Some MPs are gay shock

Ed Rooksby

I have found the media gloating over the 'outing' of Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes over the past few days very strange and very unpleasant. In fact I'm quite bewildered that, in 2006, the discovery that two MPs have had gay relationships has caused such a fuss - leading to Oaten's resignation from his party's front bench and to Hughes facing pressure to withdraw from the Lib Dem leadership contest. I thought we'd got past all of this silliness. It's as if the serious news media have suddenly reverted to infancy - they remind me of sniggering little schoolboys, too young to know better, telling everyone else on the playground that 'Simon kissed another man... ffneerk...giggle, giggle'.

Does it really matter?

Mark Oaten imagined by Richard LittlejohnOaten's case is, perhaps, a little different in that he has a wife and a young family and appears to have mislead them. But even so, is this really suitable material for a 'political scandal'? And one can imagine all sorts of different reasons why Oaten might have done this that don't necessarily involve serious callousness on his part. Perhaps he was in denial about his sexuality when he got married and had kids. I should think most people have heard stories of gay men or women, so ashamed of their sexuality, that they try to convince themselves that they're straight, even getting married and raising children, while all the time they're tormented by the inner, only half submerged, knowledge that they're homosexual. In any case the media's feigned moral indignation seems to have centred, not on the lying and betrayal of his wife, but on the details of Oaten's sexual encounters - snigger, snigger.

Hughes not taking part in a witch huntThe Simon Hughes business is of a slightly different order. There's no wife, no family and no prostitution. What the media have chosen to focus on here is, basically, what they seem to see as the utter cheek of the man - his long running refusal to make his sexual preferences public. What they don't like is the fact that Hughes doesn't march around Westminster announcing to absolutely anyone who'll listen 'Hello!! I'm awfully GAY you know!!!'. Why should he? If Hughes has lied about his sexuality, well that's not good. BUT - the apparent fact he has lied about it is not the important issue here, it seems to me. Why was he asked about it in the first place? Why does it matter to anyone? The lies, one imagines, only followed the questions - and they were completely unnecessary questions. Hughes' sexuality should be of no concern to anyone but Hughes.

Parts of the media, I think, are especially hypocritical here. Take today's Guardian. Philip Hensher condemns Hughes thus:

"the fact of someone being homosexual should not debar them from holding high political office. [So glad you think so] But it ought to be someone who regards their homosexuality just as a heterosexual regards their sexuality: unremarkable, uninteresting to strangers, not worth talking about and, for many reasons, not worth thinking about concealing or lying about."

Well, again, why did Hughes lie about it? Because he was being hounded by people asking him about it. Why were these people making this 'unremarkable' thing into a remarkable thing in the first place? I entirely agree that one's sexuality should be 'unremarkable, uninteresting to strangers, not worth talking about and, for many reasons, not worth thinking about concealing or lying about'. So why the fucking media circus? Leave him alone.



Jan 2006

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