GAY TIMES June 1997

What joy! What ecstasy! What unrestrained wallowing in other people’s disappointment! On that glorious morning of May 2nd, 1997, I felt not one iota of sympathy as one hated Tory bigot after another was cast into the long-overdue outer darkness.

And then came the icing on the cake: within two days of the political demise of Harry Greenway, Olga Maitland, David Evans, Adrian Rodgers and so many other ghastly deadbeats, came the news that “Sir” John Junor had gone to that great newsroom in the sky. With beautiful irony, the noxious toad who had, through the auspices of his weekly column, heaped insult and obloquy on gay people for 20 years, had popped his clogs.

As The Daily Telegraph reported: “He dismissed homosexuals as ‘poofs’, ‘powder puffs’ and ‘pansies’, and expressed the view that Aids was the punishment ordained by God for sodomy. In particular, he anathematised those ‘who flaunt their homosexuality and try to subvert and convert other people to it. These are the people I have utter hatred for, because I think they are spreading filth.’”

This was only a tiny sample of the absolutely unfettered hatred he felt for us. At the time of a particularly nasty arson attack on a gay cinema in London, when ten people were killed, he made comments that I will not repeat but which I will never forgive.

And then came the maudlin, sentimental tributes from those of his journalistic colleagues who had been on the receiving end of his patronage. Michael Toner, who had been Political Editor of The Sunday Express under Junor wrote: “Yesterday when I telephoned a former colleague to tell him of the old man’s death, I found him on the verge of tears. I wasn’t exactly dry-eyed myself.”

Peter McKay was, of course, one of Junor’s protégés, and it shows in his own style of writing, which shares the penchant for abuse and spite. In The Daily Express he said: “John Junor was a journalistic giant who built the old Sunday Express into a perfect family newspaper.” A perfect family newspaper? A disgusting repository for every nasty prejudice you could think of, more like.

Nearly all the obituaries commented about Junor’s abhorrence of “cant and humbug” and yet it is clear that he was a major practitioner of hypocrisy himself. He would ride about in chauffeur driven cars and then write about conversations he’d had with ordinary men and women on the tops of buses.

Junor was a personally unpleasant individual who used his editorial position to wound and terrorise the journalists working under him. There are many stories of his cruel whims and arbitrary sackings has often featured in Mediawatch over the years, and some of the most shockingly racist and homophobic opinions ever to see print came from his pen.

He began to write his JJ column in 1979 when Mrs Thatcher came to power and it was for licking her arse that he was awarded his knighthood. It seems fitting that his flow of poison should be stemmed in the week that so many of his fellow reactionaries have been kicked off their platforms.

As Julian Critchley so aptly said (Independent, May 5th) of this self-styled “man of the people”: “John Junor may have had his finger on the nation’s pulse, but he also got on its nerves.”

***

Clifford Longley, The Daily Telegraph’s religious correspondent, is convinced that “the crunch is coming next year over gay clergy.” In his column on April 25th he said: “It will not be possible to find a solution to the problem of gay clergy in the Anglican Church. The Lambeth Conference next year will be the moment when the irresistible force meets the immovable object.”

And as a warm-up to that knockout event, we have OutRage! members scaling the walls of Lambeth Palace to force the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet them (on the grounds that the Archbishop will not meet the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement). According to The Daily Telegraph (April 24th), the Archbishop was “boorishly ambushed by Peter Tatchell’ s militant homosexuals” demanding that gay priests should be allowed to ‘practice’, and that there should be some form of ‘marriage’ for homosexuals. Dr Carey certainly looked more than slightly annoyed in the photographs that were printed of the event. Peter Tory in The Daily Express said “he looked like a martyr startled in heaven”. I thought he looked more like Mr Pooter startled by a whoopee cushion.

Saint Peter of Tatchell deserves our thanks because each time he stages one of his events he has to endure another outburst of the type of abuse that the tabloids seem to reserve especially for him.

