union disclosed that 129 chief executives were earning significantly more than the Prime Minister, whose basic pay is £142,500.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7978540/More-than-100-council-bosses-earn-150000.html

Bob B @ 26

Oh dear. Where to begin? Reality, I’m afraid, does not consist in almost randomly chosen gobbets from the newspapers.

To the specific follies of the moment;

Only 32 schools will transfer to academy status on the first day of term….

Yada yad yada. So what? At least a thousand more secondaries will do so before the next election. To which we can add probably around 300 or so new ‘free schools’.

Last week there were just over 200 academies. This week there are 96 more. Big percentage increase – do the maths.

Meanwhile, local councils will be squeezed financially and more and more governing bodies will get the message that the state is gradually withdrawing from education provision and the time has come to sever limks with the bureaucrats who are creaming off a slice of money that should go to teaching kids.

In ten years time there will be no local authority involvement in providing schooling.

If local councils are so unimportant as you say, I wonder why so many council chief executives are so highly paid?</i.

Because under Labour they were allowed to expand their remits on an almost imperial scale. They then pointed to the enormous size of their budget and demanded a salary equivalent to that of a chief exec turning over a comparable amount in a real business.

Those days are over. Soon we will be back to the situation that obtained when you were a kid Bob. The "chief executive" will be called the "town clerk" again and he'll be paid about the same as the doctor or the solicitor. In fact, a bit less.

To be fair to Thatcher (did I just write those words?) she voted to legalise homosexuality in the 1960s, having seen in her legal practice the suffering imposed by criminalisation. (She did likewise with abortion).

It’s more difficult than is popularly supposed to tell what she really thought about anything. The lady went through more reinventions than Madonna – 50s home counties one nation Tory, 60s liberalism on social issues, early 70s creator of new comprehensives, the cautious moderate of the 79 manifesto. Maybe the rigid ideologue of the late 80’s – Section 28, Bruges, poll tax – was the “real Thatcher”. Or maybe she was trapped – by her own myth, the demands of the Murdoch media, the need to shore up the right as her party support slipped – and lost the flexibility that took her to power in the first place.

S. 28 was a response to daft gestures by the GLC and some other hard-left councils to spend public money on Gay & Lesbian Judo classes and such like.

Can you quote examples of such Judo classes? And can you explain why it is daft for people disproportionately at risk from violence from bigots to be taught how to defend themselves?

@28 Badstephen: “To be fair to Thatcher (did I just write those words?) she voted to legalise homosexuality in the 1960s, having seen in her legal practice the suffering imposed by criminalisation. (She did likewise with abortion).”

Thanks for the education lesson. When I first read your words, I thought “cobblers” and then looked up Thatcher’s biography. She was first elected as an MP in 1959 and it took her 20 further years to become PM. That demands endurance.

When I learn about Thatcher, I know a bit more but more questions arise. She is a very strange person, and far less rational than she presumes for herself.

31. Chaise Guevara

“Then you should get out more. Plenty of gay Conservatives supported S. 28 for a long time. The left-liberal myth is that they were ‘hypocrites’. Rubbish.”

I wouldn’t so much say ‘hypocrites’ as ‘afraid of losing their jobs’.

“I changed my mind on this issue when it became apparent that many gay people were genuinely hurt by what they perceived to be hostile and discriminatory, but which lots of us had thought was merely common sense. I think it was right to scrap it to spare unnecessary upset. But I think people were way OTT in being upset in the first place. And I suspect that upset was cynically stoked and exacerbated by the Left, which doesn’t leave them smelling of roses either.”

You don’t see what’s so upsetting about a law that censors certain discussion of one sexuality and not others? And how is a law that implies that homosexuals seek to (and are scientifically able to) ‘convert’ people to homosexuality – and the existence of which demonstrates the authorities think that such a conversion would be a bad thing that people need to be protected from – possibly have anything to do with common sense, or anything other than hostile and discriminatory?

It’s more difficult than is popularly supposed to tell what she really thought about anything.

Perhaps it would be useful to look to the views and actions of her children?

I would like to know who the bright spark PR Guy advised Hague on giving so much detail about his wives miscarriages. Whether his wife had miscarriages or not has nothing to do with Hague being gay and why the DUFF PR adviser would think the ‘sympathy vote ‘ would win the public over.. Hague, I have no doubt is a happily married man who ‘MAYBE’ also likes men…So, this would make Hague Bi-Sexual NOT gay.

I think if this story has legs it is the friends of Chris Myer the press will be hounding…and we all know the story will go to the highest bidder.

I wonder if Harmen and Blairs wife had shared a room there would be all this fuss…would they now be lesbians?

Had I been Hagues adviser I would have told him to say a few words and those words would have been ‘My private life is my own, I have no further comment’

Hague finding excuses and feeling he must lay his marriage bare was very bad advice…and the words ‘ HURTFULL SPECULATION’ I am afraid come from the mouth of McCanns mouth piece Clarence Mitchell….Mitchellisms are all over Hagues statement.

Oh William it is your lies if indeed you have lied that will be your downfall, no one cares about your private life, you silly, silly man.

f Hague is not gay and he feels so strongly about it, why does he not sue Guido? That was the brown shirt troll defence to any dirt thrown at Labour politicians.

Also, if, as neo con speak your weight machine Tim Montgomerie is correct in saying this has been going on for 10 years, why did Hauge not reveal the miscarriages before now?

And the idea that Call me Dave’s media guy told him to put out his statement on the day Blair’s book came out, then it looks like call me Dave is doing the old burying bad news new labour trick. Can’t wait to here the trolls defend that one.

Hello Sally ,read your comments, to me this is sounding like Bill Clinton ‘ I did NOT have sex with THAT woman.’

Hague is saying ‘I am not gay’…which would be true if he is bi- sexual…a little play on words here I think. The truth lies in what William is NOT saying.

BLAIR is Call me Daves idol…if you look back some of Camerons early speeches are almost word for word from Blairs. So yes the spin is out and Cameron is covering a bad news day. IMHO

Hague put out his statement in the hope that full disclosure would lead the media to stop saying things that upset his wife and because his aide was resigning. Without Hague’s totally clear and unambiguous denial, the young man would have had to go through the rest of his life branded as Hague’s catamite. Which he wasn’t.

37. Chaise Guevara

“f Hague is not gay and he feels so strongly about it, why does he not sue Guido? That was the brown shirt troll defence to any dirt thrown at Labour politicians.”

Because proving you’re not gay is essentially impossible? Also, politicians generally don’t sue for libel. It’s just not how it’s done, possibly because it looks like you’re trying to gag the press. Finally, by suing Hague would look as if he was saying being called homosexual would be an insult, which would not be good.

“Also, if, as neo con speak your weight machine Tim Montgomerie is correct in saying this has been going on for 10 years, why did Hauge not reveal the miscarriages before now? ”

Um, why the fuck should he?

Why should he mention the miscarriages at all?…your wife having lost a child or many children does not prove you may or may not also like men.

Anyway ,Wills seems to be OK today he is telling us about his summer walks in the park on twitter..and thanking many for their support.

39. Chaise Guevara

“Why should he mention the miscarriages at all?…your wife having lost a child or many children does not prove you may or may not also like men.”

It’s to show that his lack of kids doesn’t mean his marriage is a sham. And to garner public sympathy, of course.

troll “Um, why the fuck should he?”

Then he should shut the fuck up and not make idiotic statements.

41. Chaise Guevara

Sally, you do know you’re the only troll here, yes? And that ‘troll’ and ‘tory’ are not automatically applicable to everyone except you? Just checking.


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