Should gay people be allowed to be cabinet ministers?
I must say, till this morning, it wasn’t a question that had ever crossed my mind. Now I think about it, though, if I had to form my dream cabinet of all the cleverest, most talented and ideologically sound people I know, at least three of them – my Culture Secretary; my Foreign Secretary; and my Minister for Communications and Propaganda, since you ask – would be homosexual. (No, my old mucker Nick Boles. Not you. This is a cabinet of real conservatives. Not mushy centrist sell-outs)
Yes, it’s possible I suppose that I would come to regret it. I’m not sure the possibility of blackmail is such a problem these days now that everyone who is gay is openly so. But I suppose there might be certain concomitant risks: explicit Tom of Finland drawings and Robert Mapplethorpe images upsetting visiting African dignitaries? The smell of amyl nitrate in the morning? Judy Garland records blasting away till all hours?
No, it’s OK. I’m joking. I can’t, for the life of me, think of a single reason why someone’s sexual orientation ought to be a bar to their joining the cabinet. Indeed, suggesting that there even might be strikes me as decidedly weird and pervy, nay, almost Nazi-ish.
So why am I bringing it up now? Only because I see that the Sun, today, has decided to have a go at the amiable UKIP MEP Roger Helmer for – allegedly – being “homophobic.”
And I think that frankly this is a bit rich coming from a paper which just three years ago – in the wake of the resignation of gay cabinet member David Laws – actually commissioned a YouGov survey asking “should gay people be cabinet ministers”?
Just 5 per cent of those surveyed thought that gay people shouldn’t be in the cabinet, which I’ve no doubt is a fair reflection of social attitudes generally. But why would the Sun even have thought to ask the question if not as a kind of dog-whistle gesture to its readership? Yes, for the vast majority of people in Britain other people’s sexuality is not an issue. But being blithely indifferent to something is not the same as endorsing it – and this is what, I think, the Sun was really getting at with its question.
Sun culture is popular British culture and in popular British culture it is still the norm, say, not to be overjoyed if your son or daughter comes home with their same sex partner and announces they are gay; it is still the norm to use “gay” as a synonym for “suspect”, “lame” or “crap”; it is still the norm to blow kisses at and laddishly question the masculinity of effeminate footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo; it is still the norm, if a gay couple comes into the pub and starts snogging in front of you, to be mildly discomfited; it is still the norm to think that this gay marriage business is a lot of politically correct nonsense.
Does this qualify as “homophobic”? Well, yes, if you accept that the term has any validity – which I’m not sure I do: for me it’s like “racism”, one of the left’s catch-all boo words used for its favourite game, closing down the argument – then yes it probably does. Homophobia remains rife in Britain and no more so than among the Sun’s readership (especially, I suspect, its Eastern European readers).
So what on earth does the Sun think it is playing at, accusing Helmer of holding viewpoints with which the vast majority of readers will almost certainly agree. And rightly so, I think, in the case of Helmer’s supposedly sensational view that attitudes to homosexuality are a matter of personal taste:
Britsshould be able to despise gay people just like they do certain types oftea, a senior Ukip politician sensationally claims.
MEPRoger Helmer – an ex-Tory who has said being gay is a mental healthissue – declared as he insisted he was not homophobic himself: “Somepeople may have views that some people disagree with. Different peoplehave different tastes.
may tell me you don’t like Earl Grey tea. That may be a minority viewbut you are entitled not to like it if you don’t like it.”
What, pray, is controversial or contentious about that? Helmer is saying here that with politics, as in other matters of personal taste, people hold differing views. He is also saying – a perfectly sane, decent, libertarian position, surely? – that it is not my business or your business or anyone’s business to force other people into the “correct” way of thinking.
So again, what does the Sun think it is doing attacking UKIP’s Helmer for “homophobia”? Making a complete tit of itself that’s what in a campaign which, just like all other the MSM’s silly vindictive attempts to brand UKIP the party of racism/advertising fraud/Nazism/homophobia/fill-in-next-scandal-here is surely doomed to backfire.