GAY TIMES September 1997

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon

According to The Independent (July 31st) the “right-wing think tanks” that wielded so much influence on Tory party policy over the past 20 years are now “drifting aimlessly in an ideological limbo” and “whining like trapped wasps”.

The think-tanks, as they say, are running on empty.

All of them except, that is, the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF). This organisation has no doubt what the Tories must do if they want to regain superiority —they must once more embrace “traditional family values” and fight anything that threatens those values. So, according to the CCF, if the new Tory leader, William Hague, wishes to see his party ever return to power, he must agitate vigorously against the further acceptance of abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality.

Now, I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but is it really a coincidence that since the CCF put out its call, the right-wing papers have been absolutely awash with news of homosexuality and mercy killing? In the past month, I think I have collected more press clippings on these two topics than at any time in the past two years. Some of it has been extremely unpleasant.

This has not been the case in the liberal papers. The Guardian, Independent and Observer continue to present these issues as public debates; the others present them as public alarms.

All the homophobic voices which we had hoped had been silenced by the Tories’ defeat are suddenly back in a big way, given an enthusiastic platform by the likes of the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph. Suddenly they all seem to have only one message.

“The biggest threat to our society is the assault on the family, because it is in the family — mother, father, grandparents, aunts and uncles —that children learn values, the morals and standards that will guide them later in life,” wrote Norman Tebbit in The Mail on Sunday (July 20th). “Youngsters who have not even taken their GCSEs will soon be legal prey for lecherous, predatory sex perverts waiting outside school gates. Parliament seems set to give approval for dirty old men to take young boys from schoolroom to bedroom for `gay’ sex.” He continues this inflated rhetoric for several more paragraphs, piling on the slander as he goes. Is Norman Tebbit simply stating his opinions, or is he part of a new strategy which uses homosexuality to batter at Labour’s popularity?

Leo McKinstry also in The Daily Mail (July 7th) was telling us that “gay rights have gone far enough”, citing Peter Tatchell’s now notorious letter to The Guardian as proof positive that “this ideology has badly undermined our child protection services, allowing abusers to exploit the system”.

McKinstry rails against grants from public funds for gay events and at the hedonism of gay life. He says sex educators have lost all sense of morality. “Take marriage and the family,” he writes, with a terrible predictability. “In the brave new world of gay rights, no moral distinction is made between the sacrifices involved in bringing up children within a stable relationship and irresponsible hedonism. Both are presented as just different lifestyle choices. Such a disastrous message is now being given out to schoolchildren.”

Simon Heffer (“the pundit the politicians dread”), also in The Daily Mail (July 12th), stated the CCF’s message most plainly in the headline over his piece: “Bring back the family, Hague, or you’ll never get back.” Heffer wrote: “Mr Hague should realise one of the greatest forces behind the Conservative movement, and one of the likely platforms for its revival is the family.” Naturally, Heffer thinks that homosexuals are the number one enemy of the family. He chides Hague for sending his “ridiculous message” to Gay Pride. “During the leadership campaign he appeared to advocate homosexual marriages. If he is not careful, his supporters will start to question his commitment to genuine Conservative values.”

Mr Heffer gives us another insight into the reasoning behind attempts to revive family values. He wrote: “As the Right in America has shown, there is a massive constituency to be won by supporting traditional values. It does not have to be done with the puritan intolerance and fanaticism we see in that country; it merely requires a moderate statement of the values that Conservative-minded people, as opposed to Mr Hague’s ultra-enlightened circle of friends, want their party to support.”

The Mail even unearthed Daniel Farson (“author and homosexual”) to batter its message home. He wrote: “This Government, headed by a church-going Christian, is engaging in political correctness of the worst sort. It is driven by the aggressive gay lobby. And it will do untold damage to the vulnerable young.”

Not to be left out of the gay-bashing jamboree, The Sun commissioned Anne Atkins (the only agony aunt in the country who causes more problems than she solves) to write: “It is politically incorrect to say so, but the gay lifestyle is a very harsh one. Promiscuity, depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, illness and suicide attempts are far more common in the gay community. This is not an opinion: it is a fact. The life expectancy of a gay man without HIV is a shocking 43 years (with HIV it is 39).” (Simon Fanshawe, the comedian, has made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about that one.)

The Sun editorialised that the new age of consent proposals were “a serious misjudgement of the mood of the country… If a free vote makes gay sex legal at 16, Parliament will fly in the face of public opinion.”