“I felt sorry for the Archbishop of Canterbury,” wrote the reptilian Norman Tebbitt in The Sun. “Poor man kept his temper despite being pawed by the disgusting Peter Tatchell… If the Church of England throws out the Bible in favour of buggery, it will have only itself to blame when Christians leave its churches empty. On your bike, Tatchell. Off the pier and take a duck-ying.”

To provoke invective of this kind surely indicates that Peter Tatchell is having the desired effect — unsettling those establishment cronies whose complacency has been shaken by the recent events of the general election.

The confrontation had been precipitated by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reaffirmation of his stance on homosexuality (which roughly translates “it’s OK to be it, but don’t do it.”).

It was ironic, then, that this announcement coincided with a report showing that many conventionally married Church of England vicars are wife beaters. A.N. Wilson of The London Evening Standard maintained that a good rule of thumb about vicars is “if they are married they are probably wife-torturers. If not overt marital rapists, there is something invariably creepy about the heterosexual clergy. Personally, I’d rather a daughter of mine married almost anyone — even a brothel owner, even an MP— before she married a parson.”

He continued: “All the best clergy are, overtly or not, ‘queer’. (This includes the asexual ones who like dressing up while not actually ‘doing anything’ with boys).”

But back to The Daily Telegraph and its editorial it mentioned that the Bishop of Salisbury, John Baker, had given a speech saying that he had changed his mind since his participation in the working party which had produced the infamous 1991 document saying it was OK to for gay lay persons to have sex, but not priests. Now Bishop Baker says the report was wrong and that gay priests should be permitted to have a full sex life without fear of retribution, if they want to. They should even be able to get married to their same-sex partner.

The Daily Telegraph, naturally, didn’t agree. “The purpose of sexual relations is, above all, procreation,” it says sternly, “which obviously rules out homosexual acts, because they are sterile and thus unnatural. Christians of every tradition considered homosexual acts inherently sinful.”

The paper says that Dr Carey should stand firm and insist that his gay clergy keep their pesky genitals locked firmly in their Y-fronts. “We need a faith whose precepts are founded on the solid rock of doctrine, not the drifting sands of fashion.”

This is tripe, of course. Homosexuality has a much longer history than Christianity. There are records of gay carryings-on in the cultures of Rome and Greece, in Ancient Egypt and China. All these cultures have passed into obscurity, all their beliefs — in their own times regarded as unassailable truth — are now regarded as quaint mythology. The same fate eventually awaits Christianity. Homosexuality, on the other hand, will continue regardless.

***

Press reaction to Channel 4’s lesbians-in-the-army film, The Investigator, was mixed. Just about all the papers carried features based on the programme, but critical reaction to the actual drama was muted. Roy Hattersley, TV reviewer for The Daily Express, thought it was “pure propaganda”. Although, he says he “supports the cause it championed” he did not “want the case for reason and reform dressed up like drama… Throughout The Investigator, I had the feeling I was watching an attempt to change viewers’ minds without them realising it.”

Peter Patterson in The Daily Mail thought similarly: “Since this was, in effect, a party political broadcast on behalf of the homosexual lobby, only one brief sentence was allowed as to why the Army might wish to discourage lesbianism at military installations.” This sounds rather like The Daily Mail’s own coverage on the debate of gays in the military, except the other way round.

Naturally, Garry Bushell in The Sun couldn’t resist the programme: “Lovely Helen Baxendale played a lesbian soldier. Problems. First, Helen is a babe while the real Meagher is as plain as a Dewhurst’s ham.” (Eh?)

Cristina Odone (one-time editor of The Catholic Herald) reviewed the film for The Daily Telegraph and thought it “tough, unflinching and as unsettling as a dawn raid. Powerful, disturbing stuff.” Perhaps, as the only woman in the bunch, she would naturally have more sympathy for the humiliations that were heaped on those female soldiers in the film.

Hopefully the new intake of MPs were watching the film and will realise that the time is long overdue for change in the armed forces. And we don’t want some half-arsed compromise like the one they’ve settled for in America.

Are you listening, Tony?

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