Over in The Express (July 15th), Peter Hitchens was pushing the gays-are-a-threat-to-the-family bandwagon a little further: “The new morality breaks a vital link between sexual pleasure, marriage and children. Once this link is broken — and contraception and abortion have helped to break it — sex is a recreation without obligations or consequences. Sex between two men or two women is the purest statement of this.”

Roger Scruton, Mrs Thatcher’s favourite philosopher, was putting forward his familiar arguments in The Times. Liberals, he said, are the cause of all this trouble: if liberals hadn’t removed the natural [his words] restrictions which control sex, then gay men feel obliged not to have sex at all, and the interest that they have in children would be diverted into teaching and scouting and team coaching, rather than seduction.

Naturally, Dr Adrian Rodgers wasn’t going to miss out on all this, and he was widely quoted in news items, as well as having letters included in The Daily Telegraph. “Homosexuality is a sterile condition, strongly associated with Aids and its spread and condemned by all wise cultures and religions. From years of practising medicine, my personal experiences and some evidence, I am sure homosexuality is acquired; it can be promoted as a way of life; and there is a strong association with paedophilia,” he asserted in the Telegraph’s correspondence column.

Valerie Riches of Family and Youth Concern, was quick to support her friend, the good doctor from Exeter. “Dr Rodgers draws attention to the link between homosexuality and paedophilia, and has reason to be concerned. Equally alarming is the extent to which the way is being prepared for acceptance of paedophile activity.” And up again comes Peter Tatchell’s letter to T he Guardian, as well as quotes from the now long-defunct Paedophile Information Exchange and the Family Planning Association.

It was not all confined to the age of consent debate, of course. The Daily Telegraph also led the charge against the Appeal Court judges who criticised the law that caused them to rule that a gay man could not take over the tenancy of his partner’s flat after his partner died. The judges had called on Parliament to amend the law so as to respect “all abiding relationships, the heterosexual, the lesbian and the gay”.

So the judges want to be in step with the times, do they? “Well, that would be nice,” bitched the Telegraph. “But are these judges, aloof and splendid on the bench, really so in step with the times? Have they caught up with the widespread concern in many quarters over the decline in marriage and the traditional family, and the impact of that on children?”

Even The Sunday Times gave voice to this: “The tolerance towards homosexuals that liberals once demanded was always a fraud. Liberals are the least tolerant of people. Homosexuals were to be the battering ram against traditional values, social institutions and conduct. Fox-hunting is bad, deviancy is good. Schools hire paedophiles as gym teachers and put gay marriage and gay sex on the agenda and there is no moral distinction between a family and irresponsible hedonism,” wrote Taki Theodoracopolous. “Marriage, of course, is rendered meaningless once it’s accorded the same rights and privileges as a homosexual marriage.”

Is it really only coincidence that all these hacks and activists seem to have exactly the same opinions? Am I being paranoid in imagining that something is going on?

Maybe there isn’t a huge conspiracy, but I think there are smaller ones, often interconnected. I think journalists do take notice of briefings from right-wing think tanks and pressure groups, and try to spread their messages. I do think that some Christian extremist groups orchestrate media campaigns — and very successfully, too.

I cannot believe that it is completely coincidental that Victoria Gillick and her sister Lynette Burrows keep plugging away at the “paedophile” angle wherever they can find a platform. Do they really not discuss it with each other, and with others of a like mind? Does Family and Youth Concern not liaise with the Conservative Family Campaign when their agendas are so similar? Do the Mail, Express and Telegraph not enthusiastically shop-window the ideas from these sources?

The next question has to be, does it matter? Aren’t these just marginalised idiots who can’t accept that they’ve lost the argument? Or could it be that they are on to something?

In the end, if there is a conspiracy, it is not an anti-gay conspiracy, it is an anti-Labour and pro-Tory one. We are just the means to an end, the battering ram.

Let’s not forget that when Teletext asked its readers to ring in and answer the question “Should same sex couples have equal employment rights?” Only 42 per cent said yes, and 58 per cent said no. They were also asked “Should gay sex be legal at 16?” 43 per cent said yes, 57 per cent said no.

Nothing can be taken for granted. If the Right can agitate enough hysteria around this issue, Blair might have to back down or compromise. And that would be the first triumph of a resurgent Right.

